Occasionally, we here at The NYRD like to bring in experienced and knowledgeable people to go deeper into topics we can only begin to touch on. So with the success of Captain America: Civil War and our own pros and cons article on superhuman registration we thought now would be a good time to introduce our resident expert on superhumans, Lieutenant General (ret.) Walter “Skip” Overaard PhD. Skip is a professor of Homo-Preculma Studies at Wyndham Hall University and currently resides in the Marvel Universe -though he has been known to move around.
A Measured Approach to the Superhuman
I have ordered the sons and daughters of America to pull weapons on our superhuman brethren in the past. Some may recall the brief period of time wherein the President enacted martial law in response to a growing concern of the perceived threat of our homo-superior citizens. I was a 57 year old combat-proven leader with over 35 years of experience at that time and yet nothing up until that point had shaken me so thoroughly to the core of my essence than to draw a weapon on a person who was saving lives.
I have seen, firsthand, the impact and effects that fear had on the American public and government and realized that I, a two star general, did not have the power to influence it positively. This operation was my last in the US Army and was ultimately responsible for my retirement. I knew I needed to do something to improve the attitudes of the American public, the livelihood of the homo-superior community, and the safety of the US government. I decided to study, in depth, our relationship with the superhuman population and to become an ambassador to their community.
I am currently a professor of homo-superior studies and I am pro-registration. This may be highly surprising. How could one seeking to serve as a scholar and ambassador to homo-superiors be pro-registration? I admit that my support comes with a great deal of stipulations and cautions that the larger community must discuss before we hastily employ any such law. But, I am supportive of the concept.
Registration at the Core
There is a powerful argument that circulates whenever a group discusses the reasons ‘for’ or ‘against’ superhuman registration. Some posit: ‘If I have to register a weapon then a superhuman should register their powers.’ The same can be said of a library card, a car, or a digital copy of a downloaded video game. This is generally unhinged by the counterargument that owning each of these things, and thus being mandated to register it, is a choice and therefore cannot be compared to something with which a person is born.
Here is where we must be careful. There is a supposition that simply because someone is born with a difference the government cannot enforce a registration for that variance in birth. I do not wish to alarm anyone with fragile sensibilities, but the US government already makes members of the population register based on (1) what they are or (2) the genetic differences with which they are born. I speak as an expert in this area as I am one who meets the criteria. The Military Selective Service Act mandates all men between the ages of 18 and 26 to register with the federal government in the event a draft is enacted for war. Noncompliance is punishable by jail time. Sound familiar?
Congress is currently debating if this should be extended to women now that all military occupational specialties are open to women within the Armed Services. However, the fact remains that we have established a requirement for a cross section of the population to register based on nothing more than the way they are genetically composed. In fact, we have had this in effect since May 18th of 1917. It was established to support and defend the constitution and the inherent freedoms provided by that document. Why must we view superhuman registration any differently than this?
However, the current bill for superhuman registration does not function in the same capacity as our Selective Service Act. The current bill is more of an ‘active’ summons for the homo-superior community rather than the more ‘passive’ Selective Service. Instead of filling out a registration card at a US Post office, mailing it to the government, and then waiting for a draft to be enacted, the homo-superior will be required to be actively checked. This is the aspect on which the public must truly evaluate registration. Not the fact that there is registration but the manner in which it is enforced and how it differs from so many other types of registration.
A superhuman would need to register their powers at a verified test site established by the Department of Defense. The basic information (like name, social security number, etc) is input into a database along with more complicated information related to the person’s powers. For instance, the government will be copying energy signatures, codifying power levels, and assessing other factors like intelligence, stamina, and physical strength.
This is projected to be a week long process for most, but I suspect that it could be longer for some of our truly talented homo-superior brethren. Imagine attempting to codify the sheer intellect of someone like Reed Richards. One may argue that we do not have tests that would capture the relative genius hidden inside his brain housing group, as we often struggle to assess and codify homo-sapien intellect with most metrics being imperfect and overly rigid.
Furthermore, think of how we would assess powers. I will stay on the example of Dr. Richards. The elasticity of his body and the extent he can stretch would be tested. But how far will the testing go in order to satisfy the researchers and to meet the criteria of the testing? Do we push Mr. Richards to the absolute limits? Imagine that I, as a federal agent, called you up and told you that in two weeks’ time you will report to a closed facility to do push-ups, running, lifting, jumping, climbing, and whatever else to test your physical capacity until you vomit. I doubt many readers would willingly sign up. When one envisions this scenario it becomes clear that this is not just registration but a highly invasive evaluation that the majority of the public would fight if enforced upon them.
And yet the testing may not even be as invasive as the suggested tracking measures. The government would require superhuman individuals to provide their home of record. Not too harsh of a requirement. However, they must inform the government, federal and local, if they plan on moving, and whenever they arrive in a new state they have 72 hours to inform the same agencies of their whereabouts. In the event a registered person does not report in within the stipulated time, he or she can be arrested for ‘willful negligence in providing accurate and timely information on personal whereabouts.’ This is akin to the requirements placed on convicted sex offenders, not American citizens that have committed no crime.
But I think the most troublesome part of this section are the bevy of details outlining when it applies: who needs to be contacted, how the government agency will be notified, ramifications for failure to notify that agency within a certain time and so many exceptions to each rule that you need to be a genius to understand and remember it all. And though many of our homo-superior citizens have genius level intellect, it does not mean they all do. Furthermore, this law also applies to our homo-sapien citizens with homo-superior offspring. This section exceeds the level of confusion found in some variable annuity plans, and is dangerous and irresponsible to the extreme because it has the potential to put our citizen’s at risk of breaking the law without them knowing why or how they have done so.
Last and most tantamount to the reticence of the active portions of the bill is ‘federalization.’ This term means that there would be opportunities for the homo-superior that register to be ‘federalized’ or commissioned into federal service. Plainly this means that you enter public service for the federal government (military, civil, or constabulary) which comes with training, pay, insurance, and other benefits. This is no different than joining the Marines or Air Force. Homo-superior with certain abilities could be researchers with the Food and Drug Administration or other agencies within the federal government.
This may cause chafing within the general public and our masked superhero community as it sounds like this public service is mandatory. Let me set the record straight and state that it is not mandatory to be ‘federalized.’ This is optional. However, if heroes wish to continue fighting crime then federalization is mandatory. This is tied heavily to the next core argument in the registration debate.
The concept of unmasking is extremely unappealing to many of our nation’s greatest heroes. There is a perception that operating with no anonymity places you and your loved ones at risk of attack from your enemies. That is somewhat understandable from a perspective of safety. But it is counter to the way this nation operates for two reasons. First, it affords the masked person anonymity that other citizens do not receive in similar professions that contain inherent risk. Secondly, it diminishes all accountability by allowing that individual to operate outside the professions or governing bodies that require training, certification, and self-policing.
The individuals that currently protect the US constitution and the citizens of this great nation do not wear masks to protect their identities. They do it openly so the citizenry knows who they are and so that the governing body can hold them accountable. This ensures they are working within the scope of that agency, be it a city police force or a federal branch of the military. Do these people run risks of having their families targeted by enemies of the state in the form of criminals or terrorists? Yes, that risk exists. So what makes a superhero more vulnerable?
First, there can be an argument made that it is an issue of scale and importance. In terms of scale the number of police officers and military personnel is overwhelming and so they are viewed as a mass and not necessarily as single entities that can be targeted. Heroes are a smaller subsection and inherently seem easier to target. In terms of importance, some might say that a beat cop or a US Marine private does not garner the same media attention and would thus not be targeted as aggressively as a powerful superhuman. The gain is greater for those who target important people.
However, I find the latter argument particular insulting, as it assumes the lives of the less powerful are not as important OR at risk as ‘superheroes.’ I scoff at this, but will address it nonetheless to place some perspective on the matter. As a Division commander in my former life, I held a Top Secret clearance, had more than 13,000 Soldiers under my command, and was accountable for billions of dollars of military grade equipment. I did not wear a mask. More to the point, in an age of active terrorism with threats abroad and within our country, we know there are people seeking to exploit men and women that are in similar situations to the one which I described. Do they operate in masks to protect themselves and their families? Plainly, they do not. They must accept the risks inherent with the responsibility of upholding the law, defending the constitution, and protecting the citizens of their community.
For all the discussion about and outrage over establishing new standards for a group of people, most have yet to discuss that the different standards already exist. We have masked heroes acting outside the law with impunity. Registration seeks to correct this. We do not allow people to practice medicine, fight in wars, fight crime, or practice law without the training, certification, and accountability associated with those professions. It is illegal to do so and common sense for why we require this training and management by a profession or agency.
Let me present two scenarios:
A)First, a person in a mask chases after an alleged criminal, acting in the name of the law, and tackles that man in order to subdue him. Is he helping society? Possibly. This person, though he may be stopping a criminal, is acting outside of the law and committing a number of crimes.
B)Second, a masked woman conducts surgery on a man that requires a life-saving treatment. She is successful and the man lives. Is this person helping society? Yes. Is she breaking the law? In most instances, yes.
Let us suppose in both instances that the masked person made mistakes. The masked crime fighter destroys property in his chase and the masked surgeon leaves something in his patient and causes harm. Was this an honest mistake or was this person never properly instructed? We aren’t sure because we don’t know how this person was trained, let alone certified to act within this profession. Who is accountable? Nobody. We have no idea who those personnel are. Furthermore, there is no overarching body that regulates them.
For both of these scenarios we have trained personnel that already conduct these functions and who are managed by a governing body. The police officer is mandated to uphold the law by the city, state, or county and the doctor has a responsibility to his or her patients and is given a license by their state medical board. Each has been trained in the procedures of their profession and held accountable if they do not conduct themselves accordingly. The superhero whom registers can then work under an agency like the US Navy, the FDA, SHILED, or the Department of Homeland Security. The American public knows who the person is, knows that they have received training from that institution, and can hold that person and the agency for which he or she works accountable.
I urge the American public, which includes our superhuman citizens, to think very carefully about registration. It can protect both homo-sapiens and homo-superiors if drafted and executed properly. Yet, if we rush to pass a failed law we may rush to failure. If we support a bill constructed from haste and fear, we may establish a system which overreaches and hurts our relations with our neighbors. We cannot be reactionary. This is a deliberate process that requires a great deal of reflection and planning.
I am pro-registration but I understand that in order to make this work properly, we must come together as a body of law makers, homo-superiors, superheroes, and American citizens to find an equitable and wise answer for how to implement the bill.