Captain America and the Conservatives

How’s about that for a title eh? Not one I ever thought I’d be writing, that’s for sure. So what’s this about? Well, in a recent issue of Captain America, the titular character fights against a super villain called the Supreme Serpent, a white supremacist trying to keep illegal immigrants out of the country by terrorising the southern border of the USA. Captain America, who I should remind you is black in his current incarnation, doesn’t much like this idea and comes to the rescue of the terrorised immigrants, defending them and facing off against the white guy. So how’d this go down? FOX News lost their shit basically, calling this a bunch of liberal brainwashing bullshit made to vilify the white conservative as being just as bad as Hitler or ISIS and asked that Marvel make the villains less white guy and more… Muslim… No shit, they genuinely suggested a Muslim extremist villain, saying that such a character is more typically seen as an enemy of America than a white guy ever would be… Let that sink in. Done? Okay, rage with me here…

Straight away, let’s address Captain America and what he represents shall we? To the unobservant eye, Captain America is just patriotism given a face and a large metal shield to wail on Nazis with and you could be forgiven for thinking that but it’s untrue. You see, Captain America was originally designed to resemble the Aryan male, a handsome blond muscular youth with blue eyes, lantern jaw and that good work ethic that made him gosh darn perfect. You might guess this is because he is meant to be the American ideal of a wholesome robust farm-boy looking character fighting for justice but it goes beyond that, it was essentially a cruel cold kick to the balls for the Nazis. The Nazi ideal was also that of a super heroic blond boy, the fact that their fantasy was the one punching Hitler in the face served as a message, that a truly ideal man does not hold to absurd visions of supremacy. Hitler was wrong, his own male fantasy was the one kicking him down and telling him not to demand perfection of others because a core part of freedom is diversity, in being diverse we are free to be different people, having a set ‘this is what you should aspire to be’ rule limits diversity and tries to push people into a pigeonhole. However, Captain America is also the representation of the values the American people are supposed to hold in high regard – honesty, defense of the innocent, righteousness – fast forward to the modern era and we have a black Captain America because, well, why not? A black man can represent those core values of righteousness, look at Martin Luther King, Jr. for example! There was no liberal brainwashing behind making Cap a black guy, it was just Marvel acknowledging that the USA isn’t the land of the white, it’s the land of freedom and justice and justice doesn’t have a particular skin colour.

So, with that in mind, this isn’t a battle of left versus right through Captain America versus Supreme Serpent because Captain America isn’t the living embodiment of the left-wing, he’s just what patriotism should be – a love of one’s country but not a blindness to its flaws, a citizen of their homeland but a citizen of the world too, always striving to encourage their nation as a whole to be better. However, FOX identified with the villains here, calling WHITE SUPREMACISTS the right-wing conservatives in their audience. You know what that means? FOX News just openly admitted, through their own stupidity, they’re white supremacists, they see these white-skinned terrorists in snake costumes with assault rifles and think “Hey! That’s me! I’m not a bad guy!”. Conservatism and white supremacy aren’t, and shouldn’t ever be, one and the same, one is a mindset based in traditional values, the other a penchant for racially motivated violence. I mean, at least FOX News are self-aware, I’ve been calling them a bunch of bigots since I first stumbled across the mindless hate-mongering of Bill O’Reilly and here they are, feeling sorry for terrorists in snake costumes and demanding Captain America make it fair by beating up some Muslims or Nazis.

Captain America, incidentally, shouldn’t go on to fighting ISIS or Muslim Extremists, there is clearly enough racial prejudice in the world without printing comic books showing gratuitous violence towards Muslims as a heroic thing to do. If Captain America exists to be a role model, racism isn’t part of that aspirational standard he should set, that’s one good reason he’s a minority – it’s not about being white, it’s about being right! Kids need to see a socially responsible hero, that’s what Captain America is for – Iron Man shows what technology and ingenuity can achieve, Hawkeye is a hero who doesn’t need powers to keep in league with the best, you don’t have to be special, you just have to try and Captain America is saying that it doesn’t matter what your background is, what matters most is that you are a good person at heart (Thus why he was a weedy kid originally and then beefed up, it was the good in him that mattered, he was never meant to be just some typical action-figure hero). As for the argument that he needs to go back to fighting Nazis, well, White Supremacists are the new Nazis, look at Trump. Build a giant wall to keep Mexicans out? Hunt down all illegally bought guns but let licensed people keep theirs, a clever sounding move until you realise illegal weapons are prevalent in poor neighbourhoods and legal ones in affluent areas, essentially meaning self defence will become a matter of how much of it you can afford to buy. ISIS are awful yes, but their tactics are made to instill fear, to turn people against each other and encourage the hatred of the white majority. Why? Because scared people are irrational and easily broken. White Supremacy, that’s a fear and loathing of difference that turns to violence – lynching, organised marches, cross burning – amassing huge swathes of people into the most intimidating displays possible to inflict as much damage as possible. If an ISIS attack is a small tactical guerilla affair to make you paranoid, a Neo-Nazi march by the extreme right wing is a bunch of angry thugs starting a riot because they don’t like being so paranoid.

In short, this comic isn’t a criticism of patriotism and conservative values, it’s a criticism of racism and extremist mindsets and there should be a differentiation between the two. If you see these white guys getting attacked by a black hero because they harassed Hispanic children and your response is “This is political brainwashing, thanks Obama!”, then think again, think hard. Captain America was taking down a bunch of armed madmen attacking unarmed civilians, that’s what a superhero does, race and nationality don’t come into it. If you want Captain America to fight with Nazis, over zealous insane crackpots who love their country and believe it the best country in the world, well then I have news for you – he just did.

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Patriots and Nationalists

Trigger Warnings – Strong language in some places.

I remember when I first heard the word ‘patriot’, it was in school, I must have been about ten years old and my teacher said it meant someone who was proud of their home nation, to put it simply. I thought this was true of most people and indeed it is but it was a word that I rarely heard being used, even in a country like Britain, for most of my life I never heard people refer to themselves as patriotic because it was just a given but now? Patriot is one of those words you just can’t escape any more and the problem with a common place word is that it is open to being used in the wrong context, this is the fate the word irony suffers at the hands of hipsters, or the word random suffers at the hands of those sorts of girls who shout out their love of dinosaurs and cheese and pink hair. I think we need to define the difference between a patriot and a nationalist, they are similar but not the same and so many people I encounter claiming they are ‘British Patriots’ are in fact, nationalists – nationalism being an irresponsible and selfish viewpoint whereas patriotism being perfectly fine and commendable.

Here’s some food for thought to start the discussion:

Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest,” but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is – Sydney J. Harris

That’s a good quote but that was just the appetiser, here’s something to really sink your teeth into:

The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war – Sydney J. Harris

Now, do you notice a recurring theme here with his quotes? Granted, same guy said both quotes but this man was no fool, he was a widely respected columnist and author, as well as an advocate for women’s rights, pro-choice stances and bringing an end to the death penalty, which might land him in the eyes of a lefty-tosser to some of you but this man held honorary doctorates, awards from the National Conference of Christians and the Chicago Newspaper Guild, I think that earns him some merit. Even without it, he makes a good point about patriotism and nationalism, one that reminds me of something a friend of mine once said in that patriotism is rooting for the home team and turning up at their matches, nationalism is believing the team to be infallible and destroying the stadium at away games. A patriot feels a sense of responsibility to their country and even love has the ability to step back and tell someone they have failed or done wrong, you do not truly love someone if you blindly agree with everything that comes out of their mouth. You have to take pride in their achievements and feel the shame of their shortcomings, encouraging them to do their absolute best.

I hear some people speak of a foreign threat, this was what UKIP appealed to and it’s what Republicans appeal to in America, making people cautious and wary of those that are different in colour or religion or way of life, accusing them of stealing from your country’s resources or trying to bring their culture into your home and ruin your old traditions for you with their strange new ways. Ok, straight away, no white person alive has the right to say “You come over here with your foreign ways and try to make us change? Fuck off!”, that’s what our ancestors did to three quarters of the globe, I think we can overlook building a mosque when we had them baptised and decapitated once upon a time. If you are proud of your country and it’s traditions, you needn’t feel threatened when these changes come, the traditions will live on through you and all traditions need to adapt anyway, that is how we advance as a society from traditions of sacrificing lambs to idols into gathering in churches on a Sunday, someone has to say “Actually, how about we don’t do that any more? It seems a bit primitive/cruel/unfair/silly”. As for patriotism, well, you should be proud that your country is growing and attracting more people and encourage everyone to work together, but it becomes nationalism when you expect them to become like you to be allowed to live amongst you. I remember my stepmother taking her citizenship test to live here, the stuff she had to know was more than nine out of ten Brits actually did know about the country but even so, just because someone has moved to a new country, they haven’t left their heritage for dirt, what they must adhere to in order to live somewhere is the law, they don’t have to adopt the national stereotype to prove themselves worthy.

I’m mostly speaking to Britain here, I was inspired by a UKIP MP actually tearing down his own party for their racist views and that they need to avoid thinking about isolationist views because Britain became ‘Great’ through its allies and neighbours, we didn’t get given the prefix by God as if to say “Yep, you guys are really on the ball with that society you’ve got there, top job, God is British too, keep it up lads”. After all, that term in its most basic form was coined almost two thousand years ago and literally just meant “The bigger bit of the British Isles”, with Ireland being called “The smaller bit of the British Isles”. Don’t get it twisted, I love Britain, I really do, but it is because I’m proud of these isles that I don’t want it become a hive for hateful ignorants telling people to go away and never bother trying to change anything. I know some may strive for the traditions of old but as I said yesterday, that includes bear baiting, where do you want to draw the line? Britain, before it gained friends overseas, was a struggling little island with an infant mortality problem and an 80 hour work week in some instances, is that what we want to bring back?

Charlie Brooker made a good joke about this a while ago about how he liked Britain before the Romanians and the Poles and the Irish and the French and the Normans and the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons and the Romans, that was proper Britain, clearly exaggerating nationalism to the most radical extreme but perfectly valid. Nationalism is a related philosophy to tribalism when you think about it, it is not a love of the British public as a whole, it is a love of their allies. I mean think about it, really think, could you imagine Nigel Farage calling the left-wing political parties his brethren and respected allies, or even addressing them as good people? Boris Johnson called the left-wing party ‘tossers’, and admittedly I refer to my fellow Brits of wealth and status as entitled pricks, which is a tribal view point, a sort of “If you’re not one of us, you’re against us” mentality more befitting the Great Khans of Fallout than a political party. If you dare speak against the tribe, you’re disloyal, you’re disrespecting your great homeland, you’re a sympathiser with an imagined foe and should be shunned and loathed. Nationalism is essentially thinking your tribe or country deserves the status of the best, which is silly, we’re not in competition, not really, we all share a planet and at the end of the day, countries are invented concepts and if God exists, he won’t gather us all together in a thousand years and say “So it turns out the USA did the best at being a good country, all Americans shall get to go to VIP Heaven and hang out with Jesus, the rest of you get to go to Commoner’s Heaven and polish halos for a living!”

I know there’s an air of ridicule in this post but we need to be clear, you are not a patriot if you support a nationalistic party or believe you live in the best country ever or that your current society is what people should aim for, there is no set guideline as to what a country is supposed to be, a lot of people say we all want to be America really but that’s because it’s a rich nation and everyone wants to be rich. Support your nation, by all means, love it and wear the colours, but respect that people aren’t obliged to take part, even if they’re your next door neighbour, and if you ever start dismissing people for having a different cultural background to you or a desire to practice their own religion or language despite living in a place not reflecting that background, take a step back and imagine it the opposite way round. White people fear a white minority because they’re worried we’d be treated the way we treat them – racism, intolerance and ignorance bordering on being abused simply for existing. In time, maybe we can live in a world where no minority need ever live in constant fear, where every man and woman is a valid peer as should be true of democracy, and lord knows we all love a good democracy.

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Free to Speak

Trigger Warnings – Some strong language/use of racial slur (No, I’m not being racist, I’m remarking on a racist attitude, don’t worry)

Hello readers. First off, I’m going to start with a little blog update for those of you not following me on Facebook (which you totally should do by the way, I’ll put the link at the end of the article) but basically to make this blog a little more engaging for my readers and a bit easier to follow, I might start doing themed days on here and on my Facebook page – Throwback Thursday immediately springs to mind to roll out classic gems, Totally Obscure Tuesday sounds like a fun way for me to blog about stuff I like whilst giving people a chance to give it a miss or expand their horizons but basically that’s all that comes to mind so far, too rigid a schedule limits the room for creativity and since I am not psychic, I can’t predict when blog worthy news will crop up and so if I dedicate every Friday to posts about films, I might miss my chance to write a topical post on something a bit more compelling. News for everyone though, as the year is almost out I plan to do 2014 in review, a brief look back at the biggest issues of the year and how this year went for me (Spoiler alert, kind of a weird year). With that out of the way, let’s move onto the topic for today shall we?

A bar owner made headlines in Australia today for displaying a sign saying ‘No Muslims’ outside of his bar, the chalkboard notice making a joke about how Jesus turned water into wine and how his bartenders have a similarly magical power, they turn money into beer (Contain your laughter, please, I know that’s true shining originality) but the sign ended with a little side note of ‘No Muslims’ and in the space of 24 hours, the bar received 200 complaints. Naturally, after such a prompt and aggressive backlash, the owner scrubbed the message from the board and had to make a public apology… or at least, he was supposed to.

‘While the great majority are in support of free speech and are of patriotic sentiment, we have fielded too many abusive and threatening calls. For this I apologise to my family. I sincerely hope I don’t end up sanitising my every thought to the robotic degree that is evident in commercial life around us. The story, if there is one, is in the reaction, not the action.’

Does that sound like an apology to you? Granted, he apologised to his family for making them deal with the backlash of his poor taste in humour but has he apologised to anyone offended by the joke? No. The mayor of the town, Longreach, in which the bar is established, seemed embarrassed by this man’s faux-pas and tried to stress that the town as a whole isn’t that ignorant, which is fair enough, it’s not fair to judge the town by one person. My issue is how the blame for this crass joke, in the owner’s mind, is the public, the people of Longreach are at fault for not finding his attempt at humour humorous and he’s more worried about political correctness than actually upsetting people – this is bad business and this is how to be a generally shitty person.

Firstly, let me explain once again that free speech does not mean say anything, suffer no consequences, such a system should not exist. Free speech is the right to speak and censorship is the act of subverting expression for the benefit of the common good, censorship is putting a black box over naked genitalia on TV before the watershed because it’s generally considered in everyone’s interests not to bombard children with images of penises, censorship is NOT telling someone to retract an offensive statement. Society is much more diverse than just white Christian people now so it’s hard to establish a core “This is the norm” group but us white folks, we have this tendency to think that’s still us and if we have to stop making jokes about Asians or Muslims or black people, we’re being forced into political correctness when actually what’s happening is someone is telling you to get your head out of your ass and think about someone who isn’t like you and how they might feel. A society based upon empathy would be fantastic but it’s still a long way off, ‘political correctness’ is just the effort to move closer to that form of society, instead of this common attitude of ‘Well I don’t see a problem here, it must be you’ that prevails amongst the ignorant.

As for patriotic sentiment, maybe he missed the news story that in the very same country as his bar, strangers rendezvoused with anonymous Muslim people to defend them on their commutes to and from wherever they needed to be, the patriotic sentiment of Australia aspires to be ‘All friends until proven otherwise’, not ‘We’re alright Jack, fuck you’. Of course, Australia still has the predominant male culture of cold beer, shirtless man mountains and barbecues of pure testosterone whilst women stand around in skimpy bikinis but this is a stereotype, it’s not the defining trait and even so, these stereotypical views of Australians are never portrayed as hateful and as the news recently proved, provided with a choice of retaliation or benevolence, Sydney chose the latter, Australia is trying to be the country that says ‘Maybe if we stopped treating strangers like terrorists, we’d have a better time of it?’ and that worked, it was beautiful, we were all struck with awe. So what patriotic sentiment is there in belittling a religion? Patriotism is a love of your country, if you hate change and see your country as superior, that’s beyond patriotism, that’s jingoism. Root for the home team, sure, but if you go to away games just to start riots and you beat the snot out of visitors to your stadium, do the world a favour and stop turning up at the stadium, go back to your cave, troll.

I know it’s not easy, responsibility never is but you can’t say your right to free speech is being taken from you if when you say something, it has negative consequences, the right to free speech is the right to speak, everything comes at a price. The right to bear arms is a huge thing for America but guess what? If you shoot someone, you still have to explain yourself as to why you shot them and if you respond with “It’s my right to have a gun”, they’ll respond “And if you use that gun to bring harm to others, naturally, legal consequences must follow”. Basically it boils down to having to think before you speak and this seems to be massively troublesome to a lot of us – Thinking? We didn’t do that back in the olden days, I could call a black man a gollywog with no qualms back in my day, why has it changed? It changed. Adjust. Try to see the world through the eyes of another once in a while.

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Solidarity in Sydney

Trigger Warnings – Death, Sexual Assault

I have done a lot of posts revolving around Britain but the biggest issue in the news at the moment is the tragic resolution of the hostage situation in Sydney. For those of you who don’t know, just yesterday a lone gunman took a cafe full of customers hostage and the crisis lasted sixteen hours before commandos stormed the building and found three dead bodies – one of a lawyer, one of the manager and the body of the gunman himself. The gunman, Man Haron Monis, was a self-proclaimed spiritual healer but was also charged with over 50 counts of sexual assault in his time and was in the news last year for writing offensive letters to the families of dead soldiers. Monis said the charges made against him in the past were for “political reasons” and it is believed this attack was a last-ditch attempt by Monis to grab the attention of those seeking his imprisonment to negotiate having all charges made against him dropped. Truly, a tragic story, one that opens the floor to discussion and so here I am.

The Police Commissioner on the case said that this was the work of an individual, no bomb was planted anywhere, the guy had no associates, nobody at the cafe called him saying it was a good time to turn up and he walked in alone with a weapon, not pulling up with a van full of machete swinging buddies. Considering the man’s origin as an Iranian and being a Muslim, it is important we remember that this was just one madman and not an act of religious martyrdom by extremists. I think back to the beheading of the soldier in public that happened here a few years ago, an issue I wrote an article on which you can find with a little nosing around, and many many people stood by the opinion it was an elaborate terror plot and that these extremists were just a small example of a horribly corrupt religion. Of course, common sense prevailed for most of us but it’s no surprise to us by now that the moment you hear “An Iranian/Pakistani man killed…”, you then hear various colourful expletives being exchanged about Muslims and where they belong, usually being either in their own country or in the ground.

Extremism corrupts the world’s view of anything, mainly because extremism is news worthy whereas “Well I’m kinda more partial to this opinion” is pretty dull. You wouldn’t read a news article saying “MAN LEAVES CHURCH SERVICE BECAUSE HE FELT IT CONFLICTED WITH HIS OWN BELIEFS”, you’d instead read “MAN BURNS DOWN CHURCH, CALLING IT A DEN OF SIN”. The Muslim faith is a peaceful religion, it is not a religion that encourages violence because no organised religion would do such a thing, it’s preposterous and even if the texts say this or that the Bible has passages saying slavery and selling your daughter on the market are fine but I’ve never met a Christian doing one of the above. Religion does define a person but not in the sense that a religion compels people to commit murder or take hostages, that’s the person’s decision, these are the acts of individuals or like-minded radicals, there is nothing in any sacred text that says you can make the world a better place by holding up cafes with guns.

However, this is not all doom and gloom because in the wake of this tragedy, concerns over a growing intolerance towards the Muslim faith or those of Middle-Eastern origin has sparked the #illridewithyou initiative. Basically, if you are likely to be the target of harassment for your faith or such like, you can take to Twitter or Facebook and there will be tons of people posting information about their commutes and how they are willing to travel together with you to ward off people wanting to give you grief. The people of Sydney, in general certainly, have used social media to express their desire to be ‘bigger than this’, to not judge an entire race or religion by the actions of one man and it is not often I get to say this on my blog but this is an act of pure brilliance and humanity that makes me beam with delight. As a man who tries to be accepting of all walks of life, I always fear news pieces like yesterday will set the world back a step in being tolerant of all classes and creeds but the spirit of Australia isn’t one of judging a stranger, more a spirit of camaraderie, the idea that a stranger is a friend until they give you reason to think otherwise. Obviously I am generalising but it’s a positive image and it is the impression one gets when you read the tweets these people have put up on the public domain.

What happened was a tragedy, a truly horrific thing to have happened and my heart goes out to those affected by what has happened, especially the friends and relatives of the deceased. However, the people of Sydney had two paths to choose, the understandable low road of hatred and retaliation or the harder to walk but much more righteous high road and they chose the latter, it is a beautiful thing to behold. We are so quick to judge and rise to anger but rising even higher is a difficult feat that these people are uniting together to achieve as a community. The world can now watch and learn from the example set by a few good people – revenge begets a cycle of violence and anger that only escalates but if you see this incident and you see it is an isolated case of one lone madman, you can move on, you can be so much more and you can forge a brighter future in which we see people as people, not merely an extension of their background.

Thank you Sydney, for restoring our faith in the kindness of humanity in the face of tragedy.