Today is Independence Day, July 4th 2016. There is no better time to reflect on why we shoot off all the fireworks and wave the flags. It’s not all about what we did in the past, it’s also about where we are going….and what we want to avoid.
I am by no means a political expert, nor do I even like politics, but I know this much about a democracy or a democratic government – it’s just like anything else—treat it with respect and it will return the favor; abuse take it for granted, and it will rear its ugly head. That’s what’s great about a democracy, it allows us to be free, say what we want, and do what we want within certain boundaries. It takes a certain amount of common sense to understand the balance between saying/doing whatever you want and actually doing it. It seems lately our society is forgetting all about common sense and doing whatever thought enters its collective mind without any sort of moral filter. This is a Star Wars/politics blog so I want to discuss what the threat is to our democracy, with a little bit of Star Wars lessons mixed in for taste.
The idea of a democracy is a sound one (this coming from a person who hasn’t lived under any other type of government), work hard, earn money, raise a family if so chosen—basically do what’s right, abide the laws and no one will bother you. Once that democracy is threatened or has lost its way— the populous will feel ashamed, angry and vengeful. There’s a pretty common example of this that led up to World War II. After the First World War, Germany was forced to pay reparations by the allied powers for the damage it had caused. Feeling angry and ashamed by the time Hitler became Chancellor, the German people were eager to gain some of their self-respect back in any way possible. Hitler said all the right things, as far as Germans were concerned. He blamed someone for all their woes, in this case like many in the past, the Jews were demonized for all of Germany’s problems, and the Germans ate it up faster than the Sarlacc ate Boba Fett. Within a matter of a few years, the Weimar Republic gave way to the National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazi Party for short—from free republic to Nazi dictatorship. Words of fear and hatred spread throughout Germany from anti-Semitic speeches, homophobic beliefs, and the mentally challenged were sought to be exterminated. “Gypsies” and blacks were also targeted, as they were both thought to be of a lesser race. On the other hand, blonde hair and blue eyes were the pure breed; the so-called Aryan Race. All in order to convince the German people that they were the dominant country/race in the entire world. All to capture and return their proud German heritage. To avenge for the embarrassment they were dealt with at the end of the WWI, at any cost. Let me ask this question; does any of this sound familiar? Not just in the galaxy far, far away, but in our own country right now.
In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine rose to power in much of the same way as his model Adolf Hitler did. Palpatine knew the Republic was growing tired both from war and from debate, and he capitalized on the vulnerability of the Senate; pulled a few strings here and there, cut a few deals with some powerful friends and got elected Chancellor. He replaced the ineffective Chancellor Valorum, much like Hitler replaced the aging Von Hindenburg. By the end of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine blames the Jedi for all the problems within the Republic and decrees them all to be killed by giving the Order 66. Once this happens he declares himself Emperor:
“In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years.”
To this replies Senator Amidala,
“So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.”
This is something that George Lucas has pointed out in conversation—and I’m paraphrasing, but he generally says that democratic societies eventually hand over power to dictators. Freedom is not always ripped from your hands, its coaxed right out of them. We must respect and continue to enshrine our freedoms– because once we give them away it’s not something that is easily taken back without a fight; think of it like a person’s trust.
The bottom line is that we are our own threat to democracy. We can either dismiss the fear that is spouted at us day after day in the media, listen to our conscience and do what’s right and help each other, listen to each other, and work together….. or we can let our fears govern our actions and gradually lose our democracy. Germany let the fear lead to anger, and anger lead to hate….and hate lead to insurmountable suffering. It cost them not only their rights, but their country which was left in ruins by 1945. It’s up to us how we want to proceed….united we stand and divided we will fall.
It’s really that simple.
By Eric Onkenhout