I'm a slow thinker. Ideas stew for a long long time before I find my inspiration; for that reason, I'm starting a column called "Last Year's Zeitgeist." In The Dark Knight, the Joker's true destruction lies not in the murder committed by his own hands or those of his henchmen, but in the destructive choices he forces others to make. He takes idle parlor games (maybe I should change the name to "Last Century's Zeitgeist...) and tests them on live subjects. The most devious of these is placing bombs on two separate ferries and the detonator for each ship on the opposite ship. The Joker then tells each of the ships' complement that it can save itself with the destruction of the other. He lets the people decide who will live and who will die.
The obvious parallel to the Joker is Osama bin Laden. You may remember him as the number one enemy of America for a few months in late 2001- early 2002. Obama's real power lay not in his ability to knock down buildings or sink ships, but in the ability to force American's to make difficult decisions. We'd all like to think we would be willing to run into a burning building to save an infant. Normally, we are never faced with that choice, but philoso-villians, like the Joker and bin Laden force us into those choices. At first, Americans performed admirably, thousands of ordinary people rose to face the challenges of 9/11. They faced the concrete choices of bravery steadfastly. Some lived and some perished in the choosing.
But I said the true villainy wasn't in the knocking down of buildings or the hijacking of planes. It was in the choices we faced afterwards. It was when George Bush, Dick Cheney, a majority of the House and 99 Senators made the dubious and cowardly choice in sacrificing liberty for the illusion of safety. Luckily for Gotham (spoiler alert) they have a con in a jumpsuit and a man in a business suit with more backbone than our leaders. They escaped the Joker's plot without blood on their hands.
(And if this were still early 2008, I might put in a plug to have the businessman and the con run as a ticket for President and Vice President. I might even waste some time photoshopping a faux poster. But it's not early 2008; this was last year's zeitgeist.)