Thursday, July 21, 2011

Captain America As Role Model

Mark White, a professor at the College of Staten Island in New York City, has published an opinion piece about Captain America's symbolic value in the San Diego Union Tribune.

White reminds us that patriotism is more than being "simplistic, flag-waving jingoist, toeing the line of whichever party happens to be in control in Washington at any given time."  I would add that patriotism is more than parroting the talking points that party leaders' memoranda, blogs, twitter feeds, or talk radio hosts, or cable news channels dictate.

White illustrates that Captain America represents a patriotism that emphasizes "principles over politics."  The professor reminds us that "[p]rinciples are timeless, the enduring ideals embedded in the foundational documents of our country, most importantly the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence."  White points out that these values include "freedom, equality, and justice."  White reminds readers
At its best, politics is grounded in principle, but all too often the principles get forgotten in favor of competing interests – which may be perfectly valid, of course, but which also cause us to lose sight of our shared values.
Perhaps more importantly, White points out that Captain America exhibits the virtues that Benjamin Franklin famously tried to live and George Washington embodied:  "honesty, courage, integrity, loyalty and humility."  I'm a little troubled about Steve Rogers, Captain America's not so secret identity, torture threats in recent issues of Secret Avengers, but as White points out
Captain America . . ., regardless of the varied political opinions of the writers who have chronicled his adventures over decades, he is consistently shown to exemplify these social values and individual virtues, the principles that unite us as Americans.
Given the space limitations editorial pages impose, I can understand why White didn't point out the dangers that spring from one political party assuming that it alone understands the principles embodied in America's founding document or that its members alone possess the virtues that Captain America embodies.

Captain America is nothing if not inclusive.  As a man who frequently leads the Avengers, he has welcomed reformed criminals, recovering alcoholics, mutants, space aliens. African Americans, Hispanics, foreign princes, and pagan gods to the group.  It's those actions as well as Captain America's 70 year history as a solo hero that allow White to conclude:
Captain America does not represent his country at any specific point in time or under any particular leadership. He does not deny the mistakes we have made throughout our short history, nor does he make excuses for them to provide political cover for one party or another. Instead, he consistently rises above politics, eschewing partisan divisions to symbolize the ideals that give America its unique identity: a country founded on, and governed by, enduring principles that all Americans can endorse and embrace.


yanktonirishred said...

First Super Hero Action Figure I bought for my son was of Captain America.

LK said...

I've vacillated in my opinions of the good Captain, but I became a permanent fan when he opposed the Super Hero Registration Act in Civil War.

Damn, I've gotta get out more

yanktonirishred said...

HA! Great comment.