RCL #4- Civic Artifact Speech Draft

Katherine Kauma


RCL 137-008



Just to start out, how many of you know what the symbol on my shirt [captain america’s shield] represents?  For those of you who don’t, this is Captain America’s shield.  If you aren’t familiar with his shield, I’m sure you’ve heard his name at least once or twice.  After all, it seems like a new movie about him comes out every other year, not to mention that his comic books have been running since long before most of our parents where born.  To most of us, Captain America is just another kitschy superhero, over-powered and cliched in just the right way to make for a fun action flick.  However, behind his bulging muscles and brightly-colored tights is a history of political activism and involvement.  From his conception, Captain America has presented and framed issues of civic importance to the American public.


Body 1: Origin

  • Set the scene: it’s 1940, Europe is consumed in WWII, Nazi Germany is dominating, Jews are being persecuted, and USA is still isolationist
  • Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, a jewish comic writer and artist team, are very disturbed by what is happening, decide to do something about it (Mangels et al. web)
  • Captain america is born.  First issue features him decked out in stars and stripes, punching hitler in the face.  
  • Response (1 million copies sold)- it swayed public opinion (readership mostly young people) against war (Bellotto web.).  There is some backlash (death threats) from Nazi sympathizers (Wright 36).
  • Eventually Cap is adopted by the USA for propaganda after they join the war.  Cap fights against the Red Skull, the leader of Hydra, a fictional Nazi terror group.
  • Cap was created as a very deliberate political message, meant to influence and sway readers into supporting America’s involvement in WWII.


Body 2: How Captain America is effective as a civic artifact

  • First, the writers closely linked the character steve rogers with America and American ideals
    • Through super hero name (captain america), occupation (both his secret identity and his hero self work for the US military), costume (basically an american flag), and other little details (his birthday is the fourth of july), the identity of Steve Rogers aka Captain America is made intentionally so people see him as the personification of America.
    • They use appeals to american commonplaces like “if you work hard you’ll succeed” (sickly, weak steve rogers does not give up on getting into the army, and eventually does via super soldier serum), or “anyone can be a hero” (steve is literally a skinny art student from brooklyn- he’s as human as you can get, initially).
  • Once Captain America is linked with the idea of america, the writers can use him to influence readers about what they think America should do or be through his actions.
    • His ‘weapon’ is a shield -> america’s job is to protect and defend, not attack
    • In the 40s, it was Captain america punches nazies -> america should enter WWII.
    • Cap was used as propaganda- comic books would include ads about how to join “Captain America’s Sentinels of Liberty” and encourage readers to buy war bonds to support war effort. (Mangels et al. web.)

Body 3: Cap more recently

  • Since Cap was established in WWII he now has ethos as a symbol for american ideals & people have continued to use him to relay political messages (usually through allegories)
    • 70s and 80s Cap accepts black and gay people -> americans should accept black and gay people
    • In 70s Cap abandons his identity after Secret Empire scandal reveals american govt as corrupt -> Watergate is not what america stands for
    • In 2000s Cap opposes Superhero Registration Act -> Patriot act violates american ideals of freedom and liberty, unamerican.
    • In 2010s, Cap as sam wilson supports BLM movement and fights against police brutality -> America should stand behind the BLM movement



In the 1940s, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon created a character who grew into an American icon.  When Captain America first hit the shelves, it incited Americans against Nazi Germany, and helped bolster support for American involvement in WWII.  Through clever costumery, characterization, and writing, Captain America was so thoroughly bound to the idea of America that even now,  almost 80 years later, Captain America is seen as a symbol for the very best our country can be.  So, next time you watch an Avengers flick or read a Captain America comic, ask yourself this: What message is the good Captain telling me now?

RCL #3- It’s What I Do

In Lynsey Addario’s It’s What I do, there is a scene shortly after the liberation of Baghdad in which an altercation between American soldiers and Iraqi civilians becomes violent as Addario watches and photographs.  This scene in particular captured and enthralled me as I read because of its use of sentence structure to set a mood.

Here, Addario narrates with long, smooth sentences that get interrupted by short, choppy declarations.  These declarations serve to highlight the absurd, the important, and the dramatic moments within the scene.  More importantly, though, they make the reader feel as confused, unbalanced, and out of place as Addario did when she experienced it.  We are thrust from the comfort of complete and flowing narration to blunt and disjointed thoughts that put us on edge, which is a perfect feeling for the scene she described.  In addition, the breakdown of narration reflects the breakdown of peace and order in that scene and the disintegration of Iraq as a whole.  With a few sentence choices, Addario is able to convey not only what she feels, but also the chaotic atmosphere of post-Saddam Iraq.

In my own writing, I fall short on the structure aspect.  Too often, I rely on the comfort and safety of words and neglect the potential of the unspoken.  Just as in conversation, where half of what is said is through body language and tone of voice, the pacing and structure of writing conveys a message.  In my passion blog, I can use this technique in the same way Addario did, to convey subtly convey mood.  When telling a story, I can narrate how I remember, emphasizing flashbulb memories laden with emotion, instead of providing the whole scene.  For the more technical part of my blog, I can certainly use sentence structure to provide emphasis, but emotion might be a little harder to do.



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RCL #2- It’s What I Do

Lynsey Addario tells the story of her grandmother’s missed chance in love to demonstrate the choice that she and everybody must make in life: settle for safe and content, or take a risk and chase after passion. Addario’s choice is not about love, though, but about photography or a normal life. Where her grandmother chooses the safe route, Addario takes the leap and follows her love of photography. Her choice shows the weight Addario puts on her passion- to her, photography is on par with love.

The scene that thematized my passion was an experience of discovery. In theory, I loved space, but I couldn’t experience it. I was limited by light pollution, money, and my own ignorance. This changed In the spring of 2017, when I learned about star parties from my astronomy class in school. Star parties are gatherings of amateur astronomers to share their love of space and their telescopes with each other and the public. Of course, I attended the first one I could find!

What I witnessed there was beyond my wildest dreams. I saw nebulae, globular clusters, binary star systems, planets, and waved at the ISS as it passed overhead. I saw telescopes of every size and type I could imagine. I met people who know the night sky like an old friend, who were what I aspire to be.

That was a night that I will never forget, but what changed me the most was the realization of how easy it was. I didn’t need to road-trip for hours, empty my wallet, or know everything about astronomy. I just drove for 20 minutes and talked to some nice people, and everything I could have wanted was right there.

Space is (for the most part) unreachable, but I know now that experiencing it doesn’t have to be.