Superman smacks down Tea Party thinking

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The U.S. has forever engaged in an ongoing debate that can be summed up as Individual Rights vs. The Common Good. Do we share burdens, usually in the form of taxes, in order to “promote the general welfare,” as the preamble to the Constitution says? In other words, do we give up part of our selfish wants to create, say, fire departments or public schools or hospitals? Or, as diehard libertarians opine, are we a mere grouping of individuals whose only duty is to ourselves and our own interests, an approach that will magically create a better, somehow cohesive nation?

Most people realize that a balance is needed, with protections for individual civil liberties thriving side-by-side with an awareness that we’re all in this together and need to temper our desires for the common good. Again, most people realize this, but America is seeing a troubling rise in the kind of “extreme individualism” that says to hell with the general welfare. The kind of thinking promoted by Ayn Rand followers. The kind of thinking that led former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to declare that “there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women.” The kind of short-sighted thinking, in other words, that dominates today’s Tea Party politics. Frankly, these people are dangerous to the "general welfare" of the country.

If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Superman. Check out this 1952 lesson from that era’s greatest superhero, and tell me it doesn’t make sense. OK, no one’s really going to change his/her mind on such a crucial issue, based on a comic book character — at least I hope not. Still, it’s fascinating to realize that back in the conservative, anti-commie, Eisenhower era, the “general welfare” view of citizenship was the accepted, respectable norm. Of course, what does Superman know? After all, he's an illegal immigrant.

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