Reading Comics as a Refuge in Times Like These

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Baton Rouge Black Lives Matter Protests - July 2016
Credit: BBC

I’m going to admit it right now…  I’m not okay.  I haven’t been okay in days and the only thing that’s helping me to cope is reading my comics and books.

Author’s Note: I started writing this on Friday evening when it became unbearable to finish.  Mr. Slim noticed something was wrong and once I started to unburden myself I couldn’t stop.  I’ve opted not to change anything and pick up where I left off.

There are no master races
There Are No Master Races comic/WeirdRetro.org.uk

I’m going to keep it 100% real with you guys.  I feel sick.  I feel like there is a hole in my chest that I can’t quite reach, so it remains slowly getting larger by the day.  First, it was the news about Alton Sterling’s execution in Baton Rouge.  I tried all day to get away from the videos showing this man being shot at point blank range by an officer I won’t name because I don’t care about him.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t run for long and I saw it.  To add insult to injury, I then watched Mr. Sterling’s 15-year-old son weeping for his father during a press conference.  I know that pain.  I wept like that when my grandfather passed away before I could get a chance to talk to him; to say goodbye.  It is like every sadness, every disappointment or hurt you’ve ever experienced hits you like a tractor trailer at 100 mph, but instead of dying, you unravel from deepest recesses of your soul and body until you are almost devoid of feeling on the inside.  As a mother, it hurt to see this teenaged boy cry like this.  As someone who has lost loved ones, it hurt even more.

Later that night, news of Mr. Philando Castile’s death would make the social media rounds.  To add yet another insult to injury, there was video footage showing Mr. Castile’s lifeless body slumped over in the passenger side of the car his fiancee Diamond Reynolds was driving.  Her 4-year-old daughter was in the backseat when the officer shot him as he reached for his license and registration.  How she was not killed by a stray bullet is what I would call a testament to my faith.

As if we weren’t all hurting enough, five Dallas police officers were executed themselves by a rogue, opportunistic lunatic during a #BlackLivesMatter protest yesterday evening. One was executed in the street for all to see.  I’m sure dogs are treated better than that officer was.  Now that I think about, I am sure we treat our pets better than the way these seven men were treated.  The loss of human life…  It’s staggering.  Now, we have seven families grieving lost loved ones.  There are seven families planning a funeral; wondering how they will move forward.  This is all so unfair.

Red Skull #1 Cover
Red Skull #1/ Marvel Comics

Instead of letting people grieve, charlatans like Tomi Lahren and human hot airbag Joe Walsh incited more hatred and more violence.  They could have used the opportunity to speak to their followers and ask for calm, introspection, and peace.  They didn’t.  Then there were the endless waves of trolls and hatemongers who took the deaths of five people who were just doing their jobs as an opportunity to incite more hatred; more anger.  When we do this to ourselves, who really needs to worry about terrorists from foreign countries?  We’re doing their job for them.  Divide and conquer.  Dissent in the ranks.

G.I. Joe Animated Series
G.I. Joe Animated Series/Hasbro

I thought living through September 11th, 2001 and waking up just in time to see another plane crash into the World Trade Center, a place I visited and filled my mind with wonder as a child, I thought I’d seen it all.  I thought that things could get bad, but they’d surely never be as bad as 9/11, right?  I was wrong.  There was the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon, Trayvon Martin’s death and his murderer, George Zimmerman, going free.  Then there was Zimmerman reveling in his own filthy existence sharing Trayvon’s death photo via social media and selling the gun he used to murder a black child.  There was Mike Brown, the execution of Tamir Rice, a child, being killed in less than three seconds.  There was Sandy Hook, Eric Garner being choked to death, Orlando, Charleston, Jerad and Amanda Miller killing two cops and an innocent bystander… I could go on.

Being a person of color in this country is like fielding a minefield to and fro every fucking day.  It could be physical, but most often the attacks on our collective psyche are mental, emotional, and spiritual.  When you have children as a person of color, that minefield is more dangerous because you must carry your children safely through the minefield of racism and prejudice back and forth daily.  Eventually, you will have to teach them how to navigate said minefield and hope you’ve given them enough love, knowledge, and courage to get through it without getting hurt as badly as you did.  Because they will get hurt.  You just hope it’s a little better for them than it was for you.

Marvel Comics 9/11 Issue
via Tumblr

What frustrated me the most was seeing the ugliness people were engaging in.  Social media was a war zone.  The tragic thing is no matter how educated a person could be on a subject, there were people who either lied or paraded their ignorance about their own country and its people.  I saw someone say that Europeans were first in Australia and North America.  I saw someone say that those horrid photos of African-Americans being lynched were actually photoshopped pictures of white men who’d been lynched.  The madness was such that I started to question my own sanity.  The callousness was overwhelming.

It’s times like these where I find refuge in reading my comics and books.  Hell, I can find refuge in a good game or two.  Immersing myself in my favorite comics and books makes sense.  Usually, the good guys and the bad guys are pretty clear about their intentions.  You know who to root for.  The villains in the comics, or the antagonists in the books, hate everyone equally for whatever reason.  It’s not usually about race, gender, or sexual orientation.  It’s not about rich or poor.  The good guys defend us all equally.  Can you imagine if Captain America, Black Panther, or Superman had biases that made them less likely to save someone because they were black?  Transgender?  Muslim?  I can’t even fathom such a thing.

Misty Knight and the Heroes for Hire
Heroes For Hire/Marvel Comics

It is comforting to immerse myself in a world of colors, pencils and ink filled with stories of people, both superhuman and just plain human, dealing with major issues like a villain who eats worlds or interplanetary paradoxes.  Those problems are major and don’t require petty arguments.

The social, political, and cultural climates in this country look like something right out of a Hydra playbook.  Sadly, there will be no hulking demigod or immortal superhero to come and dash those evil plans, setting us back on the right track.  We have to do that.  There will be no caped crusader.  There will be no refuge in a team of super mutants like the X-Men who will fight valiantly on our behalf.  We have to take on that responsibility.

So a big shout out to all those authors, comics creators, and artists who build these worlds for us to learn from or enmesh ourselves in.  Thank you for providing me an added place of refuge when the world I live in was far too shitty to comprehend.