I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Favorite DC: Batman

A couple of the most interesting relationships in the DC universe are that which exists between Superman and Batman and that which exists between Green Lantern and Batman. Both of which are being explored in the first story arc of the new Justice League. While this particular comic won't deal with the relationship between Batman and Superman until the second issue, we know that Superman believes Batman to be fighting the right cause but that Superman does not like Batman's methodology, and vice versa. Justice League #1 does have plenty of time to deal with Batman and Green Lantern by showing that Hal Jordan wants to shine bright and let his enemies see him coming whereas Batman wants to stick to the shadows. Batman sees Superman as a boy scout and Green Lantern as a glorified police officer (and let's face it: Batman has a pretty bad idea of what police officers stand for from living with the corrupt police of Gotham), while they see him as a mistrusting misanthrope dwelling in the darkness. And yet all parties deem the others necessary.

When I lived in Fort Worth, Texas, I was attending a Divinity School. If you don't know what that is, then I guess it's pretty similar to a Seminary. I was attending a Master's degree program aimed toward Christian service, toward service of for the sake of God and man. The further I got into the program, the more I became skeptical and even cynical of Christian ministry, not because of the ministers, or, at least, not for the most part. I was surrounded by people training to be ministers who were incredibly thoughtful, critical and brilliant. They cared about people and were willing to devote their lives to them. But the people in the churches wanted their churches to support their laziness, their decision not to help their fellows in need, their businesses and their political parties. They wanted the Christian message to cater to their needs rather than allowing the radical ideas to unsettle them.

Each and every one of us was given a choice. We could serve in a church and project the light and the hope. We would be constantly hurt by those who chose selfishness of Dallas Cowboys football games over the socially conscious message of the Bible. And we would be paid better and have better job security if we didn't rock the boat. Or we could rock the boat. We could say what we felt called to say. We could do the right thing by suggesting that we ought to help those who have no protector, to do whatever we can to make sure those who have never had a voice can speak for themselves, to question the powers on this planet, the government, the wealthy, etc. Most of my friends have chosen to serve in churches, to hold the banner up, and to do the right thing in the brightest, most visible way. But I felt like I couldn't do that. I couldn't be paid for my service, because I feared that it would corrupt me and silence the voice in my ear that tells me what is right. I had to be able to point out hypocrisy wherever it arose, be it in my country, in my school, in my church, in my apartment complex, in my family, or inside of me. For the longest time, I felt alone because of this. I wondered why I couldn't just be like the other people. I felt sick to think that I was pursuing another degree and adding money to my student loan debt only to emerge without viable job options.

Batman was my way of making sense of all of this. Batman was the individual who was willing to put everything else aside for the sake of what must be done. And I'm not talking about the ends justifies the means sort of stuff that Kiefer Sutherland is always doing when he's Jack Bauer on 24. (Batman does not use firearms. Batman does not kill. And Batman does not torture. He takes the high road, even when it makes everything harder for him. He chooses the smart option and the right option over the expedient option.) I'm talking about the fact that sometimes people have to sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of doing the right thing, the fact that sometimes you have to risk losing friends and you just have to be a prickly individual because justice hangs in the balance.

Now, I am making my way in life. I continue to look for teaching and writing positions, but until then I just have to do hard work where work can be found. I'm starting a family with my girlfriend Amy. And I'm doing everything I can to stand up for what I believe is right. You may say that all of this diverges from Batman's identity, but I think you're wrong. Batman's life is devoted to hard work in the form of preparation and confrontation. And though he's something of a rough individual, he has one of the biggest families in the DC universe. He's mentored a variety of Robins, Batgirls and Batwomen. He's loved, truly loved, a couple of women. And after all of his time playing the surrogate father and mentor to orphans, he now has his own son named Damien to father. Though he's a difficult man, Batman is a beloved member of the superhero community.

In all truth, I think I kind of agree with Green Lantern and Superman. Batman shouldn't exist. He shouldn't have to exist. But, like them, I think it is a better idea to fix the world that created such a difficult man than to try and "reform" the Batman himself. Batman is a mechanism of our broken world, our corrupt world, and his purpose is to right the wrongs of a sick society, not by any means necessary, by the right means. This is why I look up to Batman, and this is why he is one of my favorite DC characters.

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