Each chance to be the better person

I’ve watched Winter Solider twice this weekend, once with my daughter and once with my partner, neither of whom had seen it yet. I was reminded just how well-constructed a movie I think this is. Now, the emotional beats are inextricably wound up in my head with the fanon I’ve read on Tumblr. So when I watch it, I watch the film-as-writ plus an overdubbed layer of content and meaning.

Honestly, that’s how I watch almost everything these days. The fiction as produced, plus the meaning layer generated by the so-called “consumers” of the fiction.

But consumers don’t just consume. We never have, really. It’s just that now we have voice to echo our co-creation back into the world.

I think about that during publicized moments of social and political unrest. Riots, or protests, or marches, or demonstrations. Right now I have access to the voices of the people in the middle of the action. They tweet, vine, blog, update. I see their words and images in the moment of the event. I see their voice without the filter or interpretation of others. The Ferguson protests. Penny Red in the London kettles a few years back. The librarians of Cairo a couple years ago.

History is only ever made by individual people making choices in their given moments.

The future is made the same way.

Yesterday Chuck Wendig posted a diatribe against geek misogynists. He calls them dinosaurs, tells them they are going to catch a face full of meteor. A friend of a friend asked last week, “is misogyny getting worse or has it been there all along?” In a team meeting yesterday my new area manager re-affirmed a commitment to influencing workplace culture in a positive, less hostile, more welcoming direction.

The future is made this way. It’s made by people choosing small steps, one at a time, all over, every moment.

My favorite scene in Winter Soldier is this: it’s the moment when Steve asks the elevator full of goons whether they want to get out before the fight.

That’s it.

That’s my Captain America.

Steve isn’t stupid. He knows he’s been betrayed. He knows they will attack him. But he’s got to give them a chance. He has to, HAS to, give each of those men the opportunity to be the better person he wishes they might be.

Steve gives everyone a chance to be the better person. He’s not naive. Actually it’s pretty ruthless of him. It’s the same reason he wears a uniform when he goes to war — whoever shoots at you, that’s the bad guys. Steve looks you in the eye and asks you whether you are going to be a good person or not. Once you answer, he treats you accordingly.

That’s my Steve. Pragmatic. Practical. Aware of the failures and evils of human nature, yet ever-hoping that we might be better than we are.

That’s this cultural moment.

We can continue as we always have, and allow small vileness to fester into active evil. Or we can each of us, in whatever small ways we have at our disposal, choose to be the better person Captain America knows we can be.

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