“Shall sins go unpunished? Crimes justified into toleration? Victims, forgotten? This mad universe would say… yes. I disrespectfully disagree. Rage brings balance to the cosmos. Without the Red Lanterns, creation would crumble under our feet. The universe needs us.” — Atrocitus, Lord of the Red Lanterns
1,076 humans infected with rage. 2,338 humans infected with rage. 4,143 humans infected with rage. A contagion spreads across Earth in the newest incarnation of Green Lanterns, emanating from a tower designed to disperse a beacon of anger. It’s all part of an elaborate plot to transform Earth into a new homeworld for the Red Lanterns, and there’s seemingly no way to stop it. Rage begets rage, and the only people standing in this contagion’s way are two inexperienced Green Lanterns. Overwhelmed, all they can seem to do is watch in horror as their friends, family and loved ones succumb to the malevolent disease of hatred.
The arc, “Rage Planet,” is an exciting introduction to these new Lanterns, but what’s more interesting is the timing of this story. It’s 2016. An election year. We’re in a period of great unrest, as members of both the Republican and Democratic parties find themselves in a bind. Two less-than-desirable candidates have a presidential nomination, and more so than in years past, many voters are weighing the prospect of third-party candidates. This has led to a rift in the parties, with whole groups of people willing to sacrifice their traditional allegiances to make a stand. Understandably, social media has been fiery, with idealists and traditionalists writing sharp-tongued posts defending their positions or attacking those who won’t follow in step.
Certain candidates, to that end, have tapped into different nerve centers among voters. Donald Trump has amassed an army of faithful who feel disenfranchised by the system and alienated by a world different from the one they grew up with. At the other end of the spectrum, Bernie Sanders has inspired a devoted following fed up with what they perceive as “business as usual” tactics by weak-willed representatives in Washington. The two are an interesting parallel, and in their own ways, have effectively empowered themselves through rage.
As we’ve seen amongst the “Bernie or Bust” crowd at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), the rage isn’t so easily silenced. The same can be said of Donald Trump’s ilk. Though the two have diametrically opposed goals, it’s the emotion they inspire that’s important here. As the election looms, it’s only grown stronger.
My Facebook feed is ever a breeding ground for rage. Those in step with the party line rage against the disenfranchised. The disenfranchised rage against those in step with the party line. News blogs and media outlets fuel the anger with polarizing headlines, soundbites and live feeds. After a while, it all blends together, and all one can do is balk at the scope of it all.
Credit where credit is due, there are those who engage in calm, respectful discussions, and they deserve praise. They’re playing the role of the healer, looking at their peers infected with rage and realizing that these, too, are still human. Whatever side of the fence they lie on politically, they’re still our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers.
As Green Lantern Simon Baz discovered in the third issue of Green Lanterns, with strong willpower, one can heal the infected. It takes patience, concentration and a genuine desire to help a fellow living being, but it can be done. Bleez, the Red Lantern second-in-command, halted her onslaught in issue three of the series, reflecting on her past and how she originally succumbed to the anger. It was eye-opening for her and so very long ago. Bleez was royalty once, until her home was destroyed, and vengeance consumed her. Like many Red Lanterns, she had reason to give in. Rage was a tool to fight against oppression, violence, injustice and crime. It was, and is, a way of combating that which wrongs us, and there are times where we NEED to fight.
But it’s dangerous. Let the power of rage take hold long enough, and it’s all you can think about. You become stuck, trapped in time, warring against a battle that’s never won. Like Bleez, enslaved by her own hatred, you become a carrier spreading an emotional plague across the planet. Aimlessly. What’s the point of conquering a planet with rage?
Hatred begets hatred, and the only way to move forward is through willpower.
In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power — Green Lantern’s Light!