We Can Be Heroes

Dear World 

Please Kill Me, 

As a child, I loved superheroes (movies, shows, comics, you name it). Yes, I’m that stereotypical early-90’s millennial that obsessed over but didn’t truly comprehend the depth of Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, etc…  

My sister and I would dress up in blanket-capes and Halloween masks—running around the house for hours on end, solving faux-crimes, and tumbling down the steps to stop the bad guys (…or girls– #Feminisim).  

Sometimes, one of us would accept the role of “villain.” However, deep down, we both knew the other really wanted to be a “hero” too. Very few kids see themselves as the bad guy. Ultimately (after some argument), we’d both be heroes again. I suspect we weren’t the only kids like this. 

Trivial as those years (around 5 – 10 years old) may seem in hindsight, they’re weirdly tied to the development of my morality. Heroes behaved, told the truth, gave instead of took, and didn’t often think of themselves before others. Villains lied, cheated, stole, misled, manipulated, and destroyed—often for no reason beyond their own grandiose sense of self-worth and self-righteousness.  

The underlying message of this dynamic was always: “Be good, not bad.” “Be kind, not mean.” “Conversation over condemnation.” “Honesty before lies.”  

Those were simpler times… More innocent and naïve.  

Despite this, I’ve generally kept the same idea of what defines a “hero” and “villain.” You may not agree but this is a recipe that I’ve built the menu of my mind around. As we all know by now (particularly if you’re reading this) things are a lot grayer in the real world.  

People equate “good,” “just,” and “moral” with what directly benefits them. “Bad” has become seeming wrong instead of being wrong. “Evil” is now any opposing view. Lying, cheating, stealing, and manipulating are just part of the game for a not-insignificant portion of society. I often wonder if this perspective is something that was always true or just something that became true; that we’ve allowed to become true. 

Even if you weren’t a “superhero kid” you likely had some kind of religion (we had both). Generally speaking, the message is the same: “Be good, not bad.” “Be kind, not mean.” “Conversation over condemnation.” “Honesty before lies.” Society has (seemingly?) commercialized the heroes, propped up the villains, and forgotten the message.  

It doesn’t seem like many of us are interested in being heroes anymore. We prefer to be relentless propagandists for our own agendas, shunning self-aware shame in favor of imposing bad faith perspectives, misrepresented arguments, and unrepentant wrongs on others who are doing the same.  

We’ve become a corrupt society of perceived villainy… Eating ourselves. You likely already know that this doesn’t end well. But I don’t think we’re too far gone to prevent this self-imposed societal annihilation. I believe there’s an opportunity to turn away from our poor perceptions.  

But we have to do it together. 

Sensing that some of you are rolling your eyes in defensive aggression and impulsive rejection, I want to be clear: This isn’t about sides. Nor vaccines. Nor politics. It’s about the lack of an attempt to understand one another before picking up our pitch-forks and proclaiming our perceived enemies as demonic. It’s about our unwillingness to understand one another. In other words, our refusal to: “Be good, not bad.” “Be kind, not mean.” “Conversation over condemnation.” “Honesty before lies.” 

Yes, I’m aware there are villains out there but would-be heroes outnumber them. If there weren’t more heroes than villains, the villains wouldn’t be trying so damn hard to convince us that we’re already f*cked beyond reprieve. 

But we won’t ever know for sure if we keep refusing: “Be good, not bad.” “Be kind, not mean.” “Conversation over condemnation.” “Honesty before lies.” We’ll just slowly self-destruct while humanity crumbles into a cacophonous void of mutual misery that would give the Joker a raging erection and damp underwear.  

We’re like the two ships in The Dark Knight—contemplating whether or not to press the button, unaware that the detonator we hold will blow up our OWN F*CKING BOAT (#ObligatoryBatmanReference). But it’s okay…we haven’t blown ourselves up yet… YET!  

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that Batman isn’t coming to save us.  

We have to save ourselves by choosing to save each other. That begins with (you guessed it): “Be good, not bad.” “Be kind, not mean.” “Conversation over condemnation.” “Honesty before lies.” 

I don’t know if we can get those childhood definitions and perspectives back. I’m not even sure when this understanding took hold of us. All I know is that too many of us are okay with the shift. Too many of us accept this new dynamic as “normal.” Too many of us pretend to be fine in this fledgling madhouse we call Earth–courting self-destruction like junkies at a Travis Scott concert. 

We can be more than this. We can be more together. 

What if we tried to hear each other out? At worst, we can respectfully disagree. At best, we know the person across the aisle isn’t a villain—just a different kind of hero. We can build from that. We can learn from that. We can unite behind our agreements and calmly debate the rest. Lay down your detonators and speak to each other. Try to understand a different perspective. 

And for the love of all that is good, stop threatening to blow each other up… You’re holding your own destruction. Not theirs. 

We can ALL be heroes.

We should start acting like it.

Until Next Time,

–Antwan Crump

2 thoughts on “We Can Be Heroes

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