30 Days, Day 5: Captain America and Me

Day 5: Write about your hero, real or imagined. Why do you respect this person? What have you learned from them?

There’s something to be said about heroes. Everybody has one, whether they choose to admit it or not; we all have the one person or thing that we look up to. We have to. Some people have God, some look up to athletes, politicians or musicians. I have Captain America.

We live in a world where the line between lawful good and chaotic evil is blurred. People do terrible things with the best of intentions, and it’s difficult to know who to look up to.

I spent a considerable amount of time being made fun of as a kid for being “too good”. I’ll never forget the night that my father wanted to take my sister and I to the movies. We wanted to see Star Wars, but his free passes weren’t valid for that movie. So, he used them for Tarzan (the animated one) and after we bought our popcorn and drinks, he started to walk towards the Star Wars theater. “Let’s go into Star Wars. They’ll never even know we went in.” He whispered, a mischievous smile on his face. My sister nodded, and they both looked at me. I just stared at them. “What?” my dad said. I looked at my ticket. “Dad, our tickets are for Tarzan.” I said quietly. He looked at the door for Star Wars, then back at me. “I know Sara, but they aren’t going to notice if we go into Star Wars. It’s not going to hurt anyone, live a little!” he said. I shook my head. I knew it wouldn’t hurt anything. My refusal wasn’t coming from a place of fear at getting caught; my dad was an imposing 6’4″ tattooed construction worker…I knew we weren’t going to get in trouble. But, I couldn’t do it. I looked him in the eye, holding my ticket tightly.

“I’m not going in there. I’m going to Tarzan. It’s not right.”

That became a moment that my sister and father have teased me for ever since-not maliciously, just in jest. But it became the baseline for all of our interactions from then out. I was “too good”, according to everyone around me. So, I found myself trying to be a bad person just to shut them up. It felt wrong in such a fundamental way, but I kept doing it. Eventually, I was the worst person I knew, the most manipulative, the most ruthless. I hated me.

I knew about Captain America as a kid, because my dad would talk about him. He was the “boring” superhero, because he was too good. I didn’t think much of the Star Spangled Man with a Plan until my early twenties, when I got my hands on a few Captain America comics. Something about his intense need to always do the right thing spoke to me, and I kept reading. Yeah I know…he wasn’t, and isn’t, real. But the more I read the comics, the more I realized that I wasn’t boring for being good. I wasn’t a wimp, I wasn’t a coward. Being good took more guts and required a bigger risk than being an asshole like the rest of the people around me. I found a friend in Steve Rogers, even if he only existed in the pages of the comics. I felt like he had been written for me; someone who valued justice, honesty and selflessness over all of their own self interest, even at their own expense.

Reading about him made it easier to accept those parts of myself, and slowly I could feel myself changing back. I decided that I needed to stop being the villain, and be the hero that my family deserved. Those comics got me through a very dark time in my life, and to this day, I look up to Captain America. So, if you see me and I’m rocking a shield shirt, or my Captain America bag or backpack, it’s not because I’m trying to show off my love for him. It’s because having these things reminds me to be proud of being a good person, and strive to be a little better every day.

“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe in, no matter the odds or consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree next to the river of truth, and tell the whole world…no. You move.” -Captain America