The Tyranny of the Empire
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith raises numerous questions about the state and future of our country today, as well as invoking themes from Plato’s Republic in its critical analysis of our government and domestic policies. The symbolism and imagery employed spoke to the destruction of a just democracy and its degradation into a tyranny under Emperor Palpatine’s rule. Even more importantly, it carried a strong warning for America’s future, especially in a world of fear and uncertainty potentially leading to a tyrannical executive-driven government.
The first aspect that Star Wars touched on was the evil of granting executive power to an individual. Palpatine’s ascension to ultimate power was obtained by creating a war to engineer the Republic’s vote to his continued time in power, and to grant him further ‘emergency’ powers that gave rise to his reign over the Empire. The emperor created the war that inspired such fear in the people that they submitted to his authority, no matter what the costs were, in exchange for protection. This could be likened to the current-day situation in our country as many see it; the never-ending specter of a global ‘war on terrorism’ may be a way to divert attention and resources elsewhere while holding a fearful country back home hostage with programs that increase executive power such as the Patriot Act.
The climactic battle between Yoda and Palpatine metaphorically takes place in the vacant senate chambers. In his power-thirsty rage, the Emperor smashes the empty seats and strews them across the room in an attempt to crush Yoda. This struggle is symbolic of the decisions that are made with the power granted to an executive, such as the President. The abuses that may be committed in the absence of a proper delegation are not to be underestimated; this could be representative of prisoner treatment outside the United States and of foreign combatants, such as the disputes arising from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The most chillingly symbolic image of the movie was perhaps Padmé’s speech to Anakin. “You have become exactly the thing you vowed to fight,” she tells him. Indeed, Anakin has epitomized the tyrannical man: his lust for greed has corrupted his entire view of the world and destroyed his sense of truth and justice. This is exactly the eventual plight of the United States as it degrades toward a tyranny if its path is not diverted; the very founding ideals upon which the country was based are being overridden and overlapped even as this paper is written. The individual freedoms and rights that the Constitution has guaranteed for centuries are now being rolled back over the process of a few years; Americans being held as enemy combatants are now no longer granted the rights guaranteed to them by their Constitution. Nearly every amendment and clause can be broken in the name of national security, and this trump card is being applied more than ever as individual freedoms shift toward a greater executive power.