Was John Kelly Right About The Civil War?

With battle lines drawn, maybe it really just came down to an inability to compromise

Years ago, and your age will determine exactly whether you can remember, our country was split. On one side, we had people welcoming government oversight and, on the other, those who felt that oversight interfered with the rights of the individual. When words couldn’t squelch the disagreements, they decided to talk with fists and guns. Very large guns. It pitted brother against brother and friend against friend. Lives were changed, some were lost, and relationships were altered — some irrevocably.

And all because Tony Stark got sad.


When White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s remarks about the Civil War starting due to a “lack of compromise” hit the internet, I immediately went to take off my smartass hat and put on my investigative journalist fedora. In a matter of hours, I managed to track down key players in the Civil War, including Tony Stark and Captain America (?) Steve Rogers. While it’s never hard to find Stark, Rogers was a tad tougher to track. The man is kind of a war criminal these days. But a few strange favors and a couple hundred bucks later, I found myself sitting in front of a man old enough to be my great-grandfather.

Over the course of several hours, I found myself doing interview after interview, asking the same questions, filling in the gaps where I could, flirting with Black Widow, all in hopes of proving General Kelly’s thesis: Could this whole thing have been avoided if everyone compromised?

“Look, I don’t have a problem with Tony,” said a pensive Steve Rogers from an undisclosed location. “In fact, despite what he may think and how he may feel, he’s my friend. But what I do have a problem with is the way he and the government went about it.”

Stark responded in kind.

“If by ‘went about it’ he means enacting a backup measure to make sure while we’re out their kicking ass and avenging, we don’t happen to blow up a school full of kids we were sent there to protect? Then yeah, sure. I’m not going to apologize for what happened or how it happened.”

In that moment, Starks let’s a little humanity slip through.

“And Rogers won’t either. Despite how perfect he wants the world to believe he is, he’s not the apologizing type.”

Yikes. Clearly these two still had issues with each other, but I also got the sense they cared deeply for each other but just couldn’t find the words to say so. Whoever said “love means never having to say you’re sorry” was clearly full of shit.

So what are we dealing with here? Well, thanks to the Sarkovia Accords, or the Superhero Registration Act as its known in some circles, guys and gals with powers need to work with the government rather than acting on their own. Stark believed this to be the way forward while Rogers, well let’s just say he had other plans. This Ken Burns-like brief documentary may do a better job of explaining than I can.

“When Steve gets his mind set on something, that’s pretty much what’s going to happen,” said Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff. “The problem with him being so hard-headed is Tony is just as hard-headed if not more. No, definitely more.”

I asked the former SHIELD agent if anything could’ve been done to stop this clash of the titans. She had an answer but even she wasn’t sure.

“Thor’s hammer?”

It was at this point Vison, the android of the group, chimed in.

“While I understand Captain…”

Black Widow quickly interrupts.

“Vis, I don’t think he’s a Captain anymore.”

“Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“It feels disrespectful not to refer to him in that way.”

“Wouldn’t it be even more disrespectful to actual Captains to call him something he’s not?”

“No more disrespectful than giving a man the title of Colonel all because he can fry a chicken.”

“You wouldn’t say that if you had taste buds.”

The two went back and forth like this for a while but what I think Vision would’ve said had the semantics of titles not come up, is that he believes oversight is not something to dismiss outright. While he understands Rogers’ point and doesn’t completely trust human beings to make the most logical decisions regarding where and when the Avengers should avenge, he believes that’s something that could’ve and would’ve been discussed at a later date. The problem is the later date never came.

“No more disrespectful than giving a man the title of Colonel all because he can fry a chicken.”

“Tony talked a lot about amendments and things we could do later, but I’ve seen that movie before and know exactly how it ends,” said a fuming Rogers. “You fight the battle, you shake hands, you go home, and then the true winners and losers are decided by men in fancy suits. And what’s most important, is those men have agendas.”

I think he’s talking about World War II but Rogers, ever the scholar, had another war in mind.

“When the Civil War ended and an entire race thought they’d be free, it turns out there were strings attached to that freedom. Strings they weren’t aware of because once again, an agenda meant more than the people.”

Well now my brain was percolating and I just had to ask the man in front of me if he saw any similarities with the disagreement he and Starks dealt with and the War Between the States centuries ago.

“You don’t mind if I curse do you?”

Fuck no, I did not.

“Heck no! Look, Tony, Natasha, Rhodie, Vision, and anyone else on that side simply disagrees with me. And maybe cooler heads could’ve prevailed if we were better men and women but despite how super we are, we’re not gods. Well Thor’s a god but he wasn’t here. But the Civil War? The actual Civil War? There’s no compromise there. Slavery isn’t something you can compromise on.”

I ask Stark the same question and he responds in the most Tony Stark way possible after picking himself up off the floor from laughing for what feels like five minutes.

“Kid, how old are you? Never mind, doesn’t matter. Look, we had a violent disagreement. My best friend got pretty messed up, yeah, but it started because that thing guys on the Hill call ‘diplomacy’ didn’t work. But I don’t see how you diplomat your way out of one group of people wanting to keep slaves and the other saying maybe we shouldn’t do that.

“The government wants us to be held accountable for our actions, and I know how much of a shock this is coming from me, but I don’t have an issue with that. But slavery, beating people, forcing a way of life on them they didn’t ask for? I gotta say that’s a bit more than a slight disagreement.”

“When the Civil War ended and an entire race thought they’d be free, it turns out there were strings attached to that freedom. Strings they weren’t aware of because once again, an agenda meant more than the people.”

Crazy how after all the bickering, verbal fighting, and actual fighting, these two finally agreed on something. I ask him if he feels Rogers committed treason by going against the will of the government.

“Treason is a strong word, dont you think? It’s not like he’s Robert E. Lee, a guy who decided it was in his best interest to fight for a lost cause and defied the President of the United States. The accords was just an agreement put in front of us and if Steve felt he didn’t want to sign, and God I wish he had, then he chose not to be in the superhero business anymore. And last I checked, he’s not. Food for thought, but when your way of life involves raping, beating women and children, tortue, and things only supervillains find entertaining, maybe that’s a way of life not worth perserving. “

But, I interjected, some would call General Lee an “honorable man.”

“Yeah, well, some people call a guy Colonel just because he can fry a piece of chicken.”

Marcus Benjamin is a danger to the public, an alum of American University, St. John’s University, a screenwriter, and has an intense relationship with words. Witness his tomfoolery on Twitter,@AbstractPo3tic.

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