Most men simply hate men like me… yet you always treated me with respect, compassion. Why? Is it because… you’re one of us? Is it because, deep inside, under all that macho bravado you’re really a sorry excuse for a man… like me?
This is honestly one of the darkest moments in a Captain America comic book, to me. Mother Superior is controlling Arnie and making him sing this degrading, terrible song. And if you missed it, in the midst of it, she has him accuse Steve of being gay himself. The message is clear: How could you accept someone like him, someone abnormal and disgusting, unless you were one of them?
Now, here’s the thing, the fact that she accuses Steve of being gay means NOTHING to him because HE DOESN’T CARE. He says it right there, Arnie’s love with Michael is 100% equal to Steve’s love with Bernie. He doesn’t need to defend himself. “They’re the disease.” Hatred is the disease. The thing that spreads and infects and degrades is hatred.
The Red Skull cannot FATHOM that a man like Steve, blond, blue-eyed, Anglo-Saxon Steve, would willingly spend time with POC, and Jews, and gay people. (He is referencing specific people here, in order: Bernie, Arnie, Sam, Jack.) Because the Red Skull is infected with hate. It’s also in this issue that the Skull reveals that he had a childhood similar in some ways to Steve: lost both his parents, lived his life poor, beat up by those around him because he was small. The difference, though, is that the Skull chose hate. He chose hate, and anger, and evil. Steve chose love, and goodness, and compassion.
But here’s another thing: Ok, so Steve isn’t racist or homophobic or full of hatred, what does he want, a cookie? No, he doesn’t. Steve is angered by the suggestion that he does any of this for praise, or worship. Steve does the right thing because it is the right thing. And in fact, his friends do not exist in this arc just to be tokenized. While Steve is having this discussion with the Skull, Bernie, Sam, and Jack (and Arnie, but his mind has been tortured by Mother Superior’s tricks at this point) are finding a way out. They DON’T need Steve to come save them. Because unlike what the Skull thinks, they are, of course, their own people. They have autonomy and free will and the capability to work their way through situations. The Skull doesn’t see that, because to him, they are not human beings, they are not people. But the Captain America comic book is showing us that they are. They do not exist just in this white man’s world. They are free-thinking and capable individuals.
Captain America, at the end of the day, is about goodness and equality, justice and freedom, compassion and understanding. And Steve is a good person, but he doesn’t deserve extra for being a decent human being. He’s just doing what’s right.
Man, I am exhausted and sick right now, so I’m not sure I’m doing this justice, but you should totally read Cap v1 #295-300. Great issues. Not saying they’re problem-free, at the end of the day this is a comic book about a white man written by white men, but overall it’s a fantastic arc.
From Captain America #296 and 298