This is the ethnic/national makeup of my son’s bus stop: my kid (Jewish, Eastern-European Mongrel + maybe a little Cuban), three boys from Libya, a girl from India, twin girls from China, and two brothers from Spain. Half of those kids are learning, or learned, English as as second language.
Here’s why it matters: it doesn’t.
It doesn’t matter to the parents, who are all hauling reluctant small, and yet oddly strong, people out of their beds and down the street in the cold and semi-dark, who all have things they need to do or other kids to look after and commiserate when the bus is late on either end of the day. Who are forever remembering things which have been forgotten, getting a last spelling-word quiz in, or reminding the kid of a change in routine.
We are united in our parenthood. And that is a grand thing.
The more important part of the not-mattering, though? That belongs to the kids. They have nothing to bind them together except for childhood and humanity and those two things? They’re enough. They chat. They giggle. They talk about current obsessions (Ninjago, Pokémon, Star Wars, etc depending on the day). They’ve made up a game that’s some crazy hybrid of Red Rover and tag; without any adult intervention, they’ve developed rules, strategy, and measures of victory.
Because, no matter where they’re from or where their parents are from or which language they spoke first, they’re all kids.
They’re all human and humanity is all they care about.
Though they probably wouldn’t mind a Martian or two. I imagine they’d think Martians were pretty cool.
While Pittsburgh certainly isn’t the most diverse city in the country, or the world, its renaissance has made it an increasingly popular destination; it’s also still affordable, which makes it attractive to folks from a lot of different places. We’ve only lived here four years and, much to my joy, the range of languages I hear on a daily basis, the range of ethnicities represented, the foreign language section at the public library, the array of foods available, continue to grow exponentially. I. Love. It.
I’ve written several times about Marvel’s diversity push and, yes, I agree that while progress has been made, they still have a long, long way to go. That said, one of their newer books reflects the very dynamic I’ve noticed at our bus stop and including that dynamic is a huge step for Marvel because it shifts what has, until now, been blatantly calculated (not negative, simply deliberate and planned which, for the record, is how change starts) to a much more natural framework.
Marvel has given us the Champions.
The team: Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel; Pakistani-American), Sam Alexander (Nova; Caucasian), Miles Morales (Spider-Man; Latino), Viv Vision (Synthezoid), Amadeus Cho (Totally Awesome Hulk; Korean-American), Scott Summers 2.0 (Cyclops; Caucaisan/Clone).
Why does the makeup of the team matter?
Because it doesn’t.
Jane Foster taking up the mantle of Thor was an event. The same is true of Sam Wilson inheriting the shield or Riri donning the red and gold armor.
The Champions coming together?
That just happened (insofar as something that is plotted can “just happen”).
It started with Kamala, Miles, and Sam walking away from the Avengers after the “death” of Bruce Banner and Captain Marvel’s attempts to arrest Miles on the basis of Ulysses’ vision of a dead Steve Rogers dangling from the kid’s fist; he hadn’t done anything yet but Carol was still willing to detain a minor, and one of her own at that. Unable to conscience the direction the adult heroes were steering things, the kids left the team and soon thereafter, formed their own.
To those ranks, they added Cho and Viv, later accepting the alt-timeline clone of Scott Summers.
Do they fight with one another? Sure. Over who’s going to be leader, who has a crush on whom, who’s kissing whom, which missions they’re going to take.
The rest of it? The stuff the adults in the Marvel Comics Universe are fighting over? The stuff we adults in the real world are fighting over? They don’t matter to the Champions. They’re young, they’re heroes, and there are people who need help in their own neighborhoods, in a village in the Middle East where a radical faction is victimizing girls and women trying to further their educations. Anywhere. Everywhere.
We get overloaded as adults. Daily responsibilities on top of media barrage in all its forms on top of national events or top of world events… the mountain gets higher until our thought chains are like Everest and we’re standing at the top oxygen deprived and unable to sift through it all with any efficacy.
Kids are smart. Kids are deep. Kids also have less life to screw with their neuroplasticity, their more flexible psyches.
Which is why kids are so much better at getting to the marrow. So much better at figuring out what’s important. So much kinder, so much faster to make a connection with other humans, to accept flaws. To say “it’s okay.”
To say, “I love you.”
The world as it stands has a lot of beauty but also a lot of ugly. In Syria. In Paris. The Ukraine. Egypt. North Dakota. New York. Pittsburgh. Seattle. Everywhere in between.
What the hell do we do? How do we keep our children safe? How do we ensure there’s a world left in which they can grow up, for them to inherit?
Take a cue from the Champions. Take a cue from the bus stop gang. Cut the chatter, cut the noise. shimmy down a few thousand feet and take a few deep breaths.
Listen to the still, small voice reminding you of what’s really important. To examine things from a child’s unsullied (and don’t mistake that for non-complex) point of view.
To remember that every human on this planet is, at a base level, exactly that: human.
Are they all good people? No. Absolutely not.
But most of them are. Most of them, like you, are just trying to get through the day, the month, the year.
Most of them are just as desperate for that inhale and exhale as you are.
We are all part of the great, messy, beautiful mass that is humanity.
Take a cue from the Champions. Skip the “first, do not harm,” and go right to the “do something good.” Make noise. Call someone “friend,” or smile at a stranger on the street. Listen to someone who needs to talk. Make a donation, volunteer. Support someone standing up for herself. Open your home.
Open a book.
Open your mind.