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2020 Has Made Me Rethink Captain America: Civil War

Personal Freedom vs The Safety of Others

 

It’s the end of 2020, and like most of you, I have spent this terrible year swaddled in blankets and rewatching all of my old favorites in an attempt to wring every last ounce of comfort from them. Alongside binge watching classic TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mad Men, I worked my way through my favorite film franchises. I watched all of Star Wars, (starting with the prequels), Lord of the Rings had several watch-throughs, but the biggest undertaking in my comfort-watch-a-thon has been the “Infinity Saga” of the Marvel cinematic universe. There are over twenty films to work through (and some really do feel like work) so I cheated my own rules a bit and watched the ones I had only seen once, in theaters. I decided to start with Infinity War and Endgame (gotta let the chaos reign sometimes!) then I bounced to Age of Ultron, and finally Captain America: Civil War.

Initially when watching Civil War, I found myself immediately drawn to Cap’s side. Personal freedom, loyalty to your friends, mistrusting the powers that be, these all spoke to me – a former misfit supreme – on a deep, deep level. They felt far more important than Tony’s emphasis on security and safety. But rewatching it this time, at the end of 2020 the plague year from hell, I found my perspective…shifting.

Now when Tony argues in favor of signing the accord, I find myself agreeing with him. The argument for boundaries and oversight in order to protect large populations of people from a dangerous force, feels like the right thing to do. We are currently living through the worst pandemic since 1918 and a large part of the reason America is so far behind the rest of the world in dealing with the virus is because there is basically no oversight. We have become the ruins of Sokovia. Three hundred thousand Americans are dead and millions more are infected every day. We need individuals to agree to sacrifice some personal freedom in order to keep the majority of people (and those most at risk, like the elderly, the immunocompromised, and our essential workers) safe. Following the rules, staying inside, valuing the lives of others over our own non-essential whims should be the priority. As Tony says, “without boundaries, we’re no different from the bad guys.”

This isn’t to say that Cap’s argument is thrown out the window. Particularly his concern about the agendas of those in charge. He had a Hydra-infested government and we have the waning hours of the Trump administration. When Tony stresses the importance of the UN backing the accord Cap responds by reminding him that it’s still just run by people. “People have agendas, and agendas change.” And to be fair, we as a country, have been completely abandoned by the Trump administration and the GOP as a whole (if we were ever a part of it to begin with, which is probably not the case). If we had been, there would have been national shelter-in-place orders, there would have been national eviction moratoriums, and there definitely would have monthly stimulus checks (as most countries who have been successful in tamping down the virus have done) to ensure people stayed home. Because of this, it is all too easy to mistrust the institutions that are supposed to keep us safe.

However, Cap’s focus on his friendship with Bucky to the detriment and danger of so many others does feel hard to accept right now. Not that loyalty, friendship, and love should be undervalued or tossed aside, but his stubborn focus on his friendship with one person feels eerily similar to people in 2020 who refuse to social distance, who insist on traveling to see their families for the holidays, and the people who refuse to wear masks because they think it impacts their personal freedoms. I love Cap and Bucky as much as the next fan, but it’s hard not to view his choice as incredibly selfish through this 2020 pandemic lens. He was willing to risk World War III for his boy, which is incredibly romantic, but also if someone exposed potentially thousands of people to a deadly virus because they just HAD to be with their true love, we would be furious!

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this. Cap is right that we can’t (and shouldn’t) put all of our faith in “the system,” but now because of the pandemic I am ready to accept that Tony’s desire to keep as many people safe and alive as possible, has equal, if not more, value. The weight of this debate now falls on our individual shoulders. The government is not going to help us, but we can do our part by sacrificing some personal freedoms for a short time in order to keep others safe and alive.

(Photo: Marvel Studios)

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