I was born in 1948, three years after WW2 ended. Many of my schoolteachers were veterans of that war. One in particular I remember was a navigator on a B-17 dropping bombs on Nazi Germany. He was a very good teacher, and had devoted his life to making a better world after the awfulness of the War. Another one was in on D-Day, was shell-shocked, lost his family, and ended as the town drunk. I learned from him that even the “survivors” have to sacrifice.
I was bred in the 1950s, a time when patriotism was not sneered at by the cognoscenti (Those Who KNOW). It was a time when the rabid right had not moved into center stage. and the lunatic left was muted. The libertarian fanatics who think only of the next dollar they plan on stealing were a bad dream, and the nattering negativists of the progressivist movement were yet to be hatched. So I grew up on idealism. And who better to idealize America than Captain America?
From the very first, Cap was there to defend American values. (And after all, he did give ole Adolf a sock on the jaw!)
There are those flag-waving crooks who give love of country a bad name. I have even seen “Proud Americans” who want to shoot children at our borders, and approve of overthrowing the legitimate government of the USA in the name of “Freedom” and “Rights”. (Failing to understand that all Rights are linked with Duties, which precede the Rights – – but that is a story for another time.) Amazingly, they always need money – your money – to combat the evil Menace-To-America, but never seem to win. Or to be crushed. (If The Enemy they make out of straw were at all a danger, these rubbish-spewing clowns would be the first to go.)
Then there are the sophisticated and elite culture snobs who sneer at “corny” patriotism, and damn America for all its faults. To them, the USA has no virtues whatsoever. Their firm faith is that they are “smart” and their opponents are “stupid” or “ignorant”. Condescension towards the “fools” who enlist in the military is the closest they get to compassion for their fellow citizenry. They condemn “Right-radical nihilists” for hate of the poor and dispossessed, yet they never stop to give a dollar to a homeless person holding up a cardboard sign by the side to the road.
The Far-Right envisions the program of the Left to be the total destruction of all decency (“Dogs and cats living together.”), and the Far-Left thinks everyone on The Other Side wants to enslave whomever they do not exterminate. That is an outlandish and mythical exaggeration – – or is it?
Truth, Justice and The American Way – That’s what Superman fought for. But Superman was a Strange Being From Another World, not native. It doesn’t take an immigrant to display the best ideals of America. Our Boy is as homegrown as it gets.
Captain America is nobody special, just a kid from Brooklyn, an experimental lab rat who got lucky. He is quietly a man of Faith, but not a fanatic (he knows the difference between the One God and an imposter like Loki). He thinks all Americans are equal, and deserve an equal break. He’s been powerless, and knows how that feels, and wants to use his strength to help others move upward. He doesn’t want to kill anyone, but he doesn’t allow bullies to go unchallenged.
With the advent of the MCU movies (and Chris Evans was a perfect Captain America), various philosophers and pundits got into the over-analysis trip. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting series of reads. Here, Here, Here, and Here.
Needless to say, there are others, as well as a small cottage industry of serious books devoted to Cap and his ethics.
I believe in Captain America. I believe in a patriotism that grows misty eyed when the Star Spangled Banner is sung at a ball game, when the Old Vets parade down Main Street on Memorial Day, when someone recites the Declaration of Independence on the Glorious Fourth of July (they still do that, don’t they?).
I believe in Our Town and Good Morning Miss Dove and George Washington and Abe Lincoln and FDR and Martin Luther King and Mom and baseball and hot dogs and apple pie (and tacos and pizza). I believe in Christmas pageants and Midnight Mass at Easter and Labor Day Picnics.
Most especially, I believe in Independence Day with parades and picnics in the park and fireworks and John Phillip Sousa music blasting from every radio speaker. It is corny and old-fashioned, and very black-and-white in an age of shades of dirty grey.
We need some of that corny again.
I Believe In Captain America!