Always be Batkid

November 15, 2013
Batkid to the rescue! (Jeff Chiu/ AP)
Batkid to the rescue! (Jeff Chiu/ AP)

“The most important thing in life is to be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.” says one of those pieces of Internet wisdom that I have difficulty attributing.

Batkid, a five year-old in San Francisco, spent Friday taking this advice to heart. He rescued a woman tied to train tracks, apprehended the Riddler robbing a bank, stopped for lunch (even superheroes need to stop for lunch) and, at the time of writing, was on his way to stop the Penguin and earn the keys to the city from the mayor.

In other words, this is exactly the opposite of the Rob Ford story.

Restoring your faith in humanity has become something of a cottage industry online. This Kitten Falling Safely Into A Basket Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity. This Old Man Being Helped Across The Street Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity. What This Veteran Says Next Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity. What This Man Did For His Old Dog Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity. What This Community Did For One Man Who Lost His House Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity.

The tidal response you get to this sort of thing is amazing. “I needed that,” people say. Three minutes of a lion recognizing a man, and my day is fixed. I needed that. We needed that.

Click around enough on UpWorthy, the hub of this kind of virtual hug, and you run into a pop-up: “It’s nice to be reminded of the good in the world. And it should happen more often.” You can click “I agree” or “I disagree.” But who disagrees?

An alien visiting from one of those earth-like Goldilocks planets we are so frequently discovering would be forgiven for wondering what’s the matter with our faith in humanity. How shaky is it, really? It needs constant reaffirming, but a cynic would note that however wavering in our faith we may feel, it is never anything that can’t be solved by three minutes of video. A worse cynic would point out the gap between Feeling Like You’ve Done Something Good and Actually Doing Something Good, the kind of gap readily illustrated by piles and piles of unwanted old shoes and used lotions at disaster sites, clogging the relief effort.

And then along came Batkid.

The Internet loves Batkid. Of course. Batman is always cool. Homemade Batman is incredible. But Kid Batman, restoring our faith in humanity? Sign us all up. So maybe it’s not a surprise that people were willing to turn out to make the Batkid’s Make-A-Wish dream come true. This kid loves Batman, we get that. At heart, much of the Internet is a 5-year-old who loves Batman. Of course we want to help.

This is one of those tear-jerky feel-good moments that the Internet loves. And for all my cynicism about Feeling Like You’ve Done Something Good, which can be easy, it is nice, for once, to see some good news, to see San Francisco clogged with traffic not because something terrible has happened but because an enormous crowd has turned out to give a kid a great day. One of the great usefulnesses of BatKid is to filter out the Scrooges, the people who insist that what matters today is the Possible Waste of city resources. “You felt good about yourself, Internet Person,” they scowl. “But what about the Real Dull Thing Happening Elsewhere?” It is people like this who want to stop us from ever having a space program on the grounds that we can never do anything cool and inspiring together because there are More Pressing Issues To Be Dealt With On The Ground First.

Miles, who has been battling leukemia, has been the recipient of more support than you can shake a cynical stick at. Thousands of volunteers turned out to help, and thanks to them Batman has two Lamborghinis to ride around in and has gotten commendations from everyone from the San Francisco Chronicle to President Obama himself.

 

That’s how we are, as a species — whenever something truly awful happens, we are surprised. Whenever something nice and uplifting happens, we knew we had it in us all along. Sometimes we throng together to make your life miserable. Mob your house. Bully your kids. Ride you out of town. But we have our moments, too. We still swamp the subjects of newspaper articles in money and cards, descend on grieving houses with casseroles, let you rescue the lady tied on the train tracks to make your dream come to life. We still have it in us. This is the way we wish we were all the time.

“We need Batkid more than Batkid needs us,” tweeted my colleague Dan Zak. That’s true. We needed this. After today, after this week, we needed this. We always do, though.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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Alexandra Petri | November 15, 2013