Captain America Is Dead
It’s one of the oldest and most predictable lessons in the comic book “how-to” manual. If a new costume, a different writer/artist team, or a female character suddenly discovering she’s a lesbian doesn’t pump up declining sales, then killing the super-hero is usually what happens next. Ho hum. If the right number of outraged fans make enough noise, then a magical McGuffin is found, and one timely resurrection later, the Corpse In Tights comes back. If not, oh well.
With Captain America, however, I don’t think it’s going to be that simple. It wasn’t just a sniper that killed America’s super soldier: It was an identity crisis. Captain America was an anachronism; a heroic relic from WWII who didn’t belong in George Bush’s America.
The super heroes who matter, the icons who last for decades and sink deep roots into our collective consciousness are primal archetypes that have a singular purpose. There’s much more to their existence than gamma rays, a funny green lamp, or a bite from a radioactive spider. They are what the culture needs.
Batman is a ferocious and relentless avenger seeking justice for helpless victims in the lawless streets. Superman represents the power of an America with open borders that freely welcomes refugees fleeing oppressive countries. The idea of Captain America was born during World War II, when the horror of Nazi Germany threatened to transform the planet into a concentration camp.
The lines dividing good and evil were clearly defined then. Captain America knew who the bad guys were. We all did.
But what about now?
Where is Captain America’s place in the ugly America of George Bush and Dick Cheney? What does Captain America do when he has witnessed a stolen presidential election, 9/11, the swift boating of John Kerry, fraudulent WMDs, Shock and Awe, Abu Grahib, the erosion of habeus corpus, torture, Alberto Gonzales, No Child Left Behind, Enron, “Intelligent Design”, the Supreme Court putting out the welcome mat for Jim Crow, and Katrina? In Karl Rove’s broken mirror, Captain America would be beating up abortion doctors and appearing on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.
Is it any wonder that the myth of Captain America was lost, confused, and burdened by a bleak sense of irrelevancy? Naturally, as bad as things got for Captain America, it got worse for the United States of America.
As usual, Tristero from Hullaboo nails it. Hard.
“Once Bush stole his way into the White House, America entered a period of decline. Declining influence in the world, declining pre-eminence in science, and declining trust in international affairs. Some of this is normal and some of America’s decline is not necessarily such a bad thing. But a lot of it is very bad news indeed. Perhaps the worst decline is that last one I mentioned, trust that the American system will, at the very least, place major checks upon, the megalomania of mentally unstable executives. And here’s the nut of the problem:
“Even assuming the next president makes Lincoln look like a log, would you trust this country if you were a foreign leader, knowing that not only had it enabled a George W. Bush to run the show but, worse, never held either him or his administration accountable for its serial crimes and failures? What – you think it’s gonna be easy to say it’s the dawning of a new era? Y’think the next President can just appeal to multiculturalism and s’plain away Bush? Like “it’s just our culture” to let monumentally incompetent and murderous fuck-ups get off scot-free?
“No. Until the Whole Sick Crew of Bushites is held accountable, this country will continue to lose influence and trust. It will mean that life for Americans who deal with other countries – that means all of us, Chucko, ’cause of the importance of our imports – will become increasingly more inconvenient. And the United States on many fronts, will continue to become less secure. It’s hard to build alliances with assholes.”
Let’s not forget, it wasn’t specifically Bush that was voted into power, it was what Bush represented. I don’t care how many votes Bush stole; it never should have been that close in the first place. What myopic white people wanted, I think, was for America to stumble backwards into an Utopian Pleasantville, where there were no scary jigaboos, queers, ragheads, or feminazis to worry about. It was a cold, narrow-minded ideology that brutally excluded everyone and everything that gave the United States its unique identity. No, you can’t see the “White Only” signs, but we know where they are, and there’s more of them every day.
It worked, didn’t it? Lots of Americans voted for it twice.
Now look where we are.
And if we choose not to stop our slow descent into the abyss, then Captain America and the ideals he honored is truly dead. Unlike the comic book hero, the America we used to be so proud of won’t be resurrected. It won’t deserve to.