Carl M. Cannon of RealClearPolitics devoted a column on the anniversary of 9/11 to the music that emerged to describe and deal with the terror attacks and their aftermath. At the time, I was living in South Africa and working as a freelance writer. On a trip back to the U.S. the following spring, I noticed that the comic book industry had been particularly active in wrestling with the event, and wrote a short piece about the results.
One of the dominant themes was the heroism of ordinary people, as opposed to costumed supermen:
Something humble emerges from such reflections, a sudden respect for the “real heroes” — and not just firefighters or policemen, but ordinary folk who rise to the challenges of extraordinary circumstances. Several comics portray strangers guiding each other through the dust and debris of Lower Manhattan, the working stiffs on Flight 93 who overpowered their hijackers, or estranged relatives and lovers suddenly offering each other their comfort and love in the aftermath of horror. From the wreckage of the World Trade Centre, and the muddle of US foreign policy, these peddlers in fantasy have salvaged a bit of the old American reverence for the capacities of common men and women.
It is important to remember that everyday heroism as we struggle to deal with our newly humbled position on the world stage–something that troubles even the likes of David Axelrod, who described our posture as a “fetal position,” even though it is the direct result of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. We still have the inner strength to save ourselves–and to help others, too. What we lack is leadership. Not another hero–Obama’s failures ought to teach us that much–but leaders who can grapple with the world as it really is, and who never loses respect for the far greater heroism that lives and thrives in the spirit of a free people.