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Team Iron Man: Keeping Us Accountable} ?> Tony Stark knows the people of Earth are in danger and he’s going to protect them whether they want him to or not.
He is so determined to shield them that he rides a nuclear bomb through a wormhole in The Avengers. In Iron Man 3, he builds dozens of suits, planning for any and every possible scenario, always fearing it won’t be enough. In Age of Ultron, he finally sees a way to keep the world safe (though it backfires horribly).
“I see a suit of armour around the world,” he says. Every action he takes is a means towards that end.
That’s how deeply the knowledge of imminent danger has rooted itself in Iron Man’s mind.
When the Avengers themselves start being held to account for the deaths caused by their world-saving actions, Stark sees a huge problem. Vision spells it out in Civil War: “Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe.”
Stark is burdened with the knowledge that catastrophe is coming, and he wants the Avengers to be the solution, not the cause. That’s why the idea of accountability is so important to him. Each time they save the planet, hundreds—maybe thousands—of innocent people die in the process. Each of those deaths weigh heavily on Stark’s conscience.
Captain America is asking the world to trust a team of people who could destroy the planet on a bad day. By signing the Sokovia Accords, Stark is attempting to put some accountability in place. I also think he might feel the lives of thousands of people should not be in his hands alone. While Captain America is a soldier and has had the backing of the U.S. Army to justify his wartime actions, Stark became Iron Man because his name was on weapons that had killed thousands; he was taking responsibility for his actions.
I can only imagine the weight of being responsible for one person’s death, much less thousands. This is a burden no one should have to carry alone.
Power without accountability is a scenario that tends to play out the same way, time and time again. It gets out of control. But how do we balance accountability with freedom?
Accountability is built on trust. Trust requires relationship. Trying to hold someone accountable without a foundation of trust is just an accusation; it’s demanding someone believe what you’re saying about them instead of what they see in themselves.
When I look at my closest relationships, I see the importance of trust and accountability. We trust each other to offer the hard piece of advice when the other needs to hear it. Part of that trust is humbling yourself and realizing the other person might see something you don’t. That’s why accountability is so important to me, and why Tony Stark thinks it’s necessary.
Stark knows Captain America won’t sign the Sokovia Accords from the moment they’re written. I don’t believe Stark thinks Cap is totally wrong, just that he’s not seeing the whole picture.
Without the Accords, how is the family member of an innocent person crushed by falling debris in the New York attack supposed to feel? How could she believe the Avengers are heroes when they exist above justice itself? Would Captain America be able to meet that person’s eyes and say, “Yes, it’s our fault your loved one is dead. But nothing will be done about it because others were saved”? How long will the world allow the Avengers to operate if their actions suffer absolutely no consequences?
Cap believes in the American ideal of “Freedom above all else,” but he forgets that freedom doesn’t come without a cost. By signing the Sokovia Accords, Tony Stark is picking up the tab for Cap’s freedom.