We Are Not The Hero In This Story…

“There are people in this world who deal only in extremes. It’s naive to think that anything less than extreme measures will stop them.” – Amanda Waller, Arrow

Call it a fitting coincidence, call it good timing, but the Arrow episode, “The Brave and the Bold,” provided an unintentional precursor to the debate the U.S. is currently having about torture after the CIA report summary from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released to the public on Tuesday.

Arrow does an excellent job with Amanda Waller’s character. She is not a hero in the traditional sense and often blurs the line between anti-hero and villain in the comics. However, in the New 52 version of Waller and in the show, she is a well-intentioned extremist who acts on her perception of the greater good.

Personally, this is my favorite version of Amanda Waller. There is more complexity to this character. Ultimately, she acts on what she believes is the greater good. She makes difficult choices that are, at times, morally shady; her character is even amoral. She cannot concern herself with what is and isn’t moral. For Waller, it is about the big picture — the greater good.

“The Brave and the Bold” explores the contrast between the type of hero Barry Allen/The Flash is and the type of hero (or anti-hero) Oliver Queen/The Arrow is. The question both men have to look inside themselves to answer is, what makes a true hero? And, what kind of hero does the world really need?

Allen is the archetypical hero. He believes there is a moral line that cannot, under any circumstances, be crossed or sacrificed even for the greater good. Arrow, as well as ARGUS agents and Waller, believe that to deal with the extreme, extreme measures are necessary — including torture to get information.

Arrow believes that by going to these extremes, he has sacrificed his humanity, but that is a necessary sacrifice to achieve the greatest good.

Is the United States not reflecting on a similar question right now? Instead of asking what hero we are going to be, we are asking what role we should be playing in the world and how much of who we are we are willing to sacrifice in pursuit of our enemies.

The U.S. was founded on the principles of due process and equal protection under the law. Due process applies to everyone — not just citizens. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, either in the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment, does it say that only citizens are entitled to due process.

The Fifth Amendment says, “no person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment says, “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Not just citizens… any person.

After reading some of the tactics used by the CIA to interrogate suspects, there are incidents of cruel and unusual punishment, which of course is in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

After September 11, 2001, we entered uncertain times. We were willing to go to war to fight terrorism. We were willing to go to extremes, and we adopted the very mentality that Amanda Waller has about fighting extremism. We were chasing people who only deal in extremes and we concluded that it was foolish to think anything, but extreme measures would produce results.

But in doing so, we forsook the very principles this nation was founded on. We violated our own laws and we turned our backs on any concept of right and wrong. Torture is wrong. There is no debate here. The only debate we can have is what role we want to have in the world — what image do we want to have?

Are we willing to sacrifice who we are — what makes us different from our enemies? Or, are we going to be the moral standard-bearer, the example that no matter how extreme the enemy is, we will not sacrifice who we are in our response to them?

New Captain America Movie Takes On Government Spying, Targeted Killings

The creators of the film intentionally raise a moral issue with modern U.S. foreign policy: We must take out our enemies before they take us out.

“The question is where do you stop?” Director Joe Russo asked. “If there are 100 people we can kill to make us safer, do we do it? What if we find out there’s 1,000? What if we find out there’s 10,000? What if it’s a million? At what point do you stop?”

The lingering question, which the movie addresses head-on, is how much freedom are we willing to give up to feel safe? And, at what point have we sacrificed everything America is supposed to stand for?

Read the full article here.

If the goal was to create a political thriller, which Marvel wanted, then there is arguably no issue that should cause more anxiety among the populous than infringements on civil liberties by the U.S. government. Captain America: The Winter Soldier highlights the modern U.S. foreign policy of taking its enemies out before its enemies take us out, which raises some obvious moral questions.

What if government officials decided that by taking out a million people, America could be safer? It doesn’t matter if the people in question are proven threats to national and global security or that they are American citizens who are guaranteed certain legal rights by the U.S. Constitution — rights that are supposed to promote a system where people are innocent until proven guilty. What if an enhanced computer system was in place that used a certain algorithm to not only determine potential threats, but then used unmanned aerial vehicles to take these targets without due process and with zero accountability?

The questions posed by Russo are also raised in the movie Swordfish, in which John Travolta’s character gives a similar hypothetical scenario to Hugh Jackman. John Travolta plays a counter-terrorist in a top secret government operation to thwart future threats to the United States through preemptive measures designed to spread fear so no one would even think of attacking the U.S.

Stanley (Jackman): How can you justify all this?

Gabriel (Travolta): You’re not looking at the big picture Stan. Here’s a scenario. You have the power to cure all the world’s diseases, but the price for this is that you must kill a single innocent child, could you kill that child Stanley?

Stanley: No.

Gabriel: You disappoint me; it’s the greatest good.

Stanley: Well how about 10 innocents?

Gabriel: Now you’re gettin’ it. How about a hundred? How about a THOUSAND? Not to save the world, but to preserve our way of life.

Stanley: No man has the right to make that decision; you’re no different from any other terrorist.

Gabriel: No, you’re wrong Stanley. Thousands die every day for no reason at all. Where’s your bleeding heart for them? You give your 20 dollars to Greenpeace every year thinking you’re changing the world? What countries will harbor terrorists when they realize the consequences of what I’ll do?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not the first movie to highlight the moral concerns with using extreme preemptive tactics to maintain security, but it may bring the issue to the attention of a much larger audience.

Films are a form of entertainment, but they are also a form of art and communication. They are a different medium of expression and speech. When the media doesn’t talk about these issues, no one cares. So why can’t movies pick up the slack?

The problem is the common response will be: it is just a movie. The storyline was founded on the biggest civil liberties and foreign policy issues to arise in the last few years: government spying, data collection, targeted drone strikes, and kill lists, but most people will not look any deeper into the movie than they want to. People go to movies to be entertained — to escape reality.

Still, the parallels are there and the question people should take away from the film is, how much freedom are they willing to give up to feel safe? In a post 9/11 world we have seen numerous examples of the government sacrificing individual rights and liberties in the name of national security. Yet, the only question the mainstream media wants to ask is if people like Edward Snowden are heroes or traitors.

There is absolutely no way of knowing how far the government is willing to go if the American people are kept uninformed of its actions.