The great allure of the superhero, of course, is that he has the tools necessary not only to fight the more elemental forms of evil, but also to pre-empt them: to sweep down, cape flying, whenever ordinary law enforcement fails to anticipate or reckon with a threat. Indeed, for all the famous grittiness and violence in the Batman movies, very few innocents perish on screen.

In real life, matters are tragically different. Yes, sometimes vigilantism saves the day; sometimes people working on the outskirts of the law can protect those of us who live within it; sometimes the law itself can prevent evil men from gaining the tools to wreak destruction.

But often, the most important defense of civilization takes place only after tragedy has struck, and innocents have perished. And the real heroes are neither police nor politicians nor an imaginary batsuited billionaire, but the people — whether in Columbine or Lower Manhattan or now Aurora, Colo. — who carry one another through the valley of the shadow of death, and by their conduct ensure that the Jokers and James Holmeses of the world win only temporary victories.

The Way We Fear Now – I wish I could agree with Ross about this, but I don’t think I do. You could just as well say that mass killers ensure that the civilizing forces only win temporary victories. And it seems to me that each of these killings — and I include among them politically-based acts of terror like the 9/11 bombings — changes public policies in ways that create long-term fears, stresses, and frustrations. This happens in large part because of supersaturated media coverage and general outcries among the populace for politicians to “do something” — anything except limit access to guns and ammunition, of course. The patterns of our everyday lives in America, especially in airports and other large public places, indicate some pretty long-term victories by the pointlessly, maliciously violent.