By Ron Lee
“Duh, duh, duh, dah-dee-duh, da-dee-duh ...” The Imperial March by John Williams - You know it; it’s a piece of musical composition magic which evokes images of dark lords and ominous agendas of absolute control over everything good and free. Never before had the concept of politics been introduced to me in my youth better than when I was gripped by the intense sci-drama that was Star Wars; and at 7-years-old when Star Wars first made its way onto the silver screen, the impact it had on me was life altering. Star Wars made real-world history exciting for me. For not only was the drama of good versus evil prevalent in our history as a country, it is all that has ever been throughout world history. For instance, the similarity between our forefathers’ fight for independence from an oppressive monarchy and that of a rebel alliance fighting a dark emperor who yoked the people to his will was not lost on me. However, in Star Wars the rebel alliance fought to restore its representative form of governance (the Old Republic, as it was called in the films) our forefathers fought to establish the first (and only) of it’s kind, Constitutional Republic - so perhaps the analogy is better served in these modern times of ours as our country devolves into a centrally controlled regulatory state that determines for its people what is best for them.
Star Wars’ bold vision of a political polarity became affirmed for me as truth when I had the opportunity to experience first-hand the political differences between a “free” state and that of a “controlled” state.
While travelling Europe with my grandparents - around the same time Empire Strikes Back was first released - we toured West Berlin. It was a glorious city with a happy people who were very willing to show hospitality and friendliness. What a stark contrast to that of East Berlin. Even the passage into the East through the famed “Checkpoint Charlie” was reminiscent of moving through an Imperial Storm-trooper stronghold. As we moved deeper into the city I looked out of our tour bus’ window and noticed that the citizens of East Berlin walked solemnly, with heads held low. There were no cheery faces, no glee, no children’s laughing voices echoing through the streets playing in the parks, but there were armed army men scattered throughout watching the people move about the streets.
Our tour guide, an East German who got on at the checkpoint along with a new driver, refused to answer many of the questions we asked him. Simple questions like, “is life good here?” and “don’t you ever want to leave?” I mean we were free Americans trying to understand an oppressed people’s perspective. At one stop, a beautiful cathedral in East Berlin, our tour guide stepped off the bus with us. He walked close and spoke softly, “I couldn’t answer your questions, the bus driver watches me.” He went on to tell us that he had evacuated his family and had come back to his home to get a few things but was caught by the closing of the border between the East and West. He told us that he missed getting back to them by 5 minutes. His eyes welled with tears as he told us he hadn’t seen them since, that he only had limited contact with them over the years. “But,” he said, and I will remember this always, “life is good if you do what you are told.” He went on to say he had a good job, a nice apartment, but all he wanted was to be with his family - something he said could happen for him soon. He explained that East Germany had been “releasing” retired senior citizens to the West because it couldn’t afford to pay for them, and that he wasn’t that far away. It was then that I realized the polarizing truth between the light and dark side of what George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars universe, coined as “the Force.” Not only was it a way to look at the world in a quasi-religious fashion, it was the clear-cut difference between political styles - oppression and freedom.
Star Wars introduced the concept of freedom to me by showing that darkness could manifest itself through the complete control of a people and it helped me realize that my life had meaning beyond being a production drone or faceless storm-trooper controlled by some far off regime. It was through my imaginary battles between Jedi and Dark Lords that I concluded I would dare to fight for freedom and for my country, which embodied freedom’s very essence; that I would fight for everything that is just and true and right; that I would be a Jedi.
Here we are today. With blazing light-speed, in these past few months (slowly and stealthily over the past 90+ years), our government is taking control. Everything is emergent, now. The economy, health-care, automotive industry, tobacco, immigration, the internet ... oh, and the dreaded flu, all are dire issues, and guess who is here to save you from these catastrophes ... the US Government. Like Palpatine, the once senator from Naboo turned Emperor in Star Wars who created a war and rallied the old republic behind him, and his ultimate agenda for controlling everything, by propagating a fear of the proposed alternatives; Obama the once senator turned President has presented to the public the frightening future without government intervention and the picture he paints is of a broke country whose people are sick and intolerant of each other. In reality the opposite is true and has been proven time and again throughout history. Less “control” has always equaled more prosperity.
Bottom line, a just society is one based on personal freedoms and restrictions on government control; anything else becomes an evil empire, and people are waking up to this fact. They are seeing the writing on the wall and viewing reality through the fictitious truths told on the silver screen like in Star Wars, where a righteous few fight for their sovereignty against all odds. The Rebel Alliance, the Jedi, the common people, and the little Ewoks all rose to meet the challenge and fight against corrupt evil control. Will it happen here, now? Will a united alliance emerge to rescue the country and save the day? Cheesy, I know, but true nonetheless.
Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn
With all of my heart, I hope the political lessons of Star Wars have not been lost on the multitude who found themselves so enthralled with the films.
Writer’s Note: Someone special likens me to Luke,staring off into the sky with wide-eyes hoping that change will come. I wouldn’t mind being Luke. He finally stepped-up and faced the dark side, after flirting with it briefly, of course. He was a true hero, even if he was a little whiney. Personally, I find myself more akin to Qui-Gon Jinn, already knowing right from wrong and willing to make the tough choices for what is right at any cost. Besides, I kinda look like him :)