For the first time in my life, I see the blood stains splattered across the pure white star on his chest. His eyes appear cold and inhuman in the setting Manhattan sun. His stocky build remains the same, but instead of the security it once offered, I feel frightened and wary of the power he possesses. His shield – once a symbol of protection – reveals to me the destruction which he has caused in the name of justice.
He was my hero.
Before I knew him, I had heard so much about him. They told me he had come to power by rebelling against injustice. He gathered an army of hardworking, innocent citizens, and they fought back against the tyranny of an oppressive overlord. Despite many disadvantages, he and his soldiers heroically defeated the enemy and earned freedom for the masses.
I was inspired by the claim that he fought on God’s behalf. With the newfound freedom, he led his followers into new and prosperous lands which he claimed were given directly from the Lord. This expansion brought wealth and glory to common folks, and he generously gave opportunities to all who sought to fight alongside him. His strength and power grew daily, and there was no doubt among all the observers that this man was blessed by God.
He led his people through internal strife through his courage, and brought freedom to those who had never experienced it before. His successes were proven by his prosperity, and his goodness by those whom he helped. He defeated evil masterminds and their brainwashed armies as his fame reached the height of it’s expansion. More and more people flocked to hear his message about justice and lived in the hope that he would give them an equal shot at being as successful as he had made many others.
When I met him for the first time, he was bravely fending off the wicked ones who sought to destroy what he had built. He avenged the innocent blood which was spilled right in front of his eyes by leading attacks to find all those who opposed him. He stopped at nothing to protect us. His shield gave us the courage to speak up and not be afraid. His strength allowed us to feel safe and comfortable. He was fighting for me: of whom could I fear?
I ran with him, fought with him, and defended his name. I declared my allegiance to him week after week and sang of his praises nearly every day. I applauded his efforts to defend liberty against those who sought to take it. I gained opportunities from him because of my righteous devotion. I accepted his ongoing offer of salvation and protection. I wore his colors. I saluted his anthem. I bowed to his power.
I didn’t know that he came to power by rebelling against inconvenient taxes. Hell, I didn’t know the amount of people he killed when he led his first expedition of soldiers. I didn’t hear about the rape. I didn’t know how he burned people alive and destroyed entire cities just to gain their wealth.
No one ever told me that when he won freedom for his people, he continued to let them own other people. I didn’t know that when he first claimed that “all men are created equal,” he meant that people of color were only 3/5ths equal to white men. I didn’t know that women were not included in that promise either. He never explained to me that “Indians” weren’t actually Indians, and that he considered them savages instead of actual people. His shield slayed thousands of innocent people who were defending their homes and caused thousands of others to seek homes in other territories.
Even after he opted to give “freedom” to all, he never sought to repay for the wrongs he committed. He never confessed to committing injustice against his own people. In fact, he just found others to oppress under the strength of his arms. He beat some who came to him for help. He painted numerous people as enemies; their only sin was that they looked different from him. He has banished people from his empire and struck down others in the name of defending it.
To this day, he continually orders thousands of bombs to be dropped on innocent people just to strike fear into the hearts of a few dissenters. He claims that no ongoing injustice is being committed against people of color. He still allows powerful men to do whatever they want to women and get away with it. He turns a blind eye to the gun violence committed by his followers, and refuses to demand equality for the LGBTQ community in order to keep his most devote followers happy. He claims to fight against evil, but he does so with actions which are inhumane. He throws people out of his empire and holds that threat over millions of others.
Above all, he claims that God is fighting for him. He says he fights on God’s team.
I look at him through tear-stained eyes and he shakes his head. “I gave you the freedom to learn,” he claims, “I gave you the opportunity to succeed. Will you now throw it back in my face? Look at all I’ve done for you. I have sacrificed everything to give you a chance, and this is how you repay me?”
For the first time in my life, I see the blood stains splattered across the pure white star on my chest. I have lived with the advantage of sitting under his shield. I look at my hands and remember that I look like him; I have been compared to him on numerous occasions. His souvenirs sit all across my desk, and his benefits are what I see all around me: my home, my car, my shoes, clean water, heating, a shower, a bed, a couch, computers, Wi-Fi, my job, my life.
All of it purchased daily by his violence against others in the name of justice and peace. It is now I see that if I claim the cross to be my salvation, I can no longer hope in the man before me. Following Steve Rogers and following Jesus Christ are antithetical.
My right hand loosens it’s grip on the shield which it once held so tightly. All of my safety and security rests in its vibranium hull. My chance at prosperity and fame clings to my desire to hold it high. All of the world can be mine if I stand to worship him and praise his name in the streets. I can be a hero if I affirm the claims which I now know to be lies.
I ran with him, fought with him, and defended his name. I wore his colors. I saluted his anthem. I bowed to his power.
I will do so no more.
The shield hits the floor with a hollow thud.