Queering Captain America?

The character Captain America first appeared during World War II as a patriotic nazi- fighting superhero.  After a few years hiatus, he reappeared in the 1960s and has been around ever since, recently being a key character in the enormously popular Avengers and Captain America movies.  Through it all, Captain America’s character has embodied what almost might be called the romance of classical American: courageous, committed to democracy, freedom and liberty, and above all, right over wrong.  Other superhero figures have had darker sides or uncertainties (Batman), but Captain America has consistently stood as a soldier guided by an unshakeable moral code that was explicitly the ideal of classic American virtue, but was really at heart Judeo-Christian.

This Captain America always stood up for right over wrong whatever the cost; in one place he said:

doent-matter-what-the-press-says-doesnt-matter-what-the-politicians-for-mobs-say-america-quote

(From http://www.thequotepedia.com/images/11/doent-matter-what-the-press-says-doesnt-matter-what-the-politicians-for-mobs-say-america-quote.jpg)

And elsewhere:

“…Our enemies may appear to be endless, but that doesn’t matter. Because there is no one else. Look at me. I believe in an idea, an idea that a single individual who has the right heart and the right mind that is consumed with a single purpose, that one man can win a war. Give that one man a group of soldiers with the same conviction, and you can change the world.” (1)

He was a superhero who was so reliable and so reliably virtuous,  could almost be assumed to be on the right side.  Whatever side he was on was right.  This make some recent news so interesting. It seems that a number of fans are calling for captain America to “come out” as homosexual, according to the Twitter hastag “#giveCaptainAmericaaboyfriend.”  (2).

There are at least two interesting observations to be made regarding the demand to make Captain America gay.  First, that it reflects modern society’s obsession with sex and the decline of friendship in a modern world.  Part of the reason behind the demands of the “makeCapgay” crowd is their difficulty in believing that two men could be intimate friends without having a sexual relationship.  This would have been absurd in nearly any past age which celebrated friendships like David and Jonathan, Achilles and Patroclus, Oliver and Roland, Hamlet and Horatio, and Frodo and Sam.  Yet because Captain America, a soldier has close friendships, fans (a terms more properly used  in the classical sense of fanatic) argue that he should be gay.  C.S. Lewis said of friendship that “it is one of those things that has no survival, rather, it gives value to survival,” and lamented its decline in the modern world.  That Captain America cannot be believed to have male friends without having relationship with them is another sign of that decline.

The second observation is more interesting.  In the early 16th century, King Henry VIII of England divorced his wife, married another, and declared himself the head of the Church in England.  Nearly everyone went along with him; one of the few who didn’t was Thomas More.  Yet, the one man was too much for Henry VIII.  As Robert Bolt’s play, Man for All Seasons, put it, More was a good was honest and known to be honest- and one honest man, a man of virtue and conscience, opposed to Henry was too much, a signal to everyone else that Henry was on the wrong side.  Henry needed More on his side to assure Henry and everyone else of a lie, that Henry was right in his wrong.  And this More would not do and so Henry killed him.

This is why some people want Marvel to make Captain America gay; because Captain America is a superhero known for his courage, virtue, and commitment to truth whatever the cost.  Henry wanted More’s approval in a vain attempt to assure Henry that he was in fact on the right side, which Henry knew to be false.  Today advocates of homosexuality demand not tolerance, but approval and will not tolerate those who disagree with them.  And this because, like Henry,  they want to convince themselves that they are on the right side, which they also know to be false.  What is so interesting, though is that this search for approval extends now to the fictional character Captain America.  To turn such a character would have been like Henry VIII turning Thomas More-turning a good man to the wrong side– and just as impossible.  Captain America could not turn and still remain himself, he would be a whole other figure, strong perhaps, and in a similar costume, but not Captain America.

 

(1) https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Captain_America

(2) http://observer.com/2016/05/marvel-fans-want-captain-america-to-come-out-already/

 

The Real Me and Transgenderism

The Obama administration has recently attempted to coerce schools into allowing biological boys and girls to use restrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex if they believe themselves to be transgender.  The coercion is so sudden and taken without public comment or study that one imagines there must be overwhelming evidence that transgenderism is the next frontier in the civil rights struggle and that people believing themselves to be transgendered must be a group comparable to African Americans in the era of Jim Crow, unable to use bathrooms with everybody else.  But there is not such evidence.  Indeed, the lack of evidence has led Johns Hopkins to stop offering gender reassignment surgery (1). For their are a host of questions raised by the claim that some people are transgender.

At heart, a person who believes they are transgender believes that they are a man trapped in a woman’s body or a woman trapped in a man’s body.  The body and the mind appear to be in conflict; the biological fact is that a person’s body (to take an example) is male, but the person’s mind believes that he is really female.  If the body and the mind are at cross purposes in this way, then one of the two is in error, but how to decide which?  Transgender advocates, and the present administration, seem to have assumed that the mind must be correct and the body wrong, but why?  Why should we assume that the mind is sound and the body wrong?  Why should it not be the other way around.  Why should we not come to the opposite conclusion: that in a biological male who believes he is female, it is actually is mind that has gone wrong.  If a man believed that he was a wolf trapped in a man’s body, presumably, the assumption would be that his mind is disordered, not that he should be fed particularly raw steaks.  If a man believes that he is a woman, why should the assumption be that the body must be changed; why not consider it a mental disorder in need of correction?

More still, it is unclear what it means to be a man trapped in a woman’s body.  It seems to imply that the body is not part of the person.  The real me is not my body and is actually entirely independent of my body; the body is just something that I, the real I happen to have, an accessory.  Hence, if the real me is a female who just happens to have a male body, then I can dismiss it and get a new accessory.  But then who is this real me?  What is this real me inside my body that is totally independent of my body?  My soul?  No Christian could believe that since Christianity requires the belief that man is a unified whole, I am neither my body nor my soul, but both.  The soul is the form of my body and the two form a united whole.  But then transgender advocates do not base their claims on Christianity anyway, so the real me must be mean something else.  Could it mean the soul in some other sense?  Maybe, but transgender advocates never say this; given their tendency to be secular, this is probably an argument that many would shy away from.  And even if this were the position of some, ie, a biological male believes that he is a female soul trapped in a man’s body, this raised a host of questions and problems: how did the female soul get there?  What is the relation between the female soul and the body?  This also turns the body into the accessory or property of the soul, which is the real me.  Hence, rape would become a mere property crime (an offence against my property, the body I happen to inhabit) and the government could extra a kidney in taxation (because it can tax my property and my body is my property).

Neither of these options are likely palatable to the transgender advocate anyway, so what else might such a person claim?  That the real him is his brain?  Ie, that he is a female brain trapped in a male’s body?  None have said so explicitly, for this is no better than the other options.  First, the brain is part of the body, so this appears plainly contradictory to say that one has a male body but a female brain.  Second, given the role of the brain is shaping the body by directing the body’s growth, release of hormones, it is not scientifically plausible that a female brain could be trapped in a male body.  Third, this view has the same drawbacks (as Alexander Pruss has pointed out on another subject), as the view that I am my soul.  If I am my brain and just possess the rest of my body, rape is still a property crime, the government could confiscate a kidney via its power to tax, and my wife has never kissed me (only my body, which is not me, only the property of me).

There is no account of how one can be a man trapped in a woman’s body that makes sense either scientifically or rationally.  There is, however, a very simple account of how a mental disorder could cause a person to believe he is a woman if he is really a man.  And to this disorder, we should respond, not by changing the body, but by treating the mind.

(1). http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/06/15145/ and

http://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120

(2). A fair question is that in spite of no plausible account of transgendering and no evidence in support of the claim that one can really be a woman trapped in a man’s body, why is it so strongly defended?  The answer is probably an implied connection to homosexuality.  If it can be a mental disorder for a man to believe that he is a woman, then this is not very far from the claim that it is a disorder for a man to be sexually attracted to other men.  But this is a subject for another post.

Losing Battles and Jack the Giant Killer

Not long ago,  I read another writer mocked for fighting what he was told was a losing battle.  The question concerned same-sex marriage, whether or not society, through coercive government power, ought to redefine marriage to include romantic relationships by members of the same sex. But, overall, it is not the specific question of same-sex marriage that concerns us, but the principle.  The writer opposed the redefinition, was told that society had already decided, that he was fighting a losing battle, and that he may as well give up.  This idea is sometimes expressed too in the claim that one shouldn’t be on the “wrong side of history.”  In brief, get on the bus or get crushed beneath it.

As a moral principle or motivation of human action, this is logically absurd- a simple case of bandwagoning at its ugliest.  Everyone else is doing this, supporting this, or thinking this way and, for that reason and that reason alone, we ought to as well.  It is simply a textbook case of the ad populum fallacy, that is, determining which side is right simply by appeal to the majority.  The question, however, is never if a man is on the winning or losing side, but if he is on the right or wrong one.

The “avoid the losing side,” principle, though, is even worse.  Not only logically fallacious, the principle represents sheer moral cowardice.   A man doesn’t fight because he is on the winning side, but because he is on the right side; and he fights to find out if the right side will be the winning side.  To fight on a side simply because it is stronger or winning is like a child on the schoolyard following a bully as a lackey just so he will win and be safe.  This is distasteful in a child, but contemptible in an adult.

One thinks of G.K. Chesterton’s remarks on Jack the Giant Killer (1).  The old fairy tales keep a truth forgotten by the modern world.  The giant probably considered himself on the right side of history; his was the direction history was moving in because he had power to make it so.  Certainly he would have laughed at any suggestion that he was not on the winning side.  And he probably saw Jack as a very small and backward person who was himself on the wrong side of history, which is to say, on the wrong side of the giant.  But, as Chesterton says, Jack didn’t care whether the giant was very large,  only whether or not he was very right or very wrong.  Modern nonsense stories sometimes praise a man for his courage in being on the right side of some progressive movement or other; but that is absurd.  What courage is possible if a man is simply on the side that history is moving in anyway?  What courage is there is being on the side of the giant?  But Jack was not on the winning side or the strong side.  He was on the weak side.  And so he was on the brave side.  Figuring out which side is going to be the winning side and then joining it, that is, being on the right side of history or avoiding a losing battle requires no courage at all.  As Chesterton remarked:

The strong cannot be brave. Only the weak can be brave; and yet again, in practice, only those who can be brave can be trusted, in time of doubt, to be strong… To be in the weakest camp is to be in the strongest school. Nor can I imagine anything that would do humanity more good than the advent of a race of Supermen, for them to fight like dragons. If the Superman is better than we, of course we need not fight him; but in that case, why not call him the Saint? But if he is merely stronger (whether physically, mentally, or morally stronger, I do not care a farthing), then he ought to have to reckon with us at least for all the strength we have. It we are weaker than he, that is no reason why we should be weaker than ourselves. If we are not tall enough to touch the giant’s knees, that is no reason why we should become shorter by falling on our own (1).

More historically, another boy once fought another giant.  And like Jack, that boy cared nothing for whether he was fighting a losing battle or if he was on the right side of history.  The giant laughed at him, ridiculed him, despised him, and held him in contempt.  But with only a slingshot and a small, round stone, the boy felled the giant and cut off his head (1 Samuel 17).  The losing battle turned into victory unforeseen, unless perhaps by a few who might have known their fairy tales.  It might be the same today.  Same-sex marriage might be supported by all the force of powerful lobbies, coercive government power, and the might of the modern media, but such a giant could hardly matter to Jack.

Finally, there is a special reason that a Christian need never be afraid of a losing battle.  Because according to their chief story, a certain peasant carpenter once also fought a losing battle against a corrupt and powerful empire.  He fought too against corrupt religious authorities whose task it was to defy the world, but had accommodated themselves to it.  As Fulton Sheen has remarked, his battle was fought not with five stones, but with 5 wounds, and when hung from a tree by his enemies, his losing battle seemed lost.  History was on the side of the powerful, the strong, the might and imperial eagle of Rome.  But his was another victory unforeseen, as His losing battle was won, crucifixion ending in Resurrection.  And centuries later, when the world’s greatest empire fell to the Germanic barbarians, His Church outlived the empire, as it has outlived kings and empires ever since.  Losing battles can be still worth fighting, Giants still need to be slain, and there is still a place in the modern world for Jack.

(1) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/470/470-h/470-h.htm#chap05

Heretics, Chapter 5.