Peter: I’ve seen that look before…you’ve got a story, don’t you?
Peter: C’mon, Grampa Steve…tell us a story. When the whole country is against you…when it’s all bearing down on you like some ten-ton weight, and you don’t know your heart anymore sometimes - how does someone like you deal with it? I mean, yo practically are the country. How does the man who is the country react when the country goes a different way?
Steve: You really want to know?
Peter: I don’t want to know, Cap - I need to know.
Steve: I remember the first time I really understood what it was to be an American…what it was to be a patriot. I was just a kid…a million years ago, it seems sometimes. Maybe twelve. I was reading Mark Twain. And he wrote something that struck me right down to my core…something so powerful, so true, that it changed my life. I memorized it so I could repeat it to myself, over and over across the years. He wrote -
“In a Republic, who is ‘the country’? Is it the government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why the government is merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is ‘the country’? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in command. In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a Republic, it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. It is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your own convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way acording to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country. Hold up your head and have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principal above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world - “No, you move.”
Peter: Can I, like, carry your books to school? For the rest of my life?
Steve: Come on…time to get you back to the rest of the group.
Peter: I mean it. I can give you my lunch. My aunt made tuna sandwiches. Again.
Peter (narrating): And as I run towards the edge of the roof, off the edge of what I’ve known and into the darkness of whatever’s coming, beside the one hero who will never betray his convictions, never betray those who followed him, I think - it feels good to be on the right side again.
The Amazing Spider-Man - #537
This is a huge part of why Captain America means so much to me, one very faithless and sad and confused person in this country, afraid of my country, afraid of what she can’t do for her country.