Jack Shields | United States
I recently re-watched Black Panther, and it’s a solid 7/10. Good but not great. Someone had to say it. The Dark Knight is the best superhero movie ever, and that is a fact not an opinion. And anyone that says Black Panther is the best MCU movie desperately needs to rewatch Ironman, The Avengers, The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, and Infinity War. But besides being a good movie, Black Panther shows us the dangers of allowing a good man to have power; teaching us that we need to preserve our system of checks and balances despite our desires to have items on our own personal legislative agenda passed.
The movie begins with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becoming the king of Wakanda after the death of his father T’Chaka (John Kani) in Civil War. T’Chaka was a good king, and it appears T’Challa will follow in his footsteps. In fact, Wakanda has been blessed with an abundance of good kings. Through their wisdom and intelligence, and a fair bit of Adamantium, Wakanda has built itself into secluded paradise superior to all other countries with technology that makes Tony Stark’s suits seem crude and elementary. This paradise becomes disrupted by T’Chaka’s cousin, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who successfully challenges T’Chaka for the throne, becoming the new king of Wakanda. Overnight, Wakanda goes from a peaceful, isolationist nation to power-hungry nation preparing for war. Despite many powerful people such as General Okoye (Danai Gurira) wishing to stop Killmonger from pursuing his evil goals, they were not only helpless to do so but forced to comply. It wasn’t until T’Challa miraculously reappears after escaping death and taking back the mantle of the Black Panther that peace is restored. How could a country go from paradise to nightmare, to paradise so quickly? It had a weak system of government that gave the man in charge too much power. T’Challa was an absolute monarch. A tyrant. A benevolent tyrant, but a tyrant all the same. The system was foolishly designed to give the king absolute, unchecked power and pray he uses it wisely and mercifully. As soon as a king came into power with malicious intent, there was nothing that could be done. Because the mechanisms which were necessary to properly restrict liberty and impose tyranny were already in place.
Black Panther is, of course, a comic book movie, and it’s not likely as much time was spent making sure Wakanda’s government was designed to protect liberty as was spent making sure Black Panther looked awesome when he punched someone. But the lesson that we shouldn’t create mechanisms which can be used to impose tyranny when a good person is in power stands and is further supported upon examination of the most brutal dictatorships in human history, the most extreme example being Adolf Hitler. Germany under the Weimar Republic was not some free paradise which turned into a genocidal nightmare as soon as Hitler showed up. The mechanisms Hitler used were already there albeit used to a lesser extent. As reported by National Review’s Stephen P. Halbrook, “In 1931, Weimer authorities… authorized the registration of all firearms and the registration thereof, if required for ‘public safety.’” In 1933, Hitler and the Nazis took charge and promptly used this law to conduct mass searches and confiscations of the firearms of political dissidents and Jews. From there the Nazis were able to revoke the gun licenses for Social Democrats, ban independent gun clubs while arresting their leaders, and prohibit Jews from being given firearm permits, all without having to change a single law. Hitler was also able to gain absolute political power with the laws of his predecessors. As shown in Nazis Conspiracy and Aggression Vol. I, Ch. VII on February 28, 1933, the Nazis were able to use Article 48(2) of the German Constitution to suspend Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 which were the rights to personal freedom, inviolability of the home, protection of the secrecy of letters and other communications, freedom of speech and of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and the right to private property respectively. From there the constitution was utilized to make the executive power infallible and uncheckable, and Germany became a one-party state. The stage was set for the horrors to come. This was all because the German people created a government with too much power and relied on the fact that their leaders would be too nice to use the power to its full potential.
In a less extreme example, this problem is relevant to how we as a nation are treating the Presidency. The President is becoming more and more powerful and is now seen by many as our great leader who will solve all our problems for us as we cede him more and more legislative power. Want tariffs, immigration reform, foreign agreements, or to attack a sovereign nation? Forget Congress, the President will do it! This has led to an epidemic of having an unstable quasi-monarch instead of a President. President Obama had “a pen and a phone” which was used to blow up Libya, create DACA, join the Paris Agreement, and create the Iran Deal. All while Republicans sat there horrified and Democrats cheered. But a legacy built by a pen and a phone can be torn down by a pen and a phone as we are seeing currently. President Trump has chosen to use his pen and phone to impose tariffs, blow up Syrian military bases, consider ending birthright citizenship, get out of the Paris Agreement, and get out of the Iran Deal. All while those once cheering Democrats sit horrified and the Republicans have their time to cheer. A system of instability has been built wherein major policies with huge implications are rewritten based on the opinions of one man every four to eight years, as they amass more and more power. A worst case scenario where the Presidency is growing more and more powerful, and instead of getting another Obama type or Trump type we get a Hitler type, who now already has the mechanisms at his disposal to successfully implement his desired tyranny.
Any system, no matter how poorly designed, can survive and quite possibly thrive under a Washington, Lincoln, or T’Challa. But when designing a system of government we ought to strive to create one that can endure a Hitler, Stalin, or Killmonger. We have a natural urge to get things which are important to us done, and if we like the guy in power we are willing to give him the power necessary to do just that. But the positive consequences of a good man wielding absolute power are clearly outweighed by the negative consequences of a bad man with such power. Those Republicans and Democrats who cheer when their guy does something they like should think more long-term and realize that eventually the other guy is going to be in power and will also be able to wield that power- and they aren’t going to like how he uses it. When wondering if a leader you like should have more power, consider their rival, and if you would not be comfortable with both of them having such power, don’t give it to them. Keep the President only having the powers absolutely necessary to run the executive and nothing more and you keep your freedom. Because you’re not giving the power to Trump, you’re giving it to the Office of the Presidency, and you may not always like the President and he may not always like you. Learn to love the gridlock. Love checks and balances. We have been blessed with the greatest system of government ever devised which has kept tyranny at bay. Let’s keep it that way.
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