Star Wars as History Lesson
Over the years I’ve made it a habit to buy a Christmas gift for the office. These gifts typically are some type of food appliance such as coffee makers, espresso machines and the like. One year I solicited suggestions from employees that included an Icee machine and my personal favorite – a money booth that blows cash around. The booth idea quickly faded after someone observed that it could make a great payroll alternative for direct deposit.
This year I decided to give them a popcorn maker reminiscent of the kind found in movie theaters. Encased in clear plastic and trimmed in red, it conveys a certain carnival atmosphere to the kitchen and guarantees that whatever happens during 2016, our office memories will be forever coated with a film of buttery staleness. Thank you Williams Sonoma and my high degree of suggestibility.
Popcorn rarely makes my surplus calories list but I do partake at the movies especially if my ten year old is with me. I cannot allow him to eat all of those artery-choking kernels by himself. This held true last week at the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens showing where we all shared a small bag as Harrison Ford and Mark Hamel resumed their good actor/bad actor gig.
As the film opened with the prologue drifting off into space, I wondered if Americans could ever care about their real history as much as they did about a George Lucas creation. My son, whose vast exposure to Star Wars has been filtered almost entirely through Lego sets, can unravel all of the past empires, rebellions, separatist movements, republics and resistance groups without effort. If only he retains that amazing memorization ability when he reaches high school.
At least Lucas has made it easy to separate the good from the bad – a discernment of our own history that has become almost impossible by sensitivity-correct academics and a student population who has replaced independent research with a twenty second Google search. We easily see in Star Wars that totalitarian empires are bad, republics are good, evil exists and armed rebellions are sometimes necessary.
Lucas has consistently carried this message across a multitude of films. More than all of the World War II films made since 1945, including Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, the Star Wars series may best convey the dangers of 20th century totalitarianism to a newly born 21st century audience.
More importantly, Lucas carries forward the notion that totalitarianism ultimately dies at the hands of the individual. It takes a Han Solo, politically incorrect, unafraid to speak and individually armed to defeat an empire.
In our early American history, we called those individuals Patriots or Founding Fathers. That was before they became casualties in the current War of Equalization where historical figures are judged not by their broad historical impact, courage, personal sacrifice or intellectual vision according to their own time but by their ability to pass a post-modern societal blacklist of contorted slights and offenses.
This War of Equalization is a temporary luxury for the ignorant. As Star Wars reminds us, we are only one episode away from the next great empire threatening our freedom. A lesson hopefully understood by a new American generation pressured from kindergarten to be quietly sensitive lest they give offense.