POTUS and Batman

Read a fascinating essay today that examined the good-vs.-evil theme of THE DARK KNIGHT, and especially the temptation to give up the fight because innocent people have gotten hurt — despite the fact that giving up the fight leaves the evil people free to perpetrate even more evil — and compared the theme to the decisions President Bush has had to make with regard to prosecuting the Terror War.

The essay is here.

There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society — in which people sometimes make the wrong choices — and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

This was a great question, considering the spate of anti-Terror War movies that tanked at the box office compared to THE DARK KNIGHT’s record-setting draw:

Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense — values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right — only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like “300,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Narnia,” “Spiderman 3” and now “The Dark Knight”?

And as one who swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” — and whose main regret with respect to my service is that the closest I got to the war zone was the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan — I could really relate to this section:

Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They’re wrong, of course, even on their own terms.

Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don’t always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.

The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them — when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

It may be true that THE DARK KNIGHT set records in part because of Heath Ledger’s untimely demise, but I think it was destined to do well regardless. And if it reminds us that there are men and women who “stand in the gap” for us every day, protecting our freedom and our way of life, so much the better.

May we have the collective wisdom to elect leaders who are not afraid to answer the call in defense of liberty.

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