Falcon & The Winter Soldier: Using Your Voice
Updated: Apr 27, 2021
The speeches are always what made me love Captain America. From the fantastic one in Amazing Spider-Man 537, to the one in the Winter Soldier movie, to this one in Avengers Vol 5 #34;
“I see someone who needs help... And I help. You think it's a weakness. You think it's simple... But you're wrong. It's what makes us human... Which is exactly what we're supposed to be fighting for. I know who I am. I rescue the helpless. I raise up the hopeless. I don't measure people's lives... I save them.” - Captain America
It’s not just the skills of an orator that sell me though. It’s the fact that behind the speech is a heart that believes what they are saying in transparent honesty, and the willingness to put action behind their words. As Sam was giving his speech to the GRC he had just rescued, I said out loud, “That’s Captain America.” Being a comic reader, I’ve long known Sam was Captain America, and at that point in the show, he had been wearing the costume for like 30 minutes on screen, but that was the moment I was overwhelmed and made the statement.
As I sat watching the credits roll on Falcon & The Winter Soldier season 1, I wiped the tears from my eyes and told my girls sitting beside me on the couch, “See that’s so much better than if he would have just shown up in the costume with the shield. We have to understand someone’s struggle before we truly appreciate them.” And that’s honestly what makes Captain America great, the empathy and reckless compassion that comes with the mantle, and Sam showed that beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Cap’s speech, as well as the whole season, hit on things so on the pulse of our nation currently that the whole show looked like an EKG. In the last few years of my life, I've seen the very public discourse over refugees. I’ve seen more and more mounting racial and social tension. I’ve seen more and more of what it looks like for people to become embittered to their nation and their brothers and sisters. So, there was a strong sense of Déjà vu through this whole journey.
The primary, up front, antagonists of the story were the “Flag Smashers,” lead by Karli Morgenthau. A group who had acquired super soldier serum, and were using It to “help” displaced people as a result of the blip, by making things the way they were during the blip. Which is totally an understandable plight. Many people in this world feel like they have no place to go, no resources, or no place they belong, and that’s without a blip level event happening. It also didn’t help that governments of the world weren’t exactly bolstering empathy for the people being affected by their decisions. Helping refugees and the displaced is a good thing, right?
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
- Leviticus 19:33-34
But damage was being done, lives were being lost, and the Flag Smashers drew the attention of Sam, Bucky, the newly shielded John Walker, and the GRC.
Once Sam saw that this wasn’t a plot by one of “The Big Three,” he wanted to take the route of less confrontation and try to reason with Karli, and keep her from going down the road she was going. She literally had gotten lost in the ambition and execution of her convictions, and where John wanted to bash her in with a shield, Sam wanted compassion. Not saying we need to show mercy to every terrorist organization or condone their actions, but when we see someone who is truly lost, compassion isn’t the wrong option. That’s exactly what Jesus did when He saw a crowd of lost people clamoring for attention and miracles but no real direction.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” - Matthew 9:36
Sam managed to calm John and entangle Zemo long enough to have a genuine conversation with Karli;
Sam: Right, I can't speak for millions, but I understand you. I understand your frustration. I understand your helplessness.
Karli: So, you want me to stop because people are gettin' hurt, right? But, Sam, what if I'm making the world a better place?
Sam: No, it's not a better place if you're killin' people. It's just different. Karli: You're either brilliant or just hopelessly optimistic.
Sam: Well, can't I be a little bit of both?
Karli No. Sam: This guy I know, who knows more about Super Soldiers than anyone else on the planet, he says... you're a supremacist.
Karli: That's ridiculous. Everything I do is to end supremacy. These corporations and the beasts who run them, they're the supremacists.
Sam: So, let me ask you. You have more serum, right? So? Are you going to increase your army? You're killin' innocent people.
Karli: They're not innocent. They're roadblocks in my journey and I'd kill them again if I had to.
Karli: No, no. I didn't mean it like that. You tricked me into sounding like... Sam: Like what?
Karli: The people I'm fightin' are trying to take your home, Sam. Why are you here instead of stopping them?
Sam: You know, my sister's waiting for that exact same answer.
I'm not your enemy. I agree with your fight. I just can't get with the way you're fightin' it. And I'm sure she wouldn't either.
Their conversation would quickly be silenced by a self-righteous Captain Walker, but Sam did more to slow Karli’s downward spiral in a short conversation then all the battles that had taken place before hand. Karli even tried to play Sam’s plight to her side. She knew that Sam was struggling too. A guy saved the world on a couple occasions, yet still couldn’t get a loan, and was about to lose his family’s legacy. Sam knew what it was like to be treated unjustly, but that doesn’t mean you just attack, that means you try to speak up against the injustice. As Sam told Karli, he agreed with her fight, just not how she was fighting it.
The flag smashers should have never existed in the first place. Their governments, the GRC, and their leaders in general should never have allowed for people to be so easily cast aside. If the people who were responsible would have raised their voices, Karli never would have had to raise hers. Yes, I know I’m talking about a fictional group. That is the reality of things though. The world is full of injustice, and will remain full of injustice until there is a new Heaven and new Earth. God places us here to be His hands, feet, salt, and light until this. The world has been saved from sin through Christ’s death, but we are still living out the consequences of sin in the here and now. Seeking Justice isn’t always about stopping a bad guy, punching a villain, or deciding who carries your hero’s legacy. It really does come down to using your voice, your heart, and your actions for those who cannot do it themselves. Karli was fighting for the displaced, but was causing more displacement in her wake. Sam fought to save the world, but his home and family were becoming forfeit in the process.
Sam initially tried to lean on the fame of his heroic career to get his family the help they needed, but it didn’t get him far. In the end he had to raise his voice, not in praise of his own acclaim, but in asking for help on his family's name. Raising his voice to his community did more than just relying on his own strength. The important thing is that he didn’t stop and continued to use his voice for the BIG problems of the world, and the LOCAL problems in his community. Our actions don’t always have to take place on a global stage or with the whole world watching. They can be as small as raising our voices or awareness in our own communities and homes. People of faith all across the world look at injustice and wonder why God doesn’t do anything, but the reality is, If God’s people can see injustice being done, then it is their responsibility to act.
As Sam told his sister “What would be the point of all the pain and sacrifice if I wasn't willing to stand up and keep fightin'?”
"Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. " - Isaiah 1:17
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."
- Proverbs 31:8-9
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." - James 1:27
This was a super hero show, and of course there would have to be major conflicts, battles etc. Having a sincere conversation where everyone learns their lesson wouldn’t be the most entertaining use of a Disney + subscription. So of course, the battle ensues. There are the character defining moments, to sparks of redemption, the twists of betrayal, etc etc. But the meat of the whole series happens once Sam lands with Karli’s body and begins to have a dialogue with the leaders of the GRC. All those scriptures above about using your voice and speaking up for others, this was Sam’s moment. The dude literally had been Captain America for like 30 minutes, and wasted no time using his voice to speak up. Not a popular move, but a right one.
Sam: You have to stop calling them terrorists.
Senator: What else would we call them? Sam: Your peacekeeping troops carrying weapons are forcing millions of people into settlements around the world, right? What do you think those people are gonna call you? These labels, "terrorists", "refugee", "thug", they're often used to get around the question, why? Lacont: Those settlements that happened five years ago, do you think it is fair for governments to have to support them? Sam: Yes. Senator: And the people who reappeared only to find someone else living in their family home, they just end up homeless? Look, I get it. But you have no idea how complicated this situation is.
Sam: You know what? You're right. And that's a good thing. We finally have a common struggle now. Think about that. For once, all the people who've been begging, and I mean, literally begging for you to feel how hard any given day is... Now you know. How did it feel to be helpless? Now if you could remember what it was like to be helpless and face a force so powerful it could erase half the planet, you would know that you're about to have the exact same impact. This isn't about easy decisions, Senator. Senator: You just don't understand.
Sam: I'm a Black man carrying the stars and stripes. What don't I understand? Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people out there who are gonna hate me for it. Even now, here... I feel it. The stares, the judgment. And there's nothin' I can do to change it. Yet, I'm still here. No super serum, no blond hair, or blue eyes. The only power I have is that I believe we can do better. We can't demand that people step up if we don't meet them halfway. Look, you control the banks. You can move borders! You can knock down a forest with an email, you can feed a million people with a phone call. But the question is, who's in the room with you when you're making those decisions? Hmm? Is it the people you're gonna impact? Or is it just more people like you? I mean, this girl died trying to stop you, and no one has stopped for one second to ask why. You've gotta do better, Senator. You've gotta step up. Because if you don't, the next Karli will. And you don't wanna see 2.0. People believed in her cause so much that they helped her defy the strongest governments in the world. Why do you think that is? Look, you people have just as much power as an insane god or a misguided teenager. The question you have to ask yourself is, "How are you going to use it?"
That’s the reality of it. Are we willing to step up? Are we willing to use our voice? Are we willing to take an honest look at where we’ve been and where we are headed. Cap’s speech in this moment to me was like a cultural milestone. I told a friend that I know it’s idealistic and probably far from reality, but I would love to be able to see this moment in pop culture as a moment when the tide shifts. Where we can all agree that our country, and this world has elements that are broken, but that it and the people that are in it are worth fighting for. That yes, we have a checkered past, as a faith, as a nation, and as a species. But that it’s still worth fighting for. This moment spoke to my heart that just because we are built on something broken, doesn’t mean we can’t be whole.
As Sam and Isaiah discuss;
Isaiah Bradley: The fight you taking on ain't gonna be easy, Sam.
Sam: Yeah, I might fail. I might die. But... We built this country. Bled for it. I'm not gonna let anybody tell me I can't fight for it. Not after what everybody before me went through. Including you.
As broken as people are, they are worth fighting for. As broken as our country is, it’s worth fighting for. As broken as this world is, it’s worth fighting for. That’s not just my opinion, or Cap’s, It’s Gods.
A devotional using John 3:16? How original. Have you ever really thought about the motivation listed in that verse?
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish, but have ever lasting life.”
The motivation for Christ’s sacrifice was love for the world. The broken world. The bitter world. The world full of betrayal, lust, greed, racism, sexism, murder, isolation, pain, and shame. The world that was just as jacked up and broken as ours is now, if not more. Somehow, we’ve gotten to the place to think that just because our past is ugly or things are broken that everything should be abandoned. But it’s the fact that God looked at our brokenness and fought on our behalf that we have life. Sam stated that because this country had been bled and fought for, that it was worth the continued fight, how much more are we worth that Jesus would bleed and die for us. That means I want to continue to fight. Not against others, but for others. For the broken. For the lost. For the hurting. For the displaced. For the villains. For the ones who would hate me. I want to fight for them, not by throwing a shield (although that would be awesome), but by caring beyond simple reactionary convenience, and raising my voice even when it doesn’t impact me. All because God says we are worth it.
I believe Cap’s words in his speech truly changed the outcome of their story. He used his voice at the right time. He spoke up for people in a way that made powerful people uncomfortable. He spoke up for people in a way that put his popularity and safety at risk. But he knew they were the right words for the right time. The Bible teaches us to be equally wise with our words and how we use them in the opportunities we are given.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” - Colossians 4:5-6.
The question Cap left the GRC with was this “How are you going to use it?”
That’s the question I leave you with. How are you going to use your voice? How are you going to use your power? How are you going to use your influence? Are you going to speak up for those whose voice doesn’t travel as far as yours? Or are you only going to wait to speak up when it inconveniences you. The shield and wings don’t make Sam Captain America any more than owning a Bible makes you a Christian. It’s what you do with what you possess and how you wield it that makes all the difference.