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The Punisher and Its Relationship to the Alt-Right

Judith Boza - Teen Aspect - September 19, 2022

The Punisher is a fictional antihero from the Marvel Comic universe. The character, created by writer Gerry Conway and artist John Romita, is portrayed as an Italian-American vigilante who uses murder, kidnapping, extortion, compulsion, threats of violence, and torture in his fight against crime. The Punisher is well-known for the skull motif on his chest, representing his brutality and determination to murder. Since then, long-time fans of the Punisher include law enforcement officials, military personnel, and a sizable portion of the political right, including white nationalists. The late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who wrote the book American Sniper, wore the Punisher insignia while on deployment. He has since been largely credited with popularizing the moniker. In his 2012 book, Kyle stated, "We all felt what the Punisher did was cool: He righted wrongs." So, we changed his insignia, a skull, to fit our style.

In light of the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, is it really fair for these right-winged police officers to attribute themselves to this sort of symbol?

As officers remained stationed for 77 minutes on each end of a long corridor with sky blue and green walls, surrounded by bulletin boards featuring children's artwork, would it be fair to say they share the same characteristics as a superhero? According to Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Pete Arredondo, the police chief of the Uvalde School District, concluded that the officers should refrain from confronting the attacker because he thought that the active attack had ended. In the weeks following the tragedy in Uvalde, a debate has raged over the response of the police and whether or not more lives would have been spared had they approached the gunman earlier. Does society have a right to expect a group of police officers to take a life-threatening danger while performing their duties?

Ordinary people who have been caught in the sights of school shooters have also had to decide whether or not to risk their lives for the greater good. Liviu Librescu, a 78-year-old engineering professor at Virginia Tech, barred his classroom door with his body during the 2007 assault and instructed his students to flee via windows. He died as a result of his injuries when the shooter gained access. Riley Howell, a student, died at the age of 21 in 2019 after he attacked a gunman who was firing into a crowded classroom at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, receiving bullets to the head and chest as he smashed his body into the shooter's, as he halted the slaughter. Kendrick Castillo, an 18-year-old student at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado, leaped at a gunman who opened fire on his literature class the same year, allowing a group of other students to subdue the assailant. Castillo, too, was killed for his bravery.

The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor States, “On my honor, I will never betray my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always maintain the highest ethical standards and uphold the values of my community, and the agency I serve.” Contrary to what is shown in superhero comics, when that officer swore the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor, there was no whimsical reality.

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