THE VAMPIRE BATS
Once vampire bats came out of their caves by the millions to discharge their civic duty. It wouldn’t do to remain in their dark haunts when society clamored for the blood of the condemned. They’d been at this for a very long time, after all. Stonings in broad daylight had brought them out, but so too had thumbs-up-thumbs-down-day at the Coliseum and even the routine drawing and quartering of yore. More recently, they’d all but claimed the office of public conscience in matters of guilt and innocence. Innocence mostly, for it was innocence that inspired any self-respecting bat to outdo itself in the name of community standards. In the name of all those who couldn’t make it down to the courthouse square or prison parking lot themselves to chant for group vengeance on anybody they were convinced must deserve it. In that spirit, the appearance on cue of vampire bats served to reassure the nation that justice by proxy was still possible, no matter how difficult it might have become to do the right thing in one’s own life at times. One’s own life might be too complicated for a simple decision on good and evil, but the life of someone judged a hopeless rotter was easy. And if guilt could be pinpointed in this world, then innocence must be just as obvious. Already there by default in everybody not currently under sentence of doom. So bearing witness to the punishment executed upon the condemned, from whatever distance, was also bearing witness, ipso facto, to one’s own virtue. No wonder these exercises took on an air of ritual celebration, of staged pageants almost. After the guilty had been safely disposed of, an entire populace could get on with their lives with an easy conscience, purged of destructive emotions in the type of catharsis that might serve for this age’s response to Aristotle. In place of pity and fear, one need only substitute a blind conviction of one’s own righteousness to get the effect wanted nowadays. How fortunate to have tireless, insatiable vampire bats to take the lead.
Copyright © 2005 by Geoffrey Grosshans