For a site called The Caped Persuader there’s not an awful lot of persuading going on here. Sure there are plenty of opinions tossed around here, and some of them even have pretty good reasoning behind them, but neither I nor Cape Persuader J have done much to actively persuade anyone of anything. For my part, that has been on account of perhaps an over corrective attempt at humility. I have intentionally dialed back my political opinions since the inception of the site. Its an odd choice, I know, for a site that was originally conceived as political philosophy for the superhero enthusiast, but it was done out of the realization that my political philosophy doesn’t quite fall on either end of the traditional spectrum of left vs right. As such, I’ve chosen to ease into my peculiarities of thought so as not to alienate a potentially receptive audience of either stripe. Those of you who have been paying close attention may have noticed that my opinions seem at times to contradict one another. At times I seem to tote the conservative line, yet at others I apparently disparage the GOP base and standard bearer alike. Some musings strike a conciliatory tone, seeming to advocate bipartisanship while others take a decidedly more opinionated and confrontational approach. I hope to show in this post that these stances are not contradictory, though they make contradict what we’ve come to expect from politics. I hope to clear up some of that confusion by laying all my cards on the table, politically speaking of course. And then, of course, there’s my support for Team Cap to be explained.
I’ll start by saying that I realize that practicality requires that one throw his lot in with people that he may not agree with 100%. As I said in Roundabout Part 1, Team Cap and his ilk seem to be operating under the misunderstanding that the Super Human Registration Act would criminalize people for simply being who they are. While the name is somewhat misleading and the terms Superhero and Superhuman are often used interchangeably, the only people who are treated as criminals are those who suit up and fight crime without registering. Unless I missed something, nobody’s doors are being kicked down in the dead of night because they possess a power and haven’t registered. While I take issue with this misrepresentation and the framing of protection of his narrow clique as a blanket Civil Rights issue, once battle lines are drawn one must make a choice whether to take one side or the other or to remain neutral. Steve Rogers found this out the hard way when, in the comics, he was forced to decide whether or not to round up his former allies for breaking what essentially amounted to a civil infraction, and in the MCU when he came to the defense of a childhood friend/brother in arms who had been framed for an act of international terrorism. In both situations, events spiraled out of control until governments tried to placate worried citizens by attempting to regain control through arbitrary methods. In each situation he had to choose between betraying his core values or betraying his country which had betrayed those values first. Put in the same situation I would have done the same thing. But after this initial choice, our reasoning, if not our side in the conflict, parts ways somewhat.
The star spangled man mounts and his acolytes mount their high horses and start talking of Civil Rights as though a class of people is being singled out for discrimination. But the SHRA bans anyone from anonymous heroics, super humans and regular folk alike. It’s no more discriminatory than laws on the books in every municipality in the country that ban amateurs from performing specialized tasks that could harm the public if not done with the requisite skill and professionalism. It’s as absurd to compare the SHRA to registration of Jews in Nazi Germany, or even Jim Crow laws and segregation, as it would be to compare it to the plight of an unlicensed plumber or electrician who was slapped with fines. Where Team Cap does have a leg to stand on is the objection to the severity of the punishment. If said electrician or plumber were slapped in cuffs and sent to an inter-dimensional prison, I’d be up in arms too. Then again most electricians can’t summon lightning bolts at will either, so the severity of the punishment is at least commensurate with the danger posed by the unsanctioned action.
In this sense I’m in agreement with my baby conservative self from a decade ago. My primary concerns in politics are consistency and cohesion of thought and theory. While it may be cohesive to believe that an innate power should be registered like a firearm, especially if the power can level a city, and that those who wield them regularly for the public defense should be held to strict measures of oversight, it is altogether inconsistent with the belief that a government’s ability to act in the public’s defense should never be construed as its ability to restrict the peoples’ right to act in self defense. That is to say that if firearms should be registered so too should mind bullets and psychokinetic blades, but if one believes that guns shouldn’t be registered, one must also believe that the big guns of the The Punisher or The Hulk ought not either. Both extremes stem from the acknowledgment that civil authorities are but men and thus fallible. This leads to two sobering realities: a) individuals are capable of defending themselves as effectively if not more so than the authorities and b) authorities can be corrupted and as such must never have exclusive control of the means of defense, lest they themselves devolve into the threat. The baby conservatives and Republican fanboys I encountered in my time with the Tea Party would agree with both these points, but as sure as they fail to connect the dots between their own rhetoric and it’s original meaning, they fail to see their beliefs through to their logical conclusions. In the MCU, Secretary of Defense Ross defends the Sokovia Accords by likening Thor and the Hulk to nuclear weapons. I liked that line because it was clever, but it does nothing to diminish Captain America’ s subsequent point that Banner (or the Avengers as a team with their internal checks and balances a la “lullabies” and Hulk Busters) is at least as qualified as the UN to determine when his actions are necessary and proper. So too are the States and the people who administer them as viable an authority to safeguard nukes and tanks as federal authorities. Our federal government should have no more right to prelude Texas or California from retaining such an arsenal as the European Union should have from depriving Britain or Germany from doing so. Consistency and cohesion.
Daunting as that scenario may seem, it does not mean that such great power would be disseminated at large to those lacking in the great responsibility department, any more than failing to enact the SHRA would mean Spidey-sense and web shooters would necessarily fall into the wrong hands. The possibility is there, sure, and that’s scary as hell, but not as scary as the certainty that if we reserve that power especially for the feds than all it takes is corrupted authority to render everyone else powerless. This, If you’ll forgive the momentary sidebar from the big picture to the more transitory issues I try to avoid, explains my aversion to Trump. From what I can tell he is as far from consistent and coherent as Hillary is from forthright and responsible. With either candidate’s track record of vagaries, deception, and stated goals to continue to use the presidency as the imperial throne it is has rapidly been metastasizing into for over a century, both have the potential to be as detrimental to liberty here and abroad as any loose cannon dictatorship with their hand on the button.
Don’t mistake my lack of adherence to conventional party lines as some banal attempt at bipartisanship however. I have as much a distaste for “reaching across the aisle” as the next zealot, seeing it at best as a shallow, condescending attempt at cooperation and capitulation for its own sake, and at worst a devious means of dividing and conquering while manipulating people’s honest desire for unity and reasonable compromise. I simply recognize that consistency also means that I apply the same standards of scrutiny to myself and my ideological peers. I believe what I do, and fervently so, because I’m constantly trying to weed out fallacies in my perspective and the best way to do that is to cross reference it with those of others.
So what perspective can we gain from Team Cap and Team Iron Man? When neither side sees things for what they truly are and each bears roughly equal responsibility for bringing things to blows, why even pick a side? Why not hang out playing charades (or whatever they’ve decided to do with their free time after hanging up their tights) with Firestar and Caped Persuader J? Because when battle lines are drawn neutrality is de facto alliance with whoever happens to be winning. Because there are such things as sins of omission. Because the maturity to choose peace rather than picking a fight over every passing car in that long train of abuses shouldn’t blind us to the Incremental evils we suffer or preclude us from defending ourselves when despotism comes to a head. Because Cap’s rebellion is proper even if he’s just punching the front of the face. Because absurd as the Civil Rights posturing may be for all its bluster, the follow through that makes it a Proper Rebellion is the realization that every one of us is already registered, branded practically at birth with a number that in today’s world could be misused as surely as the SHRA rolls, not by Electro to find Spider-man’s soft spot, but by thieves to ruin us financially; a number that we must memorize and present periodically if we’re to function in modern society as sure as if we were commanded, “Papers, please.” Because unintended consequences of legislation are far more durable and entrenched than the laws themselves, and have a way of growing malignant. Because sometimes prudence dictates that one put a pin in bettering oneself and stick one’s neck out.
So here we have it. I’ve shown you mine, now show me yours.
Better yet, why don’t I show you yours. You already know I’m a pseudo libertarian, though I much prefer the term Classic Liberal. Next week I’ll show you that you are too, and so is, to some extent, every hero who ever donned a cape and/or cowl. Or domino mask for that matter.