The Punisher Culture
It’s not Black and White, it’s about the Color in the Gray.
The character of The Punisher might have first appeared in comics 2 years before I was born, but recently I’ve seen an uptick in the usage of his classic iconic skull on many different vehicles that I encounter in my travels. Some of these depictions are shaded with the American flag or the Blue Lives Matter flag. It’s given me pause think about the motives behind this, and what it says about those who depict that graphic.
Surely the recent interest in the Punisher stems from the popularity of the Netflix series. I don’t recall seeing as much interest in the character following the numerous attempts to create a successful movie franchise. But perhaps watching former Soldier and Police Officer Frank Castle dispense unmitigated vigilante justice on a regular basis alleviates feelings of helplessness and loss of control that many feel on a daily basis.
To be fair, I don’t think many of us would take issue with Frank Castle’s initial motives which related to ending the lives of those responsible for killing his whole family. Revenge is such a classic motive that I dare call it downright Shakespearean. That being said, the ark of the character should theoretically end with the avenging of his family. But the character persists; Castle goes on to continue wiping out criminal elements wherever he sees fit. Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
These actions — seemingly for the greater good — are a cancerous notion that many people seem to latch onto, and some people even act upon. The fact that people place the American flag within the Punisher’s emblem is disheartening. For me it casts a shadow over this country by depicting us as vigilantes who don’t care about the rule of law either abroad or on our own soil.
The depiction of the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag within the emblem is even more frightening; no one should ever want an individual — sworn to uphold the law — to have ANY association with vigilantism. The fact that the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ movement churned in the wake of ‘The Black Lives Matter’ movement is disturbing enough. It was the seemingly vigilante-like treatment of People Of Color at the hands of law enforcement that resulted in the Black Live Matter movement to begin with. So to depict the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag within an emblem of a (fictional) vigilante seems to support those vigilante actions at the hands of law enforcement which ARE absolutely disproportionately enacted against People of Color. If that doesn’t terrify you, it should.
I know what you’re thinking, this is a blog about Transgender issues; so what does that have to do with The Punisher?
Recently I had an associate at a Home Depot in Midwest City Oklahoma pseudo-try to keep me from using the women’s restroom. I had just walked passed the associate and entered the restroom when I heard him proclaim “Wrong One!” My response was immediate and unflinching — “No It’s Not!” I quipped, as I continued to walk into the restroom. With the door closing behind me, I heard the man mutter “Oh, Okay.” To be fair, I have expected this kind of crap throughout my entire transition, and since I haven’t been wearing wigs as of late, I expect it will happen moreso.
That being said, this isn’t the first issue I’ve had at a Home Depot…
About a year and a half ago, I was at the Home Depot in Norman Oklahoma. That location was undergoing a restroom renovation, and in place of those restrooms they had a swanky porta-potty trailer parked out front. After using that portable women’s restroom, I existed to find a female store associate fidgeting with her box cutter. Upon my exiting the restroom, she did not enter to relieve herself — not that she needed to wait outside anyway, the restroom had 3 stalls. No, after I left, she quipped with me about the cold weather, then returned to the building. It seemed apparent that she placed herself in the position of would-be vigilante because she perceived this Transwoman as a threat. The stupidity of this is overwhelming when actual restroom assault statistics prove that Transgender people are never the aggressors in public facilities, but rather the victims. This woman, was clearly preparing to make me a victim. I suppose the only SANE thing she did was hold herself back to determine if she’d have a legitimate reason to rush in and cut me. While that restraint gives me some relief, it’s still pretty scary that she had already built me up as an assailant within her own mind.
When that same Home Depot eventually did get their restroom remodeled, I had another bizarre incident where an associate entered and stood behind me as I washed my hands. She never said anything to me, but she also didn’t justify her presence by using the restroom or washing her hands either. Once again it appeared as an attempt to intimidate me. Since she was behind me, I cannot say that she was wielding a box cutter as well. But since she left before I made my way to the hand dryer, I imagine the stupidity of what she was contemplating sunk in and common sense won.
These are just a handful of incidents where someone opted to take a completely unnecessary enforcer-stance with me. What gets me is that there is no legal justification for this behavior. It’s already illegal to commit an assault (in a restroom or otherwise), and yet these people seemingly place themselves in a position where they appear to be contemplating a crime in order to prevent one that wasn’t going to happen in the first place.
The deeper issue here is the idea that someone feels empowered to harass, assault, or even kill people who challenge their idea of right and wrong. While the world of The Punisher is very black and white, our world has infinite shades of gray and many people are too concerned with extrapolating whether they can twist that gray into a black and white situation which will justify their own violent and immoral behaviour.
People who are Transgender like myself have become the new lightning rod for an unsettled society. The current political climate and uneducated media do nothing to help this community. The overwhelming irony is that when people do publish actual medical facts regarding Transgender individuals, they get accused of being the hyper elite, well educated, “libtards.” Equating intellectualism with a learning disability, while also invoking part of a derogatory word for those who suffer with a genetic intellectual disability is overwhelming. The same people who tell us to accept ourselves as “God made us,” are invoking a slang that they weaponize against those who are literally ‘AS GOD MADE THEM.’
What’s really happening here? Is it that too many things are being thrown into the public narrative? People who have no education on such matters and who will not seek such education are choosing to weigh-in as if they are an authority? The Punisher in themselves makes an appearance when they find their own strongly held beliefs challenged by the mere existence of another. Without any criminality involved, they seek to demoralize another individual over how they think that individual should live their life.
This of course is not simply a Trans issue. Society has held its prejudices long before Transgender individuals sought equality. And even those who fled oppressive European cultures arrived on this continent then created oppression for those who are indigenous to this land. So it goes, the descendants of those European immigrants claim dominion here, and refuse to acknowledge what their forebears stole; they conceal the past regarding their own religious indoctrination, and the slavery they actively took part in.
Being confronted with all the damage that has been done by one’s progenitors really only pushes society in two directions…
You either accept the wrong that your ancestors propagated, and aspire to be better than they were. Or you believe your ancestor’s actions of racism, bigotry, misogyny, hate, violence, murder, and even war were justified. In which case you actively choose to continue carrying that flag of oppression.
Here is where those infinite shades of gray are incorrectly broken down to Black and White, Right and Wrong, Male and Female. Our world is not binary, but mankind made it such. There will be no progress for the human race if we don’t move beyond our own ignorance. Intentionally trying to make another person’s life more difficult because their very existence challenges what you think you know about the world only highlights your own ignorance and fear.
A jaw dropping example of this came to light recently when an Evangelical “Christian” group actually sought to have LGBTQ protections removed from an anti-lynching bill.
NOW, take a moment and let that sink in!
I’m already appalled that we need a bill to stress the illegality of lynching, but I’m astounded that “Christians” want LGBTQ people to be exempt from that protection. How deep can one's own hate and prejudice run that you would hang someone for simply being who God made them. Nothing could be less Christian — so much for loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
I know I’ve said this before, but it warrants being said again; determining who is wrong in a given situation is a simple matter of asking ‘who is being oppressed’? If you are trying to make an innocent person’s life Hell because of your own prejudice, hate, ignorance, and fear, then I hate to break it to you, you are the oppressor; and you are wrong!
The Punisher — of course — knows the people he targets are evil to their core; but we are flawed humans, not stylized anti-heros. We have zero right to condemn another’s existence because we don’t understand it or even agree with it. It’s only when humans think they have the right to be vigilanties that we see just how wrong that behaviour is.
Naturally I look for why people are compelled to make others miserable, and the only thing that makes sense is that they feel they don’t have control of their own lives. They themselves feel a loss of equity, and attacking another leads them to feel some sense of control. It’s the same tactics that your run-of-the-mill school-yard bullies employ. They are scared that treating people as equals is somehow diminutive to their own existence. This of course is completely untrue.
There can be no sin when we treat others as we want to be treated. It would be my hope that society will someday have this epiphany. Until then, all minorities will — and MUST — persist in-spite of the wanna-be Punishers.
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