The story is compelling. A young boy witnesses the brutal murder of his parents—gunned down while leaving a theater. The despair he feels is eclipsed only by his anger, and his anger breeds the obsession that fuels the Dark Knight. The Batman is born from a tragedy that will not be repeated—not on his watch.
It’s a fantasy that soothes us, empowers us in the face of our struggles to pay the rent, keep the utilities running, find and/or keep a job, and somehow—who knows how—prepare our children for what’s to come.
Everything I need to know I learned from Batman, a popular YouTube video proclaims. Batman can handle anything, and so can I.
Then, reality intrudes. A fractured mind, a mad man steps into your theater, his second amendment rights fully-loaded, and starts shooting at you, your kids, the other families around you. Suddenly, real trauma brings what it always brings: brief paralysis followed by panicked flight.
No one ducks behind a curtain to slip on a mask. No one throws a batarang or judu flips the gunman with a god-like confidence. In fact, the reality of the situation is questioned for a moment—is this part of the show?—just before the eruption, an animal panic. People grab their kids, grab their lovers, grab their lives, and just run. We all would.
Once they’re safe, if they make it that far, no one delivers heroic one-liners. Survivors just sob and grasp for the support of others. No child eventually heads to Tibet for ninja training. No adult resolves to fight against this kind of evil, to match selfish violence with righteous might.
Most people, normal sane people, just wander in a dazed shock. Did this really happen? they ask. How can this happen?! Lives are lost and survivors are changed forever. In our world, traumatic reality does damage.
So we are wounded again by senseless gun violence, by a rampage killing. And so our two presidential candidates are clamoring for their political cowls. Mitt Romney issued a statement: saddened and shocked. President Obama has expressed similar condolences and will address the nation shortly.
They have said, and will continue saying, what they must say, the only appropriate sentiment in the face of such senseless tragedy. We must come together as a country. We must support and love one another. We must join in national compassion for the people of Aurora, Colorado.
Batman won’t save us, my fellow Americans. We have to save each other. And lately, I’m sad to say, we’ve really been slacking off.