Gather ‘Round, Padawans: When It’s Time to Fight (Contains Spoilers for ‘Sam Wilson: Captain America’ #20)

Reading Time: 5 minutes
c. Marvel Comics

I am not, generally, an advocate of fighting. I try, with everything I am, to avoid a fight and I always have.

That may seem weird coming from someone who frequently talks about how much she misses practicing martial arts. If you’ve studied one of the myriad, however, you know that a great deal of the training is geared toward building one’s confidence so she knows she can fight if she must; once one learns that lesson, somewhat ironically, she rarely feels the need to prove herself by doing so. Despite having studied Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Judo, Muay Thai, staff fighting, Western fencing, Western boxing, and Indonesian King Fu, the grand total of fights I’ve been in outside of the controlled environment of the studio (using a general term here so as to avoid listing them all off)?

Zero.

I have never had to go past the point of no return.

That doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t. It just means I haven’t found the thing that will hurl me across the line.

In Sam Wilson: Captain America #20, Sam found his.

Since the moment he took up the shield, people have been screaming at Sam to return it. He has been the target of anger, racism, and unjust accusations. He has risked himself to save countless lives and the few times he has failed, those failures were engineered by people intent on destroying him. Sam has been forced into no-win scenario and after non-win scenario and he has continued to do the best he can to live up to the title of Captain America despite it. He has restrained Joaquin Torres, the new Falcon, when the younger man was ready to launch himself into the fray, preaching tolerance, empathy, and understanding.

c. Marvel Comics

Sam has worked within the system. When Rage is framed for an incident involving the AmeriCops and arrested, Sam doesn’t bust him out of jail despite the fact he could do so and likely walk. Because to Sam, the suit isn’t about power, it’s about justice. He brings video exonerating Rage to court and presents it in proper order (it’s really a shame Murdoch isn’t representing the state on this one because he is a terrible DA).

The judge throws the video out on a technicality. He doubts Redwing, who recorded the evidence.

Fair enough. Vampire falcon.

Even if one doubts the bird, however, there’s no reason to doubt Sam and it was Sam who sent Redwing to record the event and who brought the recording to the court’s attention. He has done everything expected of him, everything asked of him, and more. He has worked within the system out of respect to the shield and the title and Steve Rogers (who isn’t really all that deserving of respect these days, even if it’s through no fault of his own). He has comported himself as Captain America should.

Without that proof of his innocence, Rage is convicted and moved to Z-Block which is, basically, Marvel’s version of Belle Reve (if you’re not familiar with either, they’re the supermaxes of their respective universes, intended to hold any and all super villains).

“You know,” Sam says, “when people always talk about how the worst thing that can happen to a cop is getting locked up with the crooks they put away? Imagine that for a superhero.”

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Sam does the only thing he has left. The only thing he hasn’t tried besides joining the fray.

He goes to church and he prays. He listens to the minister, his brother Gideon, preach to the community, most of whose members are protesting Rage’s incarceration peacefully, a few who aren’t, about the rightness of righteous anger:

“I’m not talking about violence or destruction–it’s our turn, brothers and sisters–where he began this fight–let us carry on in his name.”

In case you didn’t see the spoiler warning above, here comes the spoiler:

While Sam is at church, while the members of the community are coming together to take their righteous anger to the streets even knowing they may be the AmeriCops’ next victims, knowing that they may have to fight to defend themselves and those who march with them, Rage–Elvin, he has a name and I’m going to use it here–is beaten so badly in Z Block, he dies a few hours later in the hospital, Sam at his side.

“This is it,” Sam declares. “This is the end of the line.”

Sam kept to the law. He followed the rules.

Now New York is on fire and an imperfect, honorable, angry, incredibly brave hero is needlessly and irrevocably dead.

Let this be a lesson to all of us: sometimes, you take a stand no matter what it costs.

Sometimes, you fight.

c. Marvel Comics

I’ve taught my kids, beginning when they were barely old enough to understand such things, that you don’t start a fight but if you’re stuck in a situation where someone else has attacked and your safety is at risk, you go and you end it. It’s always been my philosophy for myself as well.

The world has changed a lot in a very short period of time, though, and I’m not sure that will stand.

What will I do if someone comes after my Muslim neighbors?

What will I do if someone tries to deport one of my friends?

If I see a situation in which fellow humans who have a darker skin tone are threatened?

If I see a family being dismantled by unjust laws and accidents of geography?

Will I make noise and hope it’s enough? What if it isn’t? What if, right in front of my eyes, it isn’t?

I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it a lot since January.

And, with Sam Wilson as my example, I’ve decided I’ll fight.

You’ll make your own decision. There is no right answer and no wrong one. There are consequences. Potentially serious ones.

Sometimes, it’s worth the risks.

Right now, for me, it is worth the risks.

Vive la résistance!

Long. Live. Cap.

c. Marvel Comics