Monday, November 20, 2006

Why does Captain America hate America?

A nation is nothing! A flag is nothing but a piece of cloth!!
Captain America

"Professor Fury" writes about an old Captain America comic book he first read in 1984 where old wing-head himself proclaims "America is a piece of trash". Strong words for the super-patriot meant to embody everything pure and good about the USA.

America is a piece of trash
Fury writes:

I've written before that Captain America planted the seeds of my eventual liberalism. Those seeds were planted over a number of issues, but this one is probably the most central, the moment where the notion that just because someone wrapped themselves in a flag, it didn't mean they understood anything about America or had its best interests at heart, that sometimes the people who shouted "AMERICA" the loudest understood its meaning the least. Such an obvious point, I'd like to be able to say, but it's one that our nation struggles with daily, so I guess it's not. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this issue provoked some severe cognitive dissonance in young pre-fessor Fury, especially during the dialogue-laden final showdown between the two Caps. It was easy for me to lose track of who I was supposed to be rooting for, identical as they were and uncertain as I was about which one was saying what.

[...]

"America is a piece of trash!" I kid you not, that freaked this flag-waving 9-year-old way the heck out. More importantly, it created in me an new awareness of the distinction, and the great distance, between the geographical America and the ideal America. Americans and Germans essentially the same? This was not the lesson that comics had heretofore imparted.

There is a vast gulf between the ideal of America, the America of "Truth, justice and the American Way", and the real America, which is merely yet another grubby neo-imperial power that frequently spits on its ideals for short-term selfish gain to entrenched special interests.

Despite the machinations of the Pentagon and White House, despite the casual bigotry and cruelty of the American heartland, despite the greed and heartlessness of Wall Street, the American ideal is still a powerful one, and icons like Captain America still have power to grip us. For, unlike the laughable patriotism of (say) Hulk Hogan's Real American, Captain America's patriotism isn't about putting other countries down, or even for that matter of putting the USA up on a pedestal, "my country, right or wrong". Captain America's patriotism is to the ideals of liberty, freedom, justice and opportunity that America -- the ideal America, the America of mythology -- stands for, and if the real American turns against those ideals, Cap will be the first to stand and fight, not for his country, but for his ideals.

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