Batman has endured for 77 years. He has undergone many evolutions, reinterpretations, and reinventions over those decades. But there are constants throughout those iterations – be they the bat-paraphernalia of gadgets, vehicles and costumes, or character elements like his early life & motivations. Batman is often considered a right-wing character for his use of force against a criminal “underclass,” Bruce Wayne’s benevolent capitalism, his lack of accountability and transparency to public bodies, his perpetual surveillance of Gotham’s streets, and implementation of fear against his enemies. Yet for every conservative signpost, I think an argument could be made for left-wing counterpoints: he works to apprehend criminals, investigates crimes, protects and defends the vulnerable, tackles the corrupt underworld of Gotham’s crime syndicates, and uses his wealth to shake up the social structure of his city. That Batman could be both right-wing and left-wing – as well as both authoritarian and libertarian – depending on your point of view is testament to his character. Sure, you can look at Batman as an affirmation of the excesses of fascist authoritarian governments – but you can also look at him as a symbol of greater things.
We don’t know why popular, dedicated and hard-working politicians are killed, until the police investigation is over. We cannot, and should not, lay blame at the feet of anyone but the assassin alone. Yet even if it transpired politics played no part in the tragedy, how can one not be “political” about the murder of a politician?
In tragedies like this, society often looks to their greatest fears. The fact that so many immediately look to the political climate for motivations suggests that, whether the killing was politically-motivated or not, many in society are willing to believe it is. That does not make it correct, but it does show fear of immigration does have a counterpart in a fear of anti-immigration. As much as many in the UK are afraid of refugees, migrants and others they perceive to be external, even existential, threats, others are just as afraid of the language and actions of the other side. The phantom of angry tattooed white supremacists screaming “Britain first” is as potent an image to some as the spectre of furious bearded jihadis roaring “Allahu Akbar” is to others. This is what happens when the politics of division are allowed to take hold, and we must take some measure of responsibility for it in our collective humanity.
Many people in Britain are afraid, and many are full of hate. Fear and hate are the weapons of our true enemies – the enemies of democracy, understanding, and development. It is easy – too easy – to be angry at the climate of hate and fear surrounding immigration, foreign policy, and perceived loss of democratic control, whether you’re on one “side” or the other. I know that anger. I’m not so proud as to deny I feel the reactive anger myself. I experience it every time I see yet another talking head say “migrants” instead of “refugees.” I sense it when I see yet another slogan that those who fought against hatred in the 1940s should know better than to evoke. I feel it boiling in my blood whenever I read yet another leaflet or paper lying about our fellow humans, describing them as “hordes” and “swarms” and “benefit seekers” and “boat people” and “mobs” in an “invasion” of “aggressive” “cockroaches” putting the UK “under siege.”
But when people are afraid, their decision making is adversely affected; when people are hateful, their perceptions are warped. Fear really is the mind-killer; hatred really is self-punishment. And those in positions of power know all to well how very useful fear and hatred can be when channelled against those they seek to exploit.
Hatred cannot be ended by hatred, any more than fear can defeat fear. Love and compassion can dispel hatred; trust and hope can dissolve fear – and that applies to those who oppose the politics of hatred and fear as much as those ensnared by it. We cannot hope to undo the decades of manipulation into hating and fearing our fellow human beings by changing the focus of our hate and fear, no matter how little they deserve such concessions. But if we match our love, compassion, trust and hope with determination, resolve, and knowledge, then we can rebuild what we have clearly lost.
To paraphrase the Caped Crusader: hatred is the weapon of the enemy. We do not need it. We will not use it. But we don’t need to be superfit, hyperintelligent billionaires dressed up in black to combat it either.
We don’t need to threaten violence against aggressors to stop them.
Eight days after their lives crossed at a burning street corner, Fidel Lopez met the Rev. Bennie Newton.
In the chaotic early hours of the riots, Mr. Lopez, a Latino, had been one of first victims of the mob cruelty, torn out of his truck and beaten senseless. Mr. Newton, a black minister, covered Mr. Lopez’s body with his own, screaming: “Kill him and you have to kill me, too.”
The 59-year-old minister’s actions were caught on videotape by an amateur photographer.
Thursday night, they faced each other outside a house in Torrance, Calif., hugging and crying.
“I passed through a bad moment,” the 47-year-old Mr. Lopez said. “I thank you. You saved me.”
“You look well,” Mr. Newton said softly.
Of course, Mr. Lopez did not. His face was swollen from the 29 stitches in his forehead because of a blow from an auto stereo, 17 stitches to one ear — someone tried to slice it off — and 12 stitches under the chin. Though no bones were broken, his body still aches from blows to his back and shoulder, and the pain in his head is unceasing.
The two men began to relive that terrible night as they sat together on a couch in a home owned by Mr. Lopez’s brother-in-law. Mr. Lopez’s family has not yet dared return to their South Central Los Angeles neighborhood.
A native of Guatemala, Mr. Lopez has been in the United States for more than 20 years and works for a contractor. He was still struggling to understand what happened to him that night.
He had been returning to his rented home, and knew nothing of the acquittals in the Rodney G. King beating case. While waiting at a red light, Mr. Lopez saw a liquor store in flames and figured somebody was fighting.
Mr. Newton, pastor of the Light of Love Church in Los Angeles, had gone home from his weekday job running a carpet-cleaning business when he saw a TV report showing trucker Reginald O. Denny being beaten at the intersection.
He was planning to go a ministers’ peace rally at the First AME Church that night, but he decided to go to the corner instead.
“Something,” he said, “was driving me.”
We don’t need to raise our fists against threats of violence to banish the threat and convince others to see another point of view.
ANDREW DENTON: A few years later, you burnt down his church, didn’t you?
JOHNNY LEE CLARY: Set fire to his church. What happened was we started off going by his house, calling him names, we got no response. Threw trash all over his lawn, got no response. We showed up with our sheets and hoods and stood out there in his yard, saying, “Get on out here, boy, we got something for you.” And he comes outside and he goes, “Boys, Halloween’s four more months away. I got no trick or treat in here for you. Come back in October.” And he goes back in the house.
ANDREW DENTON: That’s a brave man.
JOHNNY LEE CLARY: Yeah. And, I mean, I didn’t know how to deal with this. And so the Klan goes, “You got anymore bright ideas?” And I said, “I don’t know.” I said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do.” So we burned a cross across the street from his house. He came outside and asked us if we needed hotdogs or marshmallows for our barbeque, you know. So finally, I said, “I’m tired of messing with him” and we set fire to his church. And they put the fire out before the church was destroyed and I remember I called him up and disguised my voice and I said, “Hey, boy, you’d better be afraid. We’re coming to get you, boy. You don’t know who we are but we know who you are.” And he goes, “Hello, Johnny.” And he goes, “A man like you takes the time to call me, I’m so honoured.” And all that stuff. He goes, “Let me do something to you. Dear Lord, please forgive Johnny for being so stupid. He doesn’t mean to be so ornery, he’s a good boy trying to get out somewhere in there.” And I hung up the phone on him and I said, “How dare him?”
And so, the funniest thing that happened with him, though, is, I didn’t know what to do and I was at my rope’s end. And one day we was watching him and he went into a restaurant, so we got a bunch of us together and about 30 of us went in there and surrounded him. And he had this chicken there on the table. And I walked up and I said, “Hey, boy, this restaurant’s for white people only, we don’t want you here.” I said, “So, I’m gonna make you a promise.” I said, “I promise you we’re gonna do the same thing to you that you do to that chicken. So you think real hard before you touch that chicken.” So he looked at me and looked at the Klan, then he picked up the chicken and he kissed it. And when he kissed the chicken, the whole restaurant acted just like y’all did. They all started laughing and everything. And I looked up and even the Klan was laughing. “You gotta admit, that was funny.” I said, “Every one of you, outside.” I’m outside and they’re doubled over, laughing. I’m going, “You guys are gonna get suspended and lose your robe for two weeks.” I said, “I’m getting tired of this.” And I’m hollering at them and yelling and they’re laughing. I heard a horn honking and Reverend Watts is driving off, going, “Bye, Johnny.” And that’s how he chose… That’s how one old black – we never bothered him again – and that’s how one old black man defeated the entire Ku Klux Klan. Because he used this (Johnny points to his head) instead of brawn.
ANDREW DENTON: And he used this too (Andrew points to his heart). A very brave man.
JOHNNY LEE CLARY: His heart.
We don’t need to treat those who find our very existence repugnant with the intolerance they display.
A mosque has been praised for serving tea and biscuits to English Defence League supporters after the far-right group arranged a demonstration there.
About six people turned up to protest at the mosque in Bull Lane, York, on Sunday and were invited inside to play football with worshippers.
More than 100 supporters of the mosque had gone there after learning of the planned EDL protest.
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said the mosque’s response was “fantastic”.
He said: “Tea, biscuits, and football are a great and typically Yorkshire combination when it comes to disarming hostile and extremist views.”
When people stop being afraid, when people let go of their hate, humanity has a way of sorting itself out. If we treat people as human beings, think of people as human beings, then perhaps we’ll all start acting like human beings again.