11/17/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Loss of Superman

I watch a lot of movies, and I know movies are not always accurate, but I think when you see cops that refuse to shoot in a busy marketplace, for example, that's generally accurate. When a bad guy comes barreling around the corner and jumps over a bicyclist and runs through a busy downtown street, for example, the cops all stop shooting. They radio it in and have a patrol car at the other end of the alley pull up, or maybe they call in the chopper overhead who follows the fleeing criminal through streets and over bridges. They act morally, and these cops, by extension, are us.

We (and I mean us "civilized" folk) are the good guys. We do not harm civilians. That's what makes us who we are. That's why we are the beacon of justice in this dark chaotic world. We are not the evil ones, the crazy ones. We do not blow up civilians, even in war. And if we do, it's only by accident. If we do, we are sorry, truly. I was an officer in the U.S. Army. I know the rules of engagement. Soldiers respect civilians, for the most part (admittedly there are exceptions, but those exceptions do not count in my generalization of "soldier," just as when I say "we" i exclude the psychopath serial killers).

We're not the bad guys. It's the bad guys that are the bad guys. Who go around running into the crowded downtown street in an attempt to use the civilians as human shields. Knowing that the cops won't shoot. Yes, they are taking advantage of our moral high ground, but that's the price we pay. It's like Ben Franklin said about those who sacrifice liberty for the sake of safety, they do not deserve safety nor liberty. The principle of justice is in the fabric of our society, our country. It has to be! We are Americans, after all.

In real life, like in the movies, the bad guys run into a crowded street and into a civilian home. But it's at this very moment that we, as the good guys, have a choice: we can shoot them up anyway or we can hold fire. Superheroes hold fire. America holds fire. To shoot them is as un-American as... well... whatever is the opposite of apple pie.

The real American spirit says we will come back to fight another day. But that's not what we're doing these days. Instead, we are opening fire at the ones we are trying to protect, whether within our own borders or around the planet. We have lost sight of who we are. The bad guys are staying true to form, but we, as the good guys, are deviating.

Think of any Superman film. There's the one with the bus thrown that's about to kill a bunch of civilians and Superman risks losing the bad guy so that he can protect the passengers. Isn't this element present in nearly every super hero film? And it's precisely this facet that makes them the bearers of the torch of justice! And we as Americans once had that! We held that torch, once. When i put on my Army uniform every morning, I thought that's what I was doing. Protecting. Being just. I was so proud of my country that I actually saluted every flag I passed, even when no one was watching and I didn't have to.

But it seems that I have been mistaken. That bus scene plays out in the real world a little differently than in the films. In the real world, Spiderman lets the kids on the bus die. Superman does not stretch over the broken railroad tracks so that the train can safely pass. If the bad guy has also boarded that train full of people, in the real world Superman becomes a missile and blows the train up. Batman throws his bat-granade into the orphanage to flush out the bad guys. And his justification: "the bad guy is responsible for my killing all of those civilians, he should have never gone in the orphanage." This is true, of course, if we assume one simple thing: we did not have a choice, we could not control ourselves, there was no way to stop our fingers from pulling the trigger.

And to make that assumption means we are truly lost.

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