Monday, November 14, 2005

The First Galactic Empire of America

In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, we see the story of how the Republic is transformed into the Galactic Empire. Setting the tone for the next three movies of the original Star Wars series, this epic movie contains the story that answers all the questions about how the galaxy came to be ruled by a tyrannical empire. The claim that any moviemaker produces his work with the sole intention of entertaining audiences, especially in the case of the Star Wars series, shows an ignorance of history and of modern times. However, to understand how Star Wars, specifically Revenge of the Sith, is relevant to our current political situation as well as past political models, we need other tools.
The tools we can use to analyze this episode of Star Wars are the cycle of societies and leaders that Socrates describes in The Republic and a working knowledge of current events. In episode three, the story is told of how a government and a society move from the democratic stage of existence into the tyrannical stage. The leader that causes this change is Emperor Palpatine, who engineers a conflict so that he can gain more personal power. Although this was an engineered conflict authored by Palpatine, it shows the justification for the existence of a tyrannical leader and a more heavy-handed government. In a move to expand executive power, Palpatine continually requests more emergency powers from the senate, a move that, viewed through a Socratic lens, would show the tyrannical man gaining more power for himself and to satisfy his evil desires as the society moves away from democracy.
In order to make Star Wars relevant to our current state as a nation, we need to focus on a few critical events and trends. The events would include anything relevant to The War on Terrorism or lawsuits involving executive power. The War on Terrorism is simply a crusade by the Bush administration to eliminate terrorism worldwide. Arguably, this is an engineered conflict because terrorism has always been a part of the working of our globalized world, and it cannot be eradicated completely. U.S. Presidents have had to deal with terrorism in the past, and have done so on an individual basis, by responding to threats as they are received, not creating a world-spanning campaign to completely eradicate any form of dissent to U.S. foreign policy. In this sense, the Bush Administration has created a conflict in order to expand their influence over the country, similar to the manner in which Palpatine drains the power of the democratically elected senate in order to gain more personal power through the use of an engineered war.
The role of the executive is a consistent theme among The Republic, Star Wars, and the situation of the United States today. We see that in both Star Wars and in the United States, there is a push on the part of the executive branch to gain more power for themselves and take away the influence that democratic elements of the society have in ruling, and this trend is described accurately by Socrates. In the description of the tyrannical man and how he comes to be the leader of a democratic society, Socrates claims that a tyrannical government arises out of the need for security. So, both Emperor Palpatine and Emperor Bush… or, President Bush create situations where the public sees a need for security, and will accept power being placed in the hands of one man so that they can be safe from perceived threats. However, a tyranny takes place when these are engineered or over exaggerated threats. Add into the mix an ignorant public, and a society focused on greed, flash, and material possessions, a tyrannical government will thrive in exercising its right to rule. Scenes of life on Coruscant where people are attending night clubs, and the general tone is of flashiness are representations of the shallowness of American culture today, which promotes ideals of instant gratification and blissful ignorance. In conclusion, when we examine the similarities between the story told in Star Wars and the United States of America today, many connections become clear. Whether or not George Lucas intended to paint a subtle portrait of the dark path that the United States is walking down today is not clear, however as individuals in a democratic society we can draw our own conclusions and write about them so that the public can hear our opinions. Let’s hope it stays that way.


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