When my son puts on his Batman costume, he doesn’t think of himself as a scraped-kneed, blond-headed boy in a polyester cape and cowl. He is Batman. Batman is brave. Batman beats bad guys. Batman doesn’t have to pick up his toys.
I know Batman isn’t real. I know sometimes the credits roll before the bad guys get what’s coming to them.
My favorite moment in all of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” movies comes from “Batman Begins,” and it reappears in “The Dark Knight Rises.” It’s when a young Officer Gordon — the future Commissioner Gordon — places a coat around Bruce Wayne’s shoulders after the boy’s parents have been killed. It’s a small, gentle action that follows a grand, horrific one. It’s the moment that starts Bruce Wayne on the path to becoming Batman rather than Bane. Both men are born in cruelty, but Bruce receives one small kindness, and that makes all the difference.
The shootings on July 20 made us feel that Bane is real and that Batman remains fiction. After events like this, we either want to become Batman, the symbol of perfect justice, or we want to become Bane, the symbol of all-out vengeance. We cannot be Batman; we must not be Bane. But we can find tiny times when we can extend meaningful kindnesses to one another. We can be — should be — Commissioner Gordon.