Truth, Justice, and the American Way
President GEORGE WASHINGTON, farewell address, September 19, 1796
With the coming of Fourth of July weekend, the newest summer blockbuster is upon us.
After five weary years of intergalactic flight, Superman Returns. But in the new film about his ongoing adventures, a crucial change has been made. Former vampire Frank Langella, playing a now world weary Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, greets Superman upon his return in this way, “So – are you still fighting for Truth Justice, and...all that?”
The immediate and cynical suspicion is that the words The American Way were removed in order to have better overseas box office sales. But in reading interviews with the creators of this version of Superman, the change was more deliberate than that.
Director Bryan Singer explains the change this way. “He represents what we as Americans, idealistic, want to be. In that way, I shy away from it, but I don't know how to. But, he's not just fighting for America. He's fighting for, you know, the world.” He also went on to call Superman ‘the ultimate illegal alien’.
The authors of the screenplay, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, put it this way. Harris said, “Let's be honest, the term of "The American Way" means something different than it did 50 years ago.” Dougherty agreed, “It's grayer”.
Let’s see. A President who many believed was actively attempting to lead us into war before he was even elected, and who authorized the use of torture and weapons of mass destruction upon innocent civilians. A President who tried to pack the Supreme Court with his nominees to carry out his unprecedented and arguably unconstitutional plans to overhaul the way government worked. A President who interned hundreds, for years, with no trial or due process, based solely upon racial profiling and illicit domestic spying.
That President’s name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Superman got his start during his administration in 1938 fighting the Nazis.
What else was the American Way like fifty years ago? The captured leaders of our opponents in the war were given a trial when they were caught instead of being summarily executed. America spent millions, billions in today’s dollars, on the reconstruction of the conquered Axis power, building electrical facilities, roads, schools, and a new infrastructure for the defeated nations through the Marshall Plan. We imposed democracies upon fascist dictatorships and decrepit monarchies, giving them constitutions and elected representatives, empowering our former enemies by helping them become productive citizens of the world again, even as soldiers hiding in jungles refused to surrender and staged insurgent raids. No, nothing like that is happening today.
So by all means, let’s bring our children to see another voice mocking the once noble ideal of Truth, Justice and ‘all that stuff’. Let us instill them at the earliest age possible with a sense of shame and stamp out any patriotism that they may feel. After all, that is the new American Way.