“They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once.”
This quote was from the one and only Tony Stark, a fictitious superhero in the first “Iron Man” movie. Stark had it all: he was one of the richest men alive, had a personal assistant named Pepper Potts who managed his whole schedule, owned an incredible ocean-side mansion in Malibu, and in his mind was creating world peace through Stark Industries, the largest and most lethal weapon manufacturing company in the world.
However, this all changed when he was abducted by a terrorist group in Afghanistan. The group, called Ten Rings, held Stark hostage in a cave, and the only way he could be set free was if he built them the new “Jericho” missile, which Stark had created to use as a killing machine. Yet, thanks to Stark’s genius, he ended up building the “Iron Man” suit in the cave, and flew his way out of imprisonment to safety.
When he made it back home after three months in captivity, his first action, besides grabbing an American cheeseburger, was announcing he was shutting down the weapons manufacturing business immediately, much to the dismay of his military associates. From then on, he directed all of his wealth, power, and genius toward one goal: finding ways to use technology to save the world.
“I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them. I saw that I had become a part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability … [When I was held hostage], I had my eyes open. I came to realize that I have more to offer this world than just making things blow up.” -Tony Stark
Why am I sharing this story? Because in many ways, Stark represents everything that America has come to be. Whether we like it or not, this country has risen to the top through sheer military force and domination.
Just look at our history. In World War II, the U.S. was the first nation to use the atomic bomb, when we dropped it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and killed over 200,000 Japanese civilians. In the 1960s and ’70s, America sought to display their might in the Vietnam War, sending hundreds of thousands of troops halfway around the world. After over 50,000 American soldiers died — and many more suffered physical and emotional wounds — U.S. forces withdrew from the war with no clear victory. Furthermore, in the 21st century, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to over 500,000 total deaths.
Today, we spend $732 billion on the military, which is more than the next ten countries combined — China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil at $726 billion. Not only that, but we are currently at war with six different countries.
Our country has come to represent a system of zero accountability, and we are reinforcing an idea that violence is the solution to all problems. It’s time for America to learn from the lessons of Tony Stark, and offer the world more than just blowing things up.
After Stark shut down his weapon manufacturing business, the money he put into science and technology saved the world from great evil. He proved that when science and technology are at the forefront of America’s agenda, there’s no obstacle that can’t be overcome. If the U.S. were to adopt that strategy in real life, then we’d be capable of making a push toward world peace.
Science and technology can help us create alternate forms of energy to fossil fuels that help protect the environment. They can create generic drugs and genetically modified foods that can significantly improve health, efficiency, and wealth leading people out of poverty. And it can create a globally connected economy where the success of all people and business is built on cooperation as opposed to conflict. However, in order for these technological advancements to work, world leaders must develop, guide, and control technology for the purpose of doing good. And because America has such a monumental impact on the rest of the world, we are responsible for using this technology to initiate peace.
Ultimately, even though Tony Stark is not a real person, I can’t help but feel a sense of patriotism when thinking of him. He has a swagger about him that says, “I’m the best, and I know it,” which is how America has always been idealized. If we can follow his actions, then America can finally turn that idealization into a reality.