A civil war is looming over comic book and film fans alike, and it has already begun to take its toll, driving multiple debates between myself and Tess Jones, who may be authoring the Registration Papers. The fight over the question of superhero registration is a serious one that poses serious questions for real world political and moral values. While this obviously takes place in a separate world (MCU is a fair choice, but I will also pull from canon within the books), the question addresses that world’s United States.
So, while this might be a separate universe, we can assume relatively similar conditions and mindsets to those facing the real life United States. While those arguing for registration may have everyone’s best intentions in mind, and I certainly feel a great deal of respect for Mr. Stark, I must take up the Star-Spangled Banner alongside Mr. Rogers (not that one) and argue in opposition of superhuman registration.
The question of how much liberty humans ought to forfeit in exchange for what measure of safety is one that is as old as government itself. While a totalitarian state is the most safe for a nation, it also asks too much of the people living under its social contract. Superhuman registration is a fundamental violation of the right to privacy found in the US constitution, and established by the Supreme Court in the 1965 case Griswold v. Connecticut. The majority of superhumans, and the one’s I am personally concerned with, receive their abilities either by natural born mutation, or medical development, and the government has no right to know either of those.
First, genetic super humans. Prominently featured among the X-Men these are beings born through the process of evolution with whatever ability they may possess, and that’s the important thing, it is theirs. Most legal arguments currently view DNA and other genetic information as being the private concern of the individual or even property. While the specifics are still being hashed out in court, it is clear which way the wind is blowing. The government has no right to know what your genetic makeup is because it is most likely your patent-able property, and if it isn’t, it certainly is no one else’s business.
As for those who develop their abilities through misadventure, often from radiation like the Hulk and Spider-Man, that is your own personal medical concern. The medical field is one of the primary fields of concern for the right to privacy. The only time you can be compelled to share your medical status is if your have a disease that can be spread to someone else, and even then you don’t have to register yourself as someone with a disease, you’re just quarantined until you no longer pose a threat to anyone else.
Many would say that someone with nothing to hide shouldn’t be scared of releasing information, but if the state is fine with everyone’s information being shared, why not make everyone’s private information public? Maybe my exceptional height is a sign that I’m developing into Colossus, so I should be monitored to ensure I don’t develop into a superhuman. That is the same argument that every major surveillance program ever used on innocent civilians, most prominently the NSA scandal revealed by Edward Snowden. With total surveillance, the government could possibly know more about an individual knows about them self.
Not every superhuman knows that they are a superhuman. Many don’t see any manifestation of their powers until late in life, and some have powers so small that they wouldn’t even notice it them self, like a mutant with Dr. Xavier whose ability is changing the TV channel at will by blinking. What would be done with these truant registrations? Punishment would be unethical for someone with a condition they were unaware of, and if that argument holds, then any superhuman could claim ignorance upon interrogation. To punish people for circumstances beyond their control and beyond the rightful knowledge of the government is the wrong action.
In Part II of the Anti-Registration Papers, I will discuss concerns for the safety of the superhumans themselves.