What the Success of ‘Captain America’ Says About U.S. Political Climate

captain americaCaptain America has smashed through the competition for the third week in a row, taking the top spot at the box office with $26.6 million, pushing its world-wide totals to $586.6 million. Many film critics believe that nothing will knock the patriotic superhero film from its perch until the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on May 1. It is shaping up to be a great summer for Marvel and comic book fans, but the Captain America sequel is more than typical superhero fanfare, as it delivers a timely message about liberty, and its success reveals a lot about the current political climate in the United States.

The overall theme of Captain America: The Winter Soldier deals with the consequences of trading freedom for security, as most of the time, security by a strong central government is usually a cover for authoritarian rule. Governments around the world have been using the idea of security to justify depriving people of their natural rights for centuries. Benjamin Franklin said it best when he stated that if a person is willing to trade their freedom for security, they deserve neither. When the people of a nation give up their liberties for safety, all they are really doing is trading a foreign enemy for a domestic one.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier provides an excellent example of this when it is revealed in the film that a new project being put together by S.H.I.E.L.D., a fictional intelligence agency in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is really a cover for mass murder by a terrorist organization known as Hydra. S.H.I.E.L.D. was planning on using a fleet of helicarriers to police the world, using satellite technology to gather intelligence on potential threats in order to stop terrorists attacks before they happen. Sounds a lot like the rationale behind the National Security Agency (NSA) spying program.

Captain America is not keen on the idea, stating that to pursue this goal, even with noble intent, is fear, not freedom. He notes that punishment should come after the crime, reiterating the idea that a person should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. As the film unfolds, the audience, along with Cap, discovers that Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. decades earlier. Hydra realized that they could not force the human race to give up its freedom, as it always resisted. Instead, people needed to be tricked into handing their liberty over to the government, which Hydra accomplished by causing wars and terrorist attacks that the government used to justify passing intrusive policies in the disguise of “security.” In reality, the people were handing over their freedom, becoming slaves, and inadvertently placing themselves in danger. Hydra planned on using the helicarrier program to kill millions of people and further gain control over the human race.

The fact that the Captain America sequel has achieved such a high level of success speaks volumes about the current political climate in America. To be fair, the movie is extremely well done and entertaining, so no doubt that is a huge reason for the film’s success. With that being said, it is hard to ignore the positive praise the message has received by moviegoers on both sides of the aisle. It is a rare occurrence that Democrats and Republicans would both enjoy the same kind of entertainment, given that much of the tripe rolling downhill from Hollywood is leftist propaganda. This means that the issue of a government spying on its citizens, creating kill lists, and executing individuals without a trial is one that both left and right agree is horrific.

People of all political stripes are beginning to awaken to the fact that government provided security is just an illusion. It simply does not exist. Trading freedom for security is just switching enemies and nothing more. Passing the Patriot Act has not made the country safer, it has led to the government attacking the same people it promised to protect with the powers the act granted it. Human beings are being detained indefinitely, the government is invading cell phone and email records without a warrant, and numerous other violations are occurring on a daily basis, all to keep us safe from “terrorists.”

The only problem is that the government has become the very “terrorists” they promised to protect the American people from. Fortunately, the public is becoming more and more aware of these violations of their rights and have decided enough is enough. Conservative and liberal candidates who are opposed to this kind of government intrusion are gaining favor with voters and threaten to unseat the establishment majority who have allowed these programs to be put in place.

If there ever was a time for a new conservative revolution, it is right now. Those on the right have a perfect opportunity to use the message presented in Captain America: The Winter Soldier to engage the culture and expand their voter base. Culture is something that Republicans have traditionally always failed at, which is why they could not have asked for a better opportunity than this particular film. The success of the Captain America sequel is an indicator that the political climate in America is shifting more toward the conservative end, especially in regard to civil liberties. If conservatives and libertarians do not take advantage of the golden opportunity they have been given with the issue of privacy, they will feel the sting of regret for decades to come.

Opinion by Michael Cantrell

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Ludwig Von Mises Institute

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