On a Super Hero

Unless you live in the Seattle, Washington, area, you probably haven’t heard of Phoenix Jones. You see, Phoenix Jones is a super hero.

No, really. Let me explain.

Phoenix Jones has all the prerequisites to be a super hero. He wears a costume complete with head mask. He has an alter-ego (his non-costumed name is Benjamin Fodor). He fights crime. He has his fans (many of them, in fact), and he has his detractors (even more than his fans, unfortunately). And, like many of the super heroes whose stories are chronicled in the comics and on film, Phoenix Jones also has to fight against discrimination from the other super heroes in his town as well.

I realize that you’re waiting for the punchline here, but there’s not one coming. Really. There is a guy named Benjamin Fodor who wears a costume and does super hero-y things and goes by the name Phoenix Jones. And there are other people in Seattle who also see themselves as super heroes and dress like super heroes and act like super heroes and who are jealous of the notoriety of Phoenix Jones.


Now, before you dismiss this as fantasy or a special type of crazy or even simply play acting, let me assure you that it is none of these things. These are people who are deadly serious about crime fighting in a modern American metropolis. And that makes sense given the zeitgeist of modern life. In a world out of control, when we are bombarded with hourly news of how out of whack our society has become, how violent and careless and completely nuts everything is, then suddenly becoming a super hero suddenly seems like a perfectly normal response to such a world.

That’s the theory, anyway.

We spend billions of dollars going to cinemas to see these super heroes save the world over and over. We purchase the merch, we consume the endorsements, we revere both the fictional personas and the actors who portray them. We can’t then wonder why in heaven’s name the Benjamin Fodors of the world would don costumes and take on the evil that is out there today.

And Phoenix Jones is, like many super heroes, a complex character. To hear him tell it, he’s been responsible for bringing several criminals to justice. To hear his detractors tell their side (including his “rival” super heroes), Jones is a big fat liar. He had some MMA-type training, but he seems to only fight people who are drunk. So, there’s some mixed messages here. And then there’s the arrest.

It seems that Phoenix Jones sold drugs to an undercover police officer. Yep. That happened. So, Phoenix Jones’s reputation took a major hit, and today it’s difficult to find someone who sees him as the “good guy” in almost any scenario. Now, he mostly remains in the shadows, the super hero underworld, as it were, and he leaves the super hero stuff to some of the other masked and caped crusaders in Seattle–people like Midnight Sun and El Caballero (real super heroes in the metroplex).

What most people don’t realize is that there are similar masked heroes in most big cities around the world. The police and the local media don’t usually talk about them because, well, they tend to get in the way of actually fighting crime even if their intentions are good.

Perhaps what we need to remember is that the real super heroes of our cities are the health workers, the teachers, the construction workers, the wait staff, the parents, the checkout and stock people, the inspectors and engineers, the ones who make our lives possible and who are kind to others.

And these super heroes don’t need capes, either.


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