I like superhero movies just as much as the next person. Ok, maybe more than the next person. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that I was one of the first in line for The Avengers movie last Friday night. Besides a brief cameo by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, I can say the movie exceeded my expectations. However, as I walked out of the theater, still reeling from the 3D action scenes and suspense, a question popped into my head. What if politicians were a bit more like The Avengers? No, I’m not expecting Barney Frank to turn into a monstrous green Hulk anytime soon, or for John Boehner to walk into the House wearing red, white, and blue spandex. However, what if our Congressmen and women took a page from The Avengers book and started to mirror some of the principles exemplified by the crime-fighting superheroes? If our all of our politicians acted like Avengers, perhaps the world would be a little brighter.
To briefly recap, The Avengers picks up where its prequels Iron Man (1+2), Thor, Captain America, and The Hulk leave off. Thor’s brother Loki has harnessed the extraterrestrial forces of a power source “Tesseract,” using it as fuel to create an army set to destroy and enslave the earth. Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., a secret military agency, recruits several “superheros” to join forces and create The Avengers Initiative, a squad of extraordinary people whose main mission is to make sure the Earth remains a safe place. Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, and Hawkeye make up the core team. After 2.5 hours of action and suspense sprinkled with brief character development, the team successfully fights off Loki’s forces, saves the Earth, and sends the powerful Tesseract out into space, where Thor promised to keep it safe. Of course they had to leave a cliff hanger after the credits, designed to keep audiences enthralled until the sequel.
The first thing that struck me after I left the theater was the sense of duty to which all The Avengers adhered. They were called in for a job, reluctantly accepted, and then went their separate ways after their goal was accomplished. They did not keep fighting for personal glory or worldwide admiration even though the citizens of the world were more than willing to praise the heroes. They literally rode off into the sunset, leaving the ego-boosting cheers of crowds behind them.
Now, just think, what if our politicians took a page from their book? What if more Congressmen and Congresswomen served their terms and then left only to sink back into anonymity? If Harry Reid was Bruce Banner (The Hulk), he would have exited the Senate long ago. However, what we see now in our Congress is a much different story. Unlike The Avengers, whose sense of duty allowed them to leave after their mission was accomplished, far too many politicians stay in office longer than they should. Many stay for glory or power, not duty. When our politicians’ terms rise in numbers for the wrong reasons, efficiency goes down and Congress becomes nothing more than a shell of its optimal self.
Perhaps what I found most intriguing in The Avengers was the fact that the characters actually gave up power instead of seeking to accumulate more. At the finale of the film, the team sends the Tesseract away from Earth, hoping that it will never enact such chaos again. Sure, they could have used the power source to provide the world with energy, or further develop advanced weaponry, but they did not. The power of the Tesseract was so enormous that it corrupted all who came in contact with its energy. Only the villain, Loki, tried to harness its power and he was on the losing side in the end. Realizing that the allure of such power is often too great, The Avengers extricated themselves and the world from the Tesseract’s influence and further established peace.
Once again, can you imagine if our politicians actually gave up power willingly? Think for a second, how often has a politician willingly done so in the last 100 years? Once again, it is evident that The Avengers were not motivated by power; they were motivated by higher goals such as peace, worldwide security, and loyalty. Only the villain, Loki, was motivated by power and look what became of him. Humans by nature often seize more power when it is presented to them. Very rarely do they decide to give it up. When this power is seated in the government, it often becomes dangerous to the people the government serves. Individual rights become smaller when government becomes bigger. If only our politicians could resist the allure of governing power and return some of their influence back to the people. Perhaps then we would have the accountable politicians we need.
Thus, I’m left with one final question: where are our “Avengers?” Where are the people who unselfishly give up their own power for the pursuit of higher goals? Often, we find them in the military, police forces, or schools. However, there are rarely “Avengers,” employed in positions of power in the federal government. Sure, there are decent people in Congress who only want to make this country a better place. However, those people are a minority, not the majority. In this world of chaos and economic recession, perhaps we should start electing people with humility. Perhaps we need to hold our politicians to a higher standard and look for our own “Avengers.”