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Will Your World Be Worth Saving?

In the climactic battle in Batman v Superman, Lois Lane asks Superman not to try and kill Doomsday with the kryptonite spear. “This is my world,” Superman says to Lois. In this incarnation of the character, he has struggled with whether or not he belonged on Earth. To many, he is an alien who continues to meddle with human affairs. If his meddling benefits them, he is a savior. If it doesn’t, he’s an invader.

“You are my world,” he continues. Earlier in the film, while on a walk to figure things out, Clark Kent runs into a vision of his father, Jonathan. His father tells Clark that the world didn’t make much sense until Martha, Clark’s human adoptive mother, came along and make Jonathan see the world a little different. After she came along, the world was worth living in. After saying that to Lois, Superman picks up the spear and buries it in Doomsday’s chest as Wonder Woman and Batman hold the beast and weaken it with kryptonite.

Here’s the scene:

Last night, my wife and I went to watch Wonder Woman at the movie theater. It’s a good movie. It doesn’t spend a lot of time on her origins, like other movies. We see her go from child to woman in a few minutes, then see her training as an Amazon in a few more minutes, and then she sets off on an adventure to try and end World War One. As a stand-alone movie, it’s great. You really don’t need to know anything about the Superman or Batman movies to watch this and be fully immersed in the story it tells.

Unfortunately, or inevitably, there is a formula that movies follow about the hero making the right decision in the end and saving the world. It’s a selfless decision, one made out of love for the world. But the formula is that the hero learned to love the world because they fell in love with someone in the world. You see it all the time.

In The Fifth Element, the heroine is hurt and is tired of humanity being so belligerent to itself. (She had seen some archive footage of Nazi war crimes and other evil things in our history.) She asks what the use is of saving life if we destroy it at every turn. The hero, the man she fell in love with, tells her that there are some things worth saving because the world is not all bad. “Like love?” she asks. He tells her that’s a good example, and that he loves her. She then saves the world.

Here’s that scene:

In Wonder Woman, the heroine makes her decision to fight the villain and save the world when she realizes that she loves a man, and that the man loved her back. Even as she sees humanity being evil all around her during World War One, with chemical weapons, “No Man’s Land” (the trenches on the Western Front), and the production of new ways to kill thousands of people in one strike… Even as she sees all that, she decides to fight on the side of humanity.

Real life is a little bit like that, without the preternatural heroes and heroines. We get up in the morning and head out to do things to keep on keeping on. Most of us are not wealthy enough to just get by without doing something. Most of us have to do something to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Some of us choose to do the right thing. Others choose to do the wrong thing. Most end up doing something in the middle, or dabble on both sides.

But then, someone comes along and they change our view of the world. Before I met my wife, I was very careless about my future. I didn’t think long-term, and I didn’t have a clue of what I wanted to do with my life. My professional life was already started, but it was all about my bottom line. The things I did to help other people were mostly just because I could, not because I really wanted to. It was very selfish. It made me feel good to help others.

Then my wife arrived in my life. Public Health was not about “the public” anymore. It was about all of us, including her and I. Anything I did that would benefit public health would keep us safe and sound and together. The world, albeit huge, was now really reduced to the two of us and our future. And the best part was that it wasn’t a difficult choice to make.

Now, in a few weeks’ time, a third member will come into our family. Although, for all intents and purposes, they already are here. (Fetus Najera has been quite active in our lives from the time they were Zygote Najera.) The world now matters to me even more, and our parents have said that theirs matters more as well. (This baby will be their first grandchild.) What I do for Public Health will benefit the little person who will carry on my name and my genes into the middle part of this century, and beyond. Unfortunately, it’s a crazy world that awaits them.

When I was a kid, I remember my grandfather telling me stories about his life during World War II. He said that people back then really believed that the world was going to end soon. Imagine if all the world was embroiled in one big war, and that it all ended when one superpower delivered a weapon of phenomenal ferocity, a weapon that would then proliferate and become the subject of nightmares. He also told me about the wars that followed. Also, most of the time that I spent with my grandparents, they were involved in activism against Mexico’s “Perfect Dictatorship.”

Today, we have a huge number of challenges all around the world and here at home. Infectious diseases can now travel from any point in the world to any other point in a matter of hours, not days. What our current president puts out on Twitter impacts world markets and international relationships. The people on the far Right are at war with the people on the far Left. Facts don’t seem to matter anymore. People believe what they want to believe, even at the expense of their own wellbeing. (Did coal miners really think their jobs were going to go back to what they were last century? Did retirees really think that their healthcare wouldn’t be touched?)

That is the world that Baby Najera will born into… And that’s the world that they are going to have to decide to want to save or not. Whether they’ll do it because of love for themselves or love of others is up in the air. Whether they’ll want to do anything is also unknown. But, like my grandparents and my parents before me, I’m going to give them the tools necessary to make the best decision.

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen