Who are we again?
by Matt Worley
The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
So says Princess Leia right before Alderaan blows up in front of her eyes.
In the first three (as far as when they were released, although not in terms of the "history" of the Star Wars universe), the Rebels are the al Qaida and the Empire is us. The U.S. And yet, we root for the Rebels. I don't remember a big faction of movie goers coming out of the movie proclaiming that "might makes right." That we really need a big gun to keep everyone in line.
Of course it was the 70s, so maybe everyone was just stoned (but I must say I wasn't and neither were my brothers). This is the easy explanation, and kind of a bad joke. So let's get a little deeper.
How is it, 30 years after cheering on the Rebels terrorist act of blowing up the original Death Star, that we as a nation have repeatedly failed to learn lessons from our past? Both from our own military actions (Vietnam and the first Gulf War) and our popular culture. Maybe we are all stoned, since no one seems to remember what happened last week (recap: Lindsay Lohan went into rehab, and, oh yeah, the Russian President accused us of starting a new cold war), much less farther back in the past.
Another thing to think about: the Rebels were a consortium of all different races, genders and body types. The Empire was very white and male.
I've said many times in the past that my distrust of authority (which can verge on much stronger emotions at times) is directly associated with the Rebels in the Star Wars flicks. And, possibly, my parent's distrust of Nixon and Reagan. I know that by the time the 1980 election came around, my parents were aware Carter was not going to get re-elected, but I also remember the genuine heartbreak my parents' felt at the news of Reagan's win.
Reagan has become, especially in the last few years since Bush has fallen from his heights of popularity, a great President to many. All of the Republicans running for President in 2008 would love to be Reagan. When I was a kid, Reagan scared the shit out of me. So maybe I should thank him for my anti-authority stance, too. He was the real-life personification of the evil Empire.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. I think most people use it to think of "better times" in their head. That if they look back and think about all the things they really liked from years ago, it makes them feel better about today. They don't think of the bad things that were going hand in hand with their favorite things. Raindrops on roses, indeed.
We all filter the past through different colored glasses. On some days, I pick up the rose colored ones and forget about the bad times. Others, I can't see past the perceived (and real) injustices I endured.
We all have skeletons in our past. Things we're not proud of. Those times when we thought no one was looking, so we silently thought maybe the Empire wasn't so bad. If we just give in and go along with the popular crowd, everything would be just fine. Drink the Kool-Aid and wait for it to kick in.
But as part of this new millennial empire, we need to put our glasses down and look at everything with clear eyes. This "war on terror" is pretty much us stabbing ourselves with our own knives. Every once in a while those jabs hit a parasite or two, but the rest of the body is starting to fail from those wild swipes of the knife as well as other problems.
It isn't the guy with TB flying all over the globe, it's our shabby, unequal and overly expensive health care system. It isn't the immigrants coming to our country for a chance at a better life (just like most of our family trees did in decades and centuries past), it is the widening gap between the super rich and the rest of us. And it isn't in Iraq (where we can't tell the difference between the good and bad guys until they start shooting or blowing things up), it's in our own hearts.
Do we want to be the Empire? Do we want to be the Rebels? And does it really matter what we want as regular people as much as what our leaders want?
The people who want to run our country are telling us every day how they want to do it. Listen close because there is a future somewhere in all of those slogans and sound bites. We just have to sort it all out for ourselves.