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‘Captain America’, by Alex Ross. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

Listen to me — all of you out there!

You were told by this man — your hero — that America is the greatest country in the world!

He told you that Americans were the greatest people — that America could be refined like silver, could have the impurities hammered out of it, and shine more brightly!

He went on about how precious America was — how you needed to make sure it remained great!

And he told you anything was justified to preserve that great treasure, that pearl of great price that is America!

Well, I say America is NOTHING! Without its ideals — its commitment to the freedom of all men, America is a piece of TRASH!

A nation is nothing! A flag is a piece of cloth!

I fought Adolf Hitler not because America was great, but because it was fragile! I knew that liberty could be snuffed out here as in Nazi Germany! As a people, we were no different than them!

When I returned, I saw that you nearly did turn American into nothing!

And the only reason you’re not less then nothing —

— is that it’s still possible for you to bring freedom back to America!

—Captain America, What If? #44 by Peter B. Gillis, Sal Buscema, and Dave Simons. 1984.