Well the Military-Media-Industrial complex has been caught at it again. After months of legend making and narcissistic bereavement, it officially has been finally revealed that ex-Cardinals football player Pat Tillman died from friendly fire. Though alternative media outlets months before had reported that Tillman had died not from enemy fire, as had been claimed by the military and trumpeted by the mainstream media, but at the hands of his own fellow troops, only now has it become official. Like the Kleenex snatching story of Jessica Lynch that came before it, the Tillman saga is yet another public relations stunt gone sour.
Whoever he may have been as a person, and it appears that he, to put it succinctly, was a real life Captain America who believed in justice, truth and the American way, Pat Tillman was presented as this supremely un-selfish individual who gave up a lucrative professional football career in order to serve his country. Clearly his motivations cannot be questioned. However, his naïvetivity and lack of historical memory is clearly apparent to anyone who knows the history of U. S. interventions that typically are not undertaken to protect citizens at home but instead to protect private elite interests and power abroad. Had Pat Tillman familiarized himself with U. S. history he would today be making tackles playing in the NFL instead of being dead and buried. The Military-Media-Industrial complex understood intuitively, and likely consciously as well, that Tillman, because of the intersection of race and celebrity he embodied, represented the opportunity to give the white masses, especially of the fundamentalist right, a hero they could truly embrace. Here was an individual who could proudly bear the S of Superman’s outfit on his chest. He had the physique, projected the right attitude, died seemingly in a blaze of glory under enemy fire, was already well known, had proved his manliness on the toughest of all gridirons; the NFL and most importantly was white. But like all heroes, it is all about who is the beholder. While the S painted on Tillman might have meant Superman to most of the white masses living in the U. S., to others, such as those oppressed by the U. S., whether directly or indirectly, that S stands for supremacy; as in white supremacy. Any perceptive reader of the comic book, especially the older issues that are closer to the original, can pick up on the white supremacist undertones conveyed by the character.
The fact that the Military-Media-Industrial complex is ever vigilant for a story, any story, which will prop up the ideological and emotional underpinnings of the U. S. global war on terror says much about the way this war is going and the shakiness of the support for this war amongst the U. S. population. While Bush barely won (by cheating at that), the recent elections clearly showed that a large portion of the U. S. population either has doubts about this global war on terror as it is currently being run or is outright opposed to it. So, a hero or heroine is needed to capture the hearts and minds of the masses. Jessica Lynch was the first in line to play that role and then when that blew over Tillman arrived just in time to, like Superman, save the day. Even more so than Jessica Lynch, who was more damsel in distress saved from those savage Iraqis (sic), than heroine, Pat Tillman, because of his prior fame and physical attributes (white, male and blond), could be easily presented as Superman; a Superman who had gone down fighting for the love of country. Unfortunately, this Superman was brought down by kryptonite shot from the weapons of those on his own side.
The Superman of comic book lore could do no wrong, he was as strong as 200 men or better, faster than a train and could fly . . . like an eagle. Being created in 1938, only seven years before the U. S. would stand virtually alone out of the ashes of World War II, Superman as a character embodied the can do spirit of America but also the American exceptionalism (and its distinctly racist flavor) that had always been that spirit's companion. Like Superman, America was/is invincincible and can do no wrong. It is these two qualities (we can do anything and only we are fit to do so) that ultimately lied at the heart of who Tillman was as a person (why else would he leave fame and millions on the table) and lies at the heart of America's psyche (i. e. 'we are bringing democracy to Iraq and only we are uniquely qualified to do so'). While Tillman’s death was a tragedy on human terms because he died in a war that has little to do with actually combating terrorism (even recently Bush said he was unconcerned about Osama bin Laden!) and thus was needless, his passing showed once again the pusillanimous nature of the Military-Media-Industrial complex and that Superman or Superwoman does not really exist. It is up to us to get through the lies and obfuscations and free ourselves.