Sunday, January 24, 2010

Captain America Quotes Mark Twain

About three years ago Marvel Comics had an "event" named Civil War. I have not read any Marvel comics regularly for many years, but apparently a bit of reality changing at the end of the plot allowed the story lines of their major characters to be cleaned up.

I do like Spider Man, so when I saw his share of these comics at the local library I checked them out.

The climax of Spidey's story is a rooftop talk with Captain America. Two other bloggers share those pages, in which Captain America quotes Mark Twain. I'll cite the part that made me ponder a bit.
Who, then is the country? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit?...

In a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak...Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't.

You cannot shirk this and be a man...This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences.
Certainly a republic asks its citizens to share their voices. And our republic was founded upon the idea that no group had a monopoly on truth or right.

But I disagree with Twain on two particulars.

The first relates to how a republic differs from a democracy. We are the former, and thus individually do not politically "stand up for what we believe". Rather, we elect someone to represent us.

Our problem is thus not to stand up ourselves, but to find candidates who will represent us well. I see this as an increasingly serious problem, despite being fond of the bumper sticker that reads If God had meant us to vote he would have given us candidates.

My second disagreement with Twain hinges on his use of the word patriotic. To me, activity that is healthy for our republic is patriotic. We cannot simply invent things and claim they are patriotic if they show no obvious relationship to the health of our political system (i.e., eating chocolate) or seem obviously harmful to it (i.e., undermining our military).

Not terribly deep thoughts, but more than I usually get from a Marvel comic book. Well done, whomever planned that scene!

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