As he did with last month’s awesome, Misty-centric Captain America: Sam Wilson #16, writer Nick Spencer has stepped away from the man himself in issue #17 to focus on previously secondary characters Joaquin Torres and Rage. The former is the new Falcon and the later a street-level hero who recently clashed with both the Americops and, in more ideological fashion, with Sam himself.
After listening to a TV pundit spew vitriol at immigrants in general, and call Torres out in particular, Joaquin, with Rage in tow, decides to confront the woman in person at a university lecture. The boys plan to wage a war of words but are interrupted by a student group who has decided violence is the only way to enact change. Falcon and Rage end up saving the pundit from assassination, despite her ongoing decimations of their characters, and rounding up the vigilantes for the cops.
To say their efforts are unappreciated is an understatement so pathetic it can hardly be applied:
In the closing pages of the issue, Sam, watching on his own screen (long story, cut the guy some slack), meditates on the nature of change. On not only on the probability of it occurring but on the possibility of actually making a difference in a world where even those with the best of intentions are berated, smacked down, and sometimes actively hunted. Sam has been working hard, for years, toward that change. Joaquin has done the same, leaving supplies at the Mexico-Arizona border for refugees and immigrants so desperate they’re willing to risk their own lives, their children’s lives, for the chance at something better. Rage has gotten bloody and battered striving for justice for his community.
Each man has brief moments in which they can see past the horizon of now into a better future.
But that better future still hasn’t come and, in so many ways, things seem to be getting worse.
The probability of change maintains but the possibility seems more and more distant with each failed attempt.
With the decline of possibility comes the death of hope.
Rebellions, as we were all so recently reminded, are built on hope.
When change seems unattainable or, worse, things to be slipping backward, how to we persist? How do we continue to strive? How do we continue to fight? When, like Sam Wilson, we’ve tried to be a hero to those who hate us, kept hold of the Shield despite a constant assault demanding we give it up, how do we find the strength to take it up yet again? When, like Rage, words have failed us and action has failed us, how do we persist? When, like Joaquin, we risk everything for an altruistic mission and find ourselves in the crosshairs of people who hate without understanding, how do we continue to hope?
Like Sam, you may need to step away for a while, let others shoulder the burden.
There may come a point when you have to give it up forever.
Know anything you’ve done, everything you’ve done, adds to the collective amalgamation of hope.
How do we continue to fight?
We put in what we can when we’re able. We borrow what we need when we’re low.
We sustain one another.
If you do keep fighting, or come back to the fight, you may be angry because you have poured so much of yourself into something so important and, even if you live to be one hundred, may not see the result. Your children may not see the results in their lifetimes. What has taken so much time and energy and emotion may feel like a drop of rain in a hurricane.
Drops form puddles and puddles form lakes and lakes form rivers. It can take years, but, eventually, that river runs strong and carves out the Grand Canyon.
So too does hope start with a single act of kindness. A single act of bravery. Of trust. A moment of putting aside one’s own ego for the benefit of a stranger.
I’ll say it again: we sustain one another.
I speak from a woman’s perspective. We are shut down. We are constantly told our opinions are wrong, what we think is inconsequential. The expectations placed on us by society are unfair and unreasonable, as are the standards to which we are held, the ways in which we are made objects instead of subjects. Even decent men, even other women seek to diminish us, never mind the jerks and the sexists and the misogynists. We make strides and we are cast back. We fight and we are labeled “nasty,” “bitches,” and worse.
I have fought where and how I’m able. My way is quieter than some, more sedate than some, but it is my way. I have worked hard. I have stepped outside my comfort zone and outside my shell. I have been nervous and scared and sad and angry. I have offered what it is in me to offer and I have been made stronger, in turn, by others doing the same.
Still, like Sam, I am tired. I tell people it’s “fine” when it’s not. I tell them I’m not angry when I am. I am more concerned about their egos, their personhood, than I am for my own because I am tired of fighting. All. The. Time. I shut down, I shut out, I walk away.
I lose hope.
It comes back, though. It comes back when I muster the strength to say, “Well, actually, no. It’s not fine.” By saying, “I’m angry at you.” Saying, “You don’t get to talk to me that way because I’m just as important, and deserve just as much respect, as you seem to think you do.”
It’s a process. I am 38 years old and I’m only now really managing to break the programming demanding I protect feelings and egos no matter how their possessor treats me because, sometime in the last year, I rediscovered hope. I met one person, and then two, and then three who encouraged me to speak my mind even if they didn’t agree. Who didn’t reject me to tell me my feelings were wrong because I was angry or combative or insistent. Who acknowledged my right to my thoughts and opinions.
They didn’t all understand. Not at first. But they listened.
And as the discourse continued, they came to understand.
And once they understood, perhaps they treated another woman differently than they might otherwise have done. Heard her. Respected her. Worked with her. Gave her hope.
Tiny moments that have, or will someday, make a mountain of difference.
I may not see it. But I’ll keep fighting for it.
I will be the change. I will be the hope.
So will Falcon, and Rage, and Cap.
And if you so choose, so will you.