When we meet Steve Rogers again in The Avengers, he’s still struggling with this very thing. Back in 1942, a special serum turned him into Captain America, and in the middle of fighting a rogue group of Nazis known as Hydra, he accidentally ended up in suspended animation. He wakes up in the “present day.” The world has changed a lot since 1942.
Not surprisingly, Steve feels like he and his values are obsolete. He doesn’t understand Tony Stark’s cavalier attitude or circumvention of the rules, or Bruce Banner’s scientific mumbo jumbo, or any of the pop references the others make (except for one about flying monkeys—and he’s almost pathetically excited about finally “getting one”).
It doesn’t look like there’s much that can break up the gloom surrounding what should be a golden boy character. But on their way to the flying ship, Agent Coulson tells Steve that they’ve updated his Captain America costume.
“Aren’t the stars and stripes a little old fashioned?” Steve asks.
Agent Coulson looks him straight in the eyes. “With all that’s going on in the world, people might want a little old fashioned.”
Throughout the movie, Steve comes to realize that Coulson was right. People are starting to not only want a little old-fashioned, we’re starting to need it.
And it’s not about the evils of technology. Technology isn’t evil. It’s not about needing to reconnect with nature and unplug. It’s not about retro becoming the latest fashion trend or collecting records or bottle caps.
It’s about reviving some old-fashioned values. I suspect that, like me, a lot of people long for the return of some of the things we’ve lost.
I’m only 30, but when I was a child, stores in my town were closed on Sundays. Was it an inconvenience if you wanted to buy something? Yes. But didn’t we always manage to survive until Monday? And wasn’t that a small price to pay to give everyone a day of rest, a day focused on friends and family?
I miss the idea of a day of rest. And a 40-hour work week that gave you enough income to live off of. Not only live off of, but raise a family on.
I miss when a handshake meant something, people did what they promised, and you could leave your doors unlocked.
I miss teamwork. Days when it wasn’t about getting ahead as an individual by stepping on others, but rather about working together to make sure everyone achieved their goals. We didn’t feel the need to shout to be heard. We didn’t feel the need to sing our own praises because we knew that if we did a good job, someone else would sing them for us.
Those are the type of things that made the good old days good. Those are the things that are now old-fashioned, and those are the things I think we need to fight to get back.
I’m an optimist, but even I know that I can’t turn back time. I can’t change society to make stores close on Sundays again, and we can’t safely leave our doors unlocked even in small towns anymore.
Captain America couldn’t force Tony Stark or any of the others to accept his values either, but he chose to act on what he believed, and by the end of the movie, however subtly, it was his example they followed, even Stark. The man who “didn’t play well with others” worked as part of a team, and even risked sacrificing himself to save the world.
While I can’t change the world, I can change me. Like Captain America, I can still live by those old-fashioned values.
I can refuse to work seven days a week because my body and my relationships need that day of rest. My handshake and my word can still mean something. And I can support others and let my actions speak for themselves. I have control over me.
And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us change ourselves, the world will one day follow.
What old-fashioned value do you think needs to be revived? How are you helping to bring it back?
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