A few months ago, I was watching the Adventures of Ironman, with Dylan, the 3-year-old son of a friend. As we sat together in the dark family room, Dylan said, “Uncle Art, I like Ironman.”

“He is cool,” I answered.

A short time later, Dylan said, “I really like him.”

“Me too.”

After another series showing Ironman whipping the bad guys into submission, Dylan said, “I think I want to be him.” He sat riveted on the sofa, his eyes never leaving the TV screen.

“That would definitely be interesting.”

A minute later, Dylan got off the sofa and stood in front of me. “I am Ironman,” he said.

I nodded and smiled at him.

“You don’t understand, Uncle Art, “I AM IRONMAN. I really am.” His little chest was all puffed out and he was flexing both his arms, showing me how huge his biceps were.

“Sometimes I wish I could him too,” I answered.

A few weeks later when I saw Dylan again, he was all decked out wearing a Spiderman costume. “What happened to Ironman?” I asked.

“I’m Spiderman now. Watch!” He bent his legs, spread his arms, and assumed a perfect Spiderman pose. He WAS Spiderman, and I was stuck still being me.

Why do most kids develop a passion for superheroes? To me, the answer is pretty obvious. The world is a scary place. Really scary and really violent. The “mature” adults don’t believe in superheroes, they believe that their religion or religious sect or religious patron is more powerful than their competitors’ religion. They are willing to die for it, and see the rest of us non-believers or different-believers as the enemy.

If only we could choose to be Ironman or Spiderman or Everyman and give everyone the free choice to be whoever they want to be. Maybe, if I were Joe Belmont…