Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ground Zero

ID: I was beginning to think there wouldn’t be another segment.

Batman/Bruce: I made a commitment. You’ll get your interviews. They just have to happen on my time and on my schedule. Clark could move faster than a speeding bullet- I actually have to schedule you around meetings and sleep.

ID: Still, I’d have thought with your nighttime duties curtailed, you’d have more time, not less.

B: So did I. But I hadn’t anticipated the economy going sideways, or the fact that there was going to be more for me to do logistically now that people know who I am.

ID: Okay, but you called me, and I assume you didn’t just do it because you wanted to bitch, so what’s up?

B: I wanted to talk about the “mosque.”

ID: Oh Lord.

B: We’ll start at the beginning. It isn’t a mosque, it’s an interfaith community center funded by Muslims- though what difference that does or should make I can’t contemplate. That’s why I wanted to have this conversation with you in particular. You have a way of provoking that might be useful. I’d like nothing more than for there to be some sinister plot we could all rally against

ID: Crab people.

B: But I just don’t see it.

It only really makes sense as a distraction, a don’t look at the evil bastard behind the curtain who doesn’t really want to discuss the quality of his efforts as a representative, but would rather publicly bash a minority group instead. It’s not even a straw man argument; it’s a piñata.

The only even plausible exception I’ve heard of in this case is that somehow a Muslim group, any Muslim group, building this close to Ground Zero is tantamount to the terrorists lording over their “conquest.” This is wrong, for any number of reasons.

I don’t want to call people who are against the community center bigoted, because I refuse to believe that’s true of so many Americans. They’re mistrustful. People with a different perspective perpetrated a horrible crime in our country- in my backyard. Gotham’s practically on top of New York, so this means something to me. But now there are people with a similar perspective, who want to set up shop nearby. I understand a certain degree of mistrust, but it’s wrong to conflate all Muslims with terrorism. There isn’t some secret cabal behind terrorism where every Muslim gets a vote.

I’ll contrast it like this: I’m at least a little culpable for the innocent people who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, because I was an American citizen while Bush was President and our nation engaged in those conflicts- so are you, and most of the people reading this. And for the most part that’s a fact of war: innocent people die, often in far larger numbers than the combatants. But when I’m in Kuwait, or Egypt or Lebanon, and I’m conducting business, people don’t treat me as an arm of the US government, they don’t spit curses at me for being part of a group who has harmed a part of their group.

Mistrust is a genuine, gut reaction, and I can’t fault a single person for having it. In my other, costumed life, I’ve been one of the most distrusting people on the planet, but the American compact is that we will trust our fellow citizens not to abuse their rights, that we agree to respect the rights of all our fellow citizens. Being wary doesn’t make you a bigot; pretending like that mistrust justifies mistreating another group of people- using it as a pretense to deny them something that is otherwise legal- that does. And part of our obligation as Americans is to take our fellow citizens by the hand and pull them back from that precipice, bring them back to that place where we can all feel safe and secure in our rights, in our country and in ourselves.

ID: You seem pretty passionate about this, and I don’t just mean passionate about civil liberty kind of passion. I, I thought you and Superman were off someplace else, doing, whatever my notes will tell me later that you were doing [note: they didn’t].

B: Clark was off gallivanting. I wasn’t. I told him that out where he was going I was a liability, or at least no more use to him than I could be at the other end of a satellite phone line, and that there was some business in Gotham I needed to attend to. So I was in my city.

In fact, when the first plane struck, I was still in bed; I’d had a long night. Alfred woke me up, at 8:47. He was holding my costume in one hand, crumpled in his fist, and said, “They’ve flown a hijacked plane into the World Trade Center.” For the briefest instant I felt like the suit, an empty symbol, before I got up and put it on. I told Alfred I’d need reinforcements.

He’d set the plane to warm up, and by the time I’d reached her it was ready. I flew at top speed, which we’ll just say is a lot; we’ll be generous and say my plane is part of the 5th generation of fighter jets along with the F-22 Raptor; realistically I’d say it’s more like 5.5.

But I was too late. I arrived in time to see the second plane hit the South Tower. I offered to chase after Flight 77, but was told that the passengers were going to try to retake the plane, so I stayed over New York until a pair of F-15s arrived, then I flew back to Gotham, where I stayed in the air until I was out of fuel.

ID: So… wow. I had no idea.

B: I had offices in the World Trade Center; I knew people. But it’s making a fundamentally unAmerican mistake to hold all Muslims responsible. Muslims are Americans, around 1% of the population. Muslims were victims, too, on September 11th. Muslims worked to save people in the Twin Towers, and some of those died.

There is no clash of civilizations; we’re at war with practitioners of a methodology- people who use terrorism as a means of coercion. I don’t find many occasions to agree with George W. Bush, but most people would say he was a stalwart fighter of terrorism, and he said, “Islam is peace.” He’s absolutely right, derived from “salaam,” perhaps better known by American from the phrase “salaam alaykum,” peace be upon you.

ID: But Muhammad (pbuh), was a man of war, a conqueror.

B: Yes he was, in the mold of David, the man after God’s own heart. But I’m not interested in discussing philosophy with you. The point is more that people misuse religion for their own purposes, and you will find rapists and murderers and worse in every faith.

But it’s wrong to hold every member of a group responsible for what a few people did.
As Americans, we are better than that. All of us. Even if a few of us need to be reminded of that from time to time. But it’s important to remember that these people who are so very wrong, they’re our brothers, our fellow Americans. It’s important for us to help them understand.

ID: Okay, so I don’t let you end on too dramatic a note: what if the Joker wanted to purchase a theater where he’d massacred an audience?

B: This isn’t Osama bin Laden putting down tent-spikes, so I’ll adjust your metaphor. It’s a little known fact that the Joker is Jewish- obviously not devout in any recognizable way, but that’s how he was raised, and I believe he was ethnically Jewish, that his mother was Jewish. Now would it be right to deny purchase of that land to Jews simply because a Jew committed an atrocity at the site?

ID: Hmm… Wait. Is the Joker really Jewish? What’s that shrug? You’re not really going to tell me, are you? Bastard.

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