Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Side of the Dark Knights

Do we get it now? The Joker isn’t a joke. The irony of the Colorado Batman shootings has me stunned. Actually, staying up past midnight to see a movie befuddles me in the first place. Taking small children along to do that is baffling. Add James Holmes, hair dyed red, taking the part of the Joker, complete with guns and armor, shooting 71 people, many of whom thought it was part of the show, has my brain running around in circles trying to make sense of it all.

How did we get to a cultural place where young people think in terms of mass murder? How do they become so evil that they act on those thoughts? And it’s becoming commonplace. Admit it, you were only half-shocked when you heard the news.

Something is really out of whack. Not only do young adults actually open fire on innocent people, but then other people, without even missing a beat, use the event to press for less freedom for the people who didn’t shoot anyone at all. I even had a conversation with someone who was – drumbeat here – blaming Bush. This was not a political event. It had nothing to do with government -- we have always had laws against shooting people in cold blood. Why would a would-be criminal obey a gun law if he has no intention of obeying one of the most ancient of laws – “Thou shalt not kill.”? No – this is way beyond politics; this event is an outgrowth of an evil we can barely understand.

What is evil? Evil is worse than the opposite of good. Evil, you see, can look just like good. It can claim to have your best interests at heart; it can be called “Honest Iago” until five good people are dead; it can look like a doctor or a nurse or a teacher, or a tall, handsome grad student. Evil does not have horns on its head, nor does it wear a red leotard. It looks like us.  

Even our heroes are starting to look a lot like our caricature of evil. The stranger our villains get, the more twisted are the good guys. Batman? Bats are blind and only come out at night. Batman is called The Dark Knight. Why dark? Isn’t good light? Are we getting so confused about good that our popular culture sees good as shadowy and secretiv?