He was born far away but came here as a baby. For some, he’ll always be an outsider.
Over the weekend, a few friends and I were playing a guess-who game in which each player must figure out the secret identity that they have been assigned by asking yes or no questions. When it was time to play Clark Kent, someone asked “Am I American”? At first, the group responded with an unsure medley of yes-no-maybe. Then, it seemed as if everyone simultaneously remembered that Superman was born on the planet Krypton. The group almost unanimously answered that Clark Kent was, in fact, not American.
I insisted that Superman was American. After all, this was the guy who fought for “truth, justice and the American way”. My claims were roundly dismissed. I kept silent for not wanting to give the player too many hints, but had wanted to ask whether by the group’s logic, I too would be considered “not American”. Clark Kent arrived in Kansas as a baby whereas I immigrated from India at age 4. Was I even less American than this non-American? Of course not.
Obviously, a Saturday night party game is not the best test for the boundaries of perceived national identity. Most people, Americans and Indians included, perceive me to be more American than Indian. But I wonder if the group’s answer to the question that night means anything? Did they merely forget that immigration and assimilation apply to the comic book world as well? Or did they merely slip and revert to a bygone era in which the place of ones birth was all that mattered?
Perhaps I was guilty of a false equivocation – rather than being an issue of American v. non-American, this was an issue of human v. non-human. I.e. Superman can not be considered a citizen of any country on earth. But that of course is wrong, Superman was a US citizen – otherwise, he would not have been able to renounce it. Much to the dismay of Fox News and conservative American, Superman renounced his US Citizenship in April 2011. So I guess I was wrong, but not for the reason I had anticipated.