“Death of the Dream”

“The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.” –Benjamin Franklin

The events in Captain America have paralleled real world tensions from the beginning of Ed Brubaker’s run on the title. Groups such as HYDRA and AIM, with their splinter groups and cells, have the immediacy of terroristic threat. The events of late had been wearing on him, from the cosmic cube messing with his mind and history to his long time thought dead partner, Bucky’s, resurrection and ordeal as the Winter Soldier to him being forced to witness terrorism on his own soil.

Culminating the events of Civil War, Captain America #25 continues the theme of trading freedom for security. He’s tired (the man never seems to sleep) and angry and more than a little on edge causing him to be a bit more reckless. One almost gets the feeling that the Captain America we knew and loved could not exist in this climate. Once before he had abandoned the mantle of Captain America when he believed the country no longer lived up to its ideals and became Nomad, man without a country.

Captain America should be more of a lightning rod character than he is. The symbol of the United States, he should be as much the living embodiment of who we are as a country as Superman so often comes off as being. His death gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate what the American ideals are and whether or not we as a people or government are living up to them.

The hypocritical conceit of the United States was that while our founding fathers held that all men were created equal, they also held slaves. That central kind of hypocrisy affects the character of a nation; finds its way into the system of the society; finds its way into the hearts and minds of the individuals that make up the system. Becomes ingrained and systematized. Besides that, people, in the name of feeling safe, slowly see their own American Dream die. Our values slowly choke the life from us: individualism (good) at the expense of community (bad); and rampant materialism and consumerism as corporations pull government strings. We see people with little voice in their own government and have less faith in the people making the decisions for the direction of the country. It goes against the freedom that America stands for.

Steve Rogers took the experimental super soldier serum as a part of Project: Rebirth, becoming the first in what many were supposed to be. With Captain America, we see what it means to be truly free and have an example of what it means to join in God’s mission of fighting for freedom and justice. We also see his injust death at the hands of his oppressors, becoming a victim in our place (at the hands of a corrupt justice system no less) and transforms the condition of bondage. He suffers a hero’s death (though we expect a future resurrection), someone to crucify in their fear. With his life he provides a new vision, a new paradigm, to free us from the bonds of this world and its systems. With his death, he frees the oppressed from powerlessness and hopes to bring peace and healing to the super-hero as well as American community. It’s not as simple a fight, but it is one equally worth struggling for.

Granted, it’s hard to take the death of Captain America too seriously, when in the last year we’ve seen the return of his long-thought-dead partner, Bucky (as Winter Soldier), and Captain Marvel. Death has little meaning in the super hero world since the next set of writers (or the pressures of the market) may want to come along and do a new take on a character. For now, it is a great excuse for Bucky/Winter Soldier to don the Captain America uniform (as others did previous times Steve Rogers laid down the mantle of Captain America). It also wouldn’t surprise me to see a mysterious figure appear among Canada’s super-hero elite.

In the mean time, we long for the hope and example that Cap stood for.