I had a really tough-to-shake nightmare last night, one that was so real that when I woke up– startled by my dog– I wasn’t certain at first that the dream hadn’t happened. This doesn’t happen to me often, but it isn’t so rare that I can say it was weird. It made me stop to think for a bit about something, though.
We all deal with trauma in our own ways. Some of the traumatic moments in my life I have contextualized by converting to stories. Others I’ve used to teach, as teachable moments or cautionary tales.
But there’s a third category: the things that I just had to let go. And I don’t mean this lightly; they are things I actively worked to let go of. And it’s hard for me to let go of things. I always thought it was just because I was stubborn. But today, I had another thought.
I have mentioned here before a moment, during my PhD studies, when one of my mentors told me that I was too devoted to my own sense of justice and that I needed to let that go. I said, at the time, that I couldn’t. I still can’t/haven’t. I hadn’t, before today, put together in my head that fact and the fact that there are things from my past that I’ve attempted to forgive, and I’ve let go of my personal stake in, that I still can’t “let go,” not because I’m fixated on them, or because they keep hurting me, or because I can’t grow past it. The reason I can’t let them go is that I don’t see justice. I want justice, for the world. i want things to be “right” in certain situations, even though I know the world isn’t like that.
Here’s where I went in the rabbit hole. I’ve had a fondness for the Marvel comics character The Punisher since I first saw him in Spider-Man comics as essentially a villain, an “evil” vigilante. I watched as characters like Frank Castle and Wolverine replaced Captain America and Spider-Man, then I watched other characters take on a dark tinge to be more edgy, more real.
I always thought I mostly liked the Punisher for his look and his gives-no-fucks attitude. But I realized today as I was thinking about what an amazing job the Netflix series has done of capturing the Punisher as I envisioned him back in those early comics that what I really latched onto with Frank Castle is the same thing I latched onto with Batman. They both have their sense of what it means to be just, to live in a world where things are made right.
To make a not-that-long post short, I guess what I’ve been thinking about today is that while I’d never take it to that level– I’m not a gun toting badass– I think I identify with Frank Castle because Frank realizes that some things are so heinous, so unacceptable, that a person deserves to be punished. And society isn’t equipped for those people. They get treated like everyone else.
I could never be him, but maybe we need a Punisher. Maybe that’s what’s wrong. Maybe that’s how we dismiss the demons that won’t go away with any conventional deterrent.