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Tuesday
Jun212005

A Religious Reaction

So I’m lying on the bed, shivering and trying not to retch. Wa comes in and asks me what’s wrong, and since I’m confused and brain-muddled from the toxic waves slamming through my system, I say “I’m having a religious reaction.” Lucky for me, Wa and I share a brain so he went for the Benedryl. Anaphylaxis aside, it’s been a pretty cool week.

Saw Batman flick twice, and I must say it’s the shit.

First, I love Christopher Nolan. Okay, so to be fair, I’m not that psyched about Insomnia, but Following and Memento were both groovy. I think he has an eye for that sort of freaked-out mind-twisty thing I like in a film.

Second, there’s a great cast. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy, and really intricate performances. Lots of minutiae, subtlety and class. Even the presence of the Giant Irishman couldn’t fuck it up, and let me tell you, my feelings on Liam Neeson’s overrated acting haven’t changed at all, but he was really right for this part, and he doesn’t even look like a gigantic freak playing off of Christian Bale.

Third, there’s Christian Bale.  Oh, yes. I know how shallow it is to be interested in a film ‘cause the guy in it is a hottie. But it really helps that unlike Tom Cruise, Jason Biggs, Ashton Kutcher, etc. Bale has RANGE.

Fourth, the film is a pretty true rendition of the way I like my Batman. Dark, brooding, social conscience.

Which brings me to my actual point—why I like Batman.

The thing about Batman is this: what are his super powers? Can he fly like Superman? Super strength? Super sight? Hearing? Spidey-sense?

Nein. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing.

The thing about Batman is, he’s a man. He’s just a man. A man with more money than God, yes, but a single, human man, nonetheless.

So here’s billionaire Bruce Wayne, a guy who’s a little bit psycho, a little bit brilliant. His parents are murdered. He gets kicked around. He has everything, but he has nothing that really matters. And all around him, there’s this world of corruption. A world where people will kill you for a pair of shoes. A world where it’s not safe to walk around in broad daylight, unless you’re paid up with the right people. Eventually, he gets tired of seeing the people around him hurt. He gets tired of watching, and doing nothing, and he decides to do something about it.

When I lived in Portland, I used to work at the mall. I rode the train and a bus home at night, and once, when I closed the store, I was walking home at around 11 PM. A guy was walking toward me on the sidewalk. As he passed, he grabbed the strap of my handbag and tried to yank it away. I won’t say that I’m brave or anything, but I was startled so badly that I refused to let go. Instead, I yanked back, screamed at the top of my lungs, and slapped the guy twice in the face with my free hand. He let go and ran off.

The point is, I refused to let him have the upper hand. I refused to be afraid. And I won. Now, the scene could have ended differently. I could have let him have it. He could have had a weapon and could have killed me. But by acting, and not just waiting for him to do something, I took control and I won.

Yesterday, at the shop, a customer told me that she thinks it’s okay for us to give up our rights. “We have to give up some rights,” she said “if we want to be safe. Being safe is more important.”

More important? Being safe is more important than privacy? Free speech? The right to not be searched? Held against your will for no stated purpose? Tell dissidents who died in Tienamin Square how great it is to be safe. Or Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, imprisoned in her own country, Myanmar, for disagreeing with her government. Tell that to Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Teheran, who fled Iran after being told she couldn’t teach western literature anymore, because Jane Austen was immoral. And it also begs the question, safe from what?

Should it be illegal to cross the street because you might get hit by a bus?

If we are to protect ourselves from terrorism, from tyranny, from oppression and the misuse of power by those who would exploit us, we must retain our rights. We must also use them to destroy those would take our rights away.

I do not advocate violence. Violence only leads to escalation. It leads to more violence, and more death. The only way to stop violence, tyranny and oppression is with speech. The only way to stop terrorism is to refuse to be terrified.

Batman’s superpower, and mine, are our minds, our refusal to give in, and our will to not be stopped—by anything.

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