ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If any place is in need of a superhero, surely it’s Albuquerque.
So as if someone had heard our pleas, as if someone had seen a lighted signal in the night skies, here came word stapled on telephone poles across the city that Batman was in town to save the day.
But this Batman, if the fliers on the poles were to be believed, sounded nothing like the congenial Adam West TV version of the caped crusader. This was the Dark Knight, the psychologically conflicted, morose loner teetering precariously toward being more vigilante than do-gooder, more Ben Affleck than Christian Bale.
“I’m sick and tired of the crime in Albuquerque,” read the words under the darkened images of a pensive, abs-gifted crime fighter and his famed bat signal. “Criminals that go unpunished, drug dealers, killers, rape, murders, DWI, overdose, corrupt politicians, kidnappings, children suffering, gangs, etc.”
Aside from some grammatical nits, who could argue with that?
Just in the last few days, Albuquerque suffered its 54th homicide this year. A homeowner shot and killed a would-be burglar in his home. Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized more than 45 pounds of fentanyl in an Amtrak train stop. A state representative was convicted of aggravated DWI. A judge agreed to hold in custody a 15-year-old boy accused of beating a man to death, then setting his body on fire.
And we learned that the Albuquerque metro area, as well as the University of New Mexico, ranks tops nationwide in auto thefts.
So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say we’re all sick and tired of the crime in our city.
Then the Dark Knight notice took a darker turn.
“But I’m mostly disgusted with humans like you who won’t do anything about it,” the fliers continued. “I am vengeance. I am light. I am Batman.”
And then: “You have been warned.”
Reaction across social media platforms from NextDoor to reddit was a mix of disbelief, relief and horror.
“Um that’s a bit creepy,” one observer said. “I mean, I understand the frustration so many in Albuquerque feel, but damn!”
Said another: “Vigilantes are rarely better than the people they pursue. Not a healthy sign.”
Said yet another: “Good lord!”
One person speculated that the fliers were a comic book nerd prank. Another thought, rather creatively, that the fliers were an edgy city campaign to deal with crime. Another suggested that the fliers were props for one of three productions now filming in the city.
Social media folks said the fliers were prolific across the city, from Downtown to the Northeast Heights.
And then as quickly as they appeared, they were gone – at least I think so. I spent most of Thursday driving around the city, checking out location tips from social media posts.
But Batman had apparently flown away. Maybe Gotham City just needed him more.
It was good, though, to get out and about across this gritty city of ours, and I realize I don’t do that enough. Most of us don’t.
So, yes, I saw a lot of blighted neighborhoods, shuttered businesses, clots of people strung out midday on the street corners, empty ART bus corridors.
But I also saw gleaming new buildings and businesses, brewpubs, clean parks, revitalized old neighborhoods, the glorious Sandias and the golden aspens, people living lives under beautiful skies that are now filled with bright hot-air balloons.
I thought about the real heroes in our city, like the children with serious life-threatening illnesses who participated in last week’s Hero Police Academy, which gave them the chance to experience their dreams of becoming police officers.
Like the 29,136 New Mexicans who registered to vote or updated their registrations last month.
Like the volunteers with the International District Healthy Communities Coalition who since May have taken 6,674 dangerous used syringes off the streets.
Like the protesters, the committed citizens of Indivisible New Mexico, Moms Demand Action, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, Defend Our Neighbors and other grass-roots groups unafraid to make their voices heard.
Like the hardy souls who donate blood.
Like the teachers, social workers, law enforcement officers and health care folks, the veterinarians and the veterans.
Like the guy I saw in a safety vest picking up trash on Silver SW and the dad playing with his two children at Ernie Taylor Park.
Like those of you who love Albuquerque and want to make this gritty city a place others love, too.
With heroes like that, I’d like to think that someday we’ll be able to tell Batman, should he ever return, thanks but we’ve got this.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.