While DC Comics' paragon of virtue and shining beacon of inspiration is a burly alien with godlike powers, over in the Marvel Universe, he's just a guy with a shield. Sure, he's a juiced-up white guy with certain advantages, but a bullet will kill him just like it'll kill any one of us. Some may wonder why we should look to a man like Captain America as a role model when one could make the argument that he's nothing more than a steroid creation. Others might say he's a flag-waving figurehead and an obnoxious representation of American exceptionalism and entitlement. They couldn't be more wrong.
In today's era of distastefully divisive political punditry, unscrupulous fearmongering, disgustingly willful ignorance and overzealous stridency, here are five reasons that we should all be inspired by the example set by Steve Rogers – sometimes Captain America, always a hero.
STEVE ROGERS IS CAPABLE OF ADMITTING HE IS WRONG
Captain America & Falcon #183
Steve isn't perfect, despite the perceptions that he is or thinks he is, and he's well aware of it. There was a time not long after he re-emerged from his icy suspended animation where he learned of how corrupt the government had become and quit being Captain America out of disgust, feeling as though that identity would represent that corruption. Sometime later, though, while fighting crime as Nomad, he came to the realization that idealism should never be defeated by corruption, but rather should always strive against it, and the mantle of Captain America is a perfect rallying point in that fight. More importantly, he was capable of realizing and admitting that he'd made a mistake, something unheard of in today's public service landscape by anyone who hasn't been caught tweeting pictures of his junk to strangers. Not to mention the fact that he's also able to notice when his ideas are 30 years out of date, a lesson social conservatives could really stand to learn, and big business proponents could take a cue on noting the difference between the American dream and American reality.
CAPTAIN AMERICA PUTS IDEALS OVER POLITICS AND POPULARITY
Captain America #250
Does Steve Rogers have political opinions and beliefs on how the country should be run? Of course he does. Everyone does. However, he also never reveals his leanings or who he's voted for, and he never uses his bully pulpit as Captain America to further any political agenda. In fact, when the public began to rally for him to run for president, rather than exploit that opportunity for more power and influence, he instead disappointed them all by declining, believing that representing the American dream of prosperity for everyone regardless of social class or wealth was much more important. Embodying that hope, being that symbol of an incorruptible ideal in the face of constantly mounting government corruption is his preferred method of keeping the dream alive and trying to keep the real politicians honest.
STEVE ROGERS DOESN'T SELL OUT HIS PRINCIPLES
Captain America #332
Being Captain America is a public service, but there was a time during the Reagan administration where a network of government suits tried to make the colors and title into public property. As a result, they expected Steve Rogers to become their hired stooge. With no legal recourse, he instead handed over the uniform and resigned rather than be beholden to the political whims of any particular executive branch. He created a new identity for himself (not his strong suit, as evidenced by the Nomad outfit seen above) as The Captain, in the colors of red, white and black, in order to continue his fight for idealism, even if he no longer had the status or public approval that his original mantle carried. The government then got a belligerent, jingoistic, xenophobic jerk by the name of John Walker to fill the role of Captain America, while Steve had only the cold comfort of his principles to help him soldier on. The high road is never the easy road.
STEVE ROGERS IS WORTHY OF THOR'S HAMMER
It may not initially seem all that good to be considered worthy by the gods of rape-and-pillage-happy Vikings, but in the Marvel Universe, only the truest and noblest of souls are capable of lifting the mighty Mjolnir. Thor himself was even humbled by the realization that this mortal is just as worthy as he is. Yet, despite the glory of the hammer's immense power that he felt coursing through him when he wielded it, he handed it right back to its rightful owner once his need for it had passed, copping only to a bit of envy towards the Thunder God and his weapon of choice. He's not immune to temptation at all – far from it. But he is strong enough to resist it and to preserve his own ideals in the face of it.
CAPTAIN AMERICA ISN'T AN OBNOXIOUS JINGOISTIC XENOPHOBIC PRICK
Captain America #3
Despite what "Ultimate" Comics might have you believe, Captain America isn't the type of blindly patriotic half-assed American history student who would bark something like "Surrender? Do you think this 'A' on my head stands for France?!" The real Captain America is thoughtful, humble, studious and appreciative of everybody's contributions toward the greater good, regardless of nationality, race, religion, gender, et cetera. He always strives to do the right thing – the TRUE right thing, not just what his government or his leaders tell him is the right thing, and that requires forethought, research, and an openness to new ideas. So inspiring is he that once he and the aforementioned belligerent xenophobe John Walker traded uniforms back and the latter became known as U.S. Agent, Cap and the Avengers' nobility was able to influence even his hard-headed outlook. While he's still a completely stubborn hardass, at least his xenophobic tendencies have been vastly diminished. You can't change everybody, but you take what you can get with some people.
So there you go. That's why Captain America is an inspiration, as his example is something we all should strive towards, even if we fall short all too often. But that's why he's there – to encourage us to pick ourselves up and try, try again until we get it right – until the American dream is fulfilled. It may not even be possible, but the least we can do is make an honest effort to try and make it so.