You know him as Good-Man. He came to your city as a superhero, fighting crime primarily at night, beating up the bad-guy and saving the girl—he was nothing if not a traditionalist.
The problem was, he didn’t live in enough of a fantasy world to suit himself and soon, there was a warrant out for his arrest on the charge of vigilantism.
Do you remember how he turned himself in? Do you remember the heartfelt apology all over TV for six months? Of course you do—who could forget such sincerity? And do you remember how he served his time in jail and came back a broken man, disgraced?
Of course not, because that didn’t happen.
Because he was a white man, strong and powerful—superpowered! Their excuse was, they didn’t think they could build a prison that could hold him, and they’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve to go to prison.
In the course of his so-called crime-fighting, several bystanders were injured and some even killed, and even some of the alleged perpetrators turned out to be innocent people who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, making Good-Man guilty of not just brutality but of wrongful conviction.
And yet no civil suits were heard.
Instead, he not only patrols the streets, he does so in broad daylight—with a badge!—a one-man SWAT team striking fear in the hearts of anyone even vaguely aware of crime, and he is coddled by the system he supports.
But I do not support this system.
You know me as the Antagonist because that is how your Media presents me: an enemy to all that is good and just, a threat to middle-class white girls everywhere and the wealth they are set to inherit. Yes, I have done things that are illegal. I have robbed banks and crumbled investment companies—but what have I done with the money? Bought houses for the men and women ruined by unethical banking decisions. Helped invest in infrastructure not just in countries crippled by poorly executed foreign aid, but right here at home, too, in Detroit and greater Michigan. And I have bought medical debt only to turn around and forgive it. I have done nothing that wouldn’t rightly be ascribed to a modern-day Robin Hood.
And have I killed anyone? No one who wasn’t trying to kill me. Or someone I cared for. Or an innocent victim who deserved better.
But maybe they are right. Maybe I am an Antagonist. That certainly is how they see me, and they should. I am not one of them, which, by their own standards, makes me an Other. And there are only two kinds of Others: victims and threats.
I do not like them. Their way of life is demeaning and I will do everything in my power to break this system of injustice that they have put in place to oppress those who have nothing—but does that make me the Antagonist?
Is Good-Man the Protagonist, then? With his feats of arms, his monopoly on violence, how he protects the system that I know is corrupt? You know it, too. There is something deeply wrong with the way the world is made to work nowadays. Why is he cheered on and applauded, awarded, for keeping it that way?
But he can’t really be a protagonist, can he? Not anymore. He had his big change, his arc, when he threw himself on the mercy of public opinion and became their champion. That was it. That was the end of his story. He has reached his height—nothing he does now matters.
My ambitions are loftier than that. I don’t want a gold star on my chest or my face on any magazines—I want results. I want justice. I want mercy for the innocent and providence for the poor; and for rich nobodies who live off the backbreaking labors of those they consider less-than, I want nothing. I want humility—is that so much to ask? That you realize your parents’ money or the color of your skin does not entitle you to privileges not afforded to those you consider Others. I want you to share. I want you to realize that there is a problem and work towards a system that eliminates it. That is a goal. That is a change. Something to strive for.
But you don’t want to strive. You don’t want a vanguard forging into a brighter future, you want a bulwark against the floodtides of history. So you take away my trumpet in the hopes of protecting your Jericho’s walls.
What do you want? Security? For yourself, for your children? If that were so, that would be noble. I would applaud you. But security is not what you want. What you want is freedom. The freedom to take what you want. That freedom is a function of power and with power comes responsibility, so it is that you want freedom from: freedom from consequences.
You are the Antagonist. You are the great evil empire in the West and I am the Protagonist. I may not be the hero. I may not be that virtuous ideal. But I know what I want and what I want is peace and justice and mercy. So tell me again, remind me how what I am is the real threat, and not the man who beat me without due cause.