Why Superheroes Have Secret Identities

So why do superheroes have secret identities?

Because no good deed goes unpunished.

You’d think, that in this time of deep recession, social strife, and political infighting leaving the American people largely bereft of inspiration and leadership, that those brave few willing to stand up to the worst elements of our society would be recognized as such as rewarded for their efforts, right?

Like Jim Nicholson, the Seattle bank teller who, at the end of July of this year, responded to a bank robber by lunging at him, demanding the robber produce a weapon if he had one, and then chasing the unarmed would-be robber out of the bank and restraining him until police arrived.  He helped apprehend a bank robber who could have committed more crimes had he not been stopped, and saved the money of hard-working bank customers, right?*  Of course he did, and as it turned out, the vagrant robber had a long history of theft and burglary charges; he could have used the ill-gotten loot to buy himself a gun and become really dangerous!

As a reward for his heroism, Nicholson received the coveted You Don’t Work Here Anymore Pink Slip Award.

Key Bank declined to comment on the firing.  However, Seattle police and an FBI special agent agreed that the proper course would have been to simply give the robber what he wanted and be a “good witness.”   That’s the safe way to do it, and that, as I understand, is the bank’s policy as well.  But did Nicholson deserve to lose his job for standing up to a robber?

Before you answer that, let’s look at the case of Josh Rutner, an Ocala (Florida) “loss prevention officer” (or “asset protection officer;” the article call him both titles and, really, they both mean “dude what stops shit from gettin’ stole”) at the local Wal-Mart.  Since it’s his job to stop unpaid-for merchandise from leaving the store, he says (and I agree) that he was “just doing his job” when he restrained a shoplifter.  But then things got serious: the shoplifter pulled a knife, slashed at Rutner’s face, and ran away.

Now, most of us would have our self-preservation instincts kick in at this point, and we’d just let the guy run his happy ass away and become someone else’s problem.  Not Josh Rutner.  Josh Rutner gave chase, thinking, as he says, that the man was a danger to the public and the city that needed to be stopped right then and there.  With the aid of a customer, Rutner apprehended and restrained the shoplifter until the police arrived.

The next day, Rutner was fired.  In addition, the customer was banned from ever shopping at any Wal-Mart in the US ever again.  Okay, I’m kidding about the second part.  But seriously, Rutner did get his ass canned the very next day.

The same reasons were given as Mr. Nicholson above:  it’s not policy to give chase or interfere.  Despite Rutner’s job specifically being preventing losses, his attempts to do that very thing got him fired. . .because he gave chase to an armed suspect, which store policy prohibits.  Never mind that he kept an armed person with no fear of, and a demonstrated armed resistance to, law enforcement from reaching the streets and maybe harming someone else somewhere else.  If this had been a comic book, he wouldn’t have stopped the guy; instead, he would have let the guy go and the guy would later kill Rutner’s kindly old Uncle Ben, resulting in Rutner becoming the hero known as the Amazing Rutner-Man.  I should really stop writing these when I’m sleepy.

So why do superheroes have secret identities?

Because no good deed goes unpunished.

Clark Kent wants to keep his job.  Bruce Wayne, God rest his soul, didn’t want to get kicked out of the Wayne Foundation by cowardly, superstitious shareholders.  Peter Parker wants to keep taking pictures for a living (or keep teaching science, whatever the hell he’s doing nowadays).  I could go on, but really, the majority of you wouldn’t know who I was talking about anyway, so I’ll put my geekiness away now.

Point is, in a society in which criminals do not fear the law and depend on no one else standing up to them, we’ve put in place “policies” and “corporate rules” to make sure that no one does.

Maybe criminals, like politicians, need to remember to fear the people. . .

VS – 11.8.09

P.S.  I am not by any means saying that I want people to go out and become vigilantes, or take stupid chances fighting off criminals.  I am saying that those of us who do stand up to crooks of all collar colours should be rewarded, not punished.  So if you become Captain Long-johns and go fight crime in Hoboken, whatever happens to you is totally not my fault.

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2 Responses to “Why Superheroes Have Secret Identities”

  1. Nice blog man! 🙂

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