Well chickadees, we've made it to the middle of the year. Good job to all of us. It was hard and sometimes the downright shitty state of the world made it even harder, but we made it here. In the United States today is our "Independence Day", and whether you think there's any basis in this particular date or the specifics of how we celebrate* or not, today is a pretty good day to think about the bigger issues in life.
Last year I took a moment on this blog to write about patriotism and what it means for me to call myself a patriot. Now, to the outside world I think I don't really come off that way. I'm deeply critical of my country, I refuse to say the pledge of allegiance, and I spent most of high school and college marching on Washington. By conventional wisdom I'm not much of a patriot, and by conventional understanding I probably shouldn't be super into the Fourth of July and Independence Day.
But here's the thing: for me patriotism is about believing that your country can be better than it is. It's about the kind of love that demands more, that demands the object of that love be more and strive for excellence. I love my country, and that's why I protest and I criticize and I write thinkpieces and I sign petitions. I want my country to be what it promises, to really be the "land of the free and the home of the brave" and I refuse to be satisfied with where we are now.
We can be better, and we have to be.
I thought long and hard about what, if anything, I should post for you today, and eventually it came to me that the best way I can think of to celebrate not just America but the America that ought to be is by looking at the heroes we've chosen to represent us. The characters who fit into our collective imaginations and wear our stars and stripes. Our Captains America if you will.**
Obviously we have Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, to start us off. Steve might be currently getting dragged through the mud in the comics (yuck), but let's remember that his story is one of the son of poor Irish immigrants overcoming his physical disabilities and the systemic classism and anti-Irish racism of the time to be a hero and fight for his country. Even though his country wouldn't fight for him.
But we also have Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson wielding the shield too. Bucky who underwent years of brainwashing and torture to come out the other side as a man still capable of standing up to be a hero. He represents our resilience as a nation and our ability to heal. Sam Wilson, on the other hand, represents the best of us, plain and simple. A civil rights activist and para-rescue soldier, Sam embodies everything that does make America great right here and now. Our strength, our compassion, our willingness to listen and fight for what's right.
It doesn't stop there either. Peggy Carter has now picked up the shield and the legacy to become an alternate-universe Captain America in the upcoming videogame from Marvel. The story has her undergoing Project Rebirth when Steve is assassinated before he can undergo the treatment. Peggy then becomes a symbol of what it means to be a woman in this country, an immigrant who has chosen her nation and committed to it, a woman who refuses to let anyone stand in the way of her desire to fight the good fight.
We also have Isaiah Bradley, the first black Captain America, the man on whom Project Rebirth was tested before it even got to Steve Rogers. Isaiah might have been forgotten by history, but he still fights, he still does the right thing, and he teaches his children and his grandchildren to do the same. He even inspires his grandson, Elijah Bradley, to take up the family tradition and fight as Patriot.
And last but not least there's Miss America Chavez, the Afro-Hispanic teenager who in a lot of ways best expresses what it means to be a patriot today. America doesn't always like her country, but she loves it. She fights for it even while she fights it. She might be young and kind of brash sometimes, but she's go
t a good heart. She's and Eli are the next generation of the stars-and-stripes superhero collective, and while they're angry about the injustice of their country, they also know that it's always worth it to try to make your country better.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone.
*Mostly by drinking, overeating, and blowing things up. It's how we celebrate literally every holiday. We celebrate the start of Lent this way.
**After much deliberation and discussion, the verdict is that the plural of "Captain America" is "Captains America" like "Attorneys General" or "Surgeons General". Thanks, The West Wing!