Perhaps many of you have heard that America’s beloved Superman plans to renounce his U.S. citizenship to the UN in an upcoming storyline.  The reason given within David Goyer’s story, “The Incident,” in Action Comics #900 is to separate Superman’s actions from perceived U.S. policy.

This concept should be extremely interesting to all of us.  Not only is today’s world caught in the crossfire of rapid globalism vs. vicious tribalism, but we are also in the midst of great personal turmoil over the ever-changing definitions of international right and wrong.  Does might make right?  Should nations stay neutral in the face of human suffering?  These questions make many peoples of many different nationalities inquire about governmental alignment.

I submit that this issue has at least two primary facets:  A)  the issue of loyalty to a nation-state and B)  the the transcendence of objective morality.

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

Up until this point Superman has functioned as an agent of the American ideals, warding off the odd-screwball maniac as well as the more powerful intergalactic super villain.  However, in order to keep the character interesting (and hopefully not painting him into a corner) Superman scribes have decided that humanity as a whole needs a savior to combat the idea and travesty of general human suffering.  As Superman states within the book, “Truth, justice, and the American…it’s not enough anymore.”Superman, as an agent of good, has looked around at the human condition and decided to say “no” to it.  No to human injustice, no to famine, no to disease, and no to natural disaster.  On one hand, this brings the character to a whole new level of existence–but to many, this change robs the persona of a defining characteristic.  Traditionally, Superman has fought for the U.S. best interest.  But is that enough?Some may call me a liberal, or an elitist (, but I say that if a person is knowledgeable about what is right and is capable of doing what is right, and still does not, then it is wrong.  We have come to the point in United States history that we may be acting against the moral right.  Would it be so bad if we had a role model that did what is right regardless of national allegiance?

Even as I type this, my insides are churned about because I want America to do what is right all the time.  But we do not.  It is inevitable.  I remember bumper stickers that stated, “My Country, Right or Wrong.”  And as patriotic as the message is, we are not called to stand by as moral and ethical wrongs are perpetrated.

Superman’s choice can be no easy decision.  And it is no easy decision for the rest of us.  What the writer has done is put forth an example of one individual with power that stood up and said, “There is more to this world than the nation-states we cling to.”  This can be classified as the cry of a Humanist, but it can also be classified as someone who has opened his or her eyes and understood that the final authority is not held by those people that can make mistakes, or who have compromised their way to the top.

Is the U.N. the final authority?  Absolutely not.  Is your country?  No, though participation in the social contract dictates certain conditions.  So what is the final authority?  Superman did not say.  Superman didn’t bow to democratic ideals, though he desires them for all individuals; he didn’t defect to another, equally convoluted polity; he didn’t swear allegiance to a self-proclaiming authority.  What he did was tell America that the individual–the needy, the orphan, the hungry, the sick, the fellow human–needs help.  And that he will do his best to offer that help.

Far too long has he been a symbol of political viewpoints.  Far too long has he been restricted in his definition of good.  Far too long has he been living in the inferior circle of accountability.

Still…a question comes with this season of change:  what happens if the moral right finds itself opposed to Superman’s former dependent?  How will America react?  How will Superman react and what will that say about where America has come to rest?