Star Wars as a Parable

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I
don't recall ever reading of Star Wars creator George Lucas having
made a big deal of his political leanings. Possibly I missed them,
or Lucas is too busy being creative to bother with such nonsense,
or he's simply an outstanding businessman who recognizes the wisdom
of avoiding certain subjects that could alienate potential customers
while bringing no additional revenues to the bottom line.

Lucas
may be publicly apolitical, and movies often lend themselves to
many interpretations. The newest Star Wars installment, however,
left me with a distinct impression that Lucas "gets" modern
history. Perhaps it was just a case of timing.

You
see, I went to see the latest Star Wars installment at right about
the same time the History Channel was running a documentary about
the largest engines of modern warfare, the aircraft carrier. Star
Wars and a nuclear aircraft carrier – what on Earth could they
have in common, you ask?

In
the interest of not giving away the movie, I will stick to generalities.

In
a nutshell, this installment has the bad guy fomenting war between
two entities, using this as a pretext to justify a power grab. The
movie was jammed full of special effects, costumes, all the stuff
we expect from Lucas and his people, but one scene stuck with me
more than any.

Toward
the end of the show was a scene depicting a valley covered, and
I mean, covered by soldiers. Throngs of troops in gleaming
armor marching row upon row up the entrance ramps to those monstrous
battleships that those of us in the 40-plus range first marveled
to in 1977. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of soldiers
in the process of boarding massive engines of destruction, bound
for who-knows-where.

The
old republic is dying, to be replaced (presumably in the next movie)
by the Empire.

Enter
the History Channel and its ode to modern marvels. The program described
the history of the aircraft carrier from World War II through the
present, offering footage of air operations starting with propellers
and ending with F/A-18's. Experts detailed the dimensions, the capabilities,
and the costs of these floating cities. One discussed how some of
the most modern innovations came from the British, though the United
Kingdom lacked the finances to build the enormous ships capable
of using their inventions. It took the US, with its seemingly bottomless
pit of taxpayer's pockets, to successfully render the most modern
concepts.

Viewers
were given as justification of the expense was that America could
now project its forces around the globe and the thirty-year life
span of these marvelous works of military art would mean money well-spent.

Of
course no one at the History Channel asks why such engines of destruction
are necessary. Presumably we’re already up to speed on the need
for a strong defense.

But
that takes me back to our latest Star Wars film. When our enemies
are created by the very "defense" our leaders so desire,
when an active and interventionist foreign policy is backed by three-quarters
of all the military hardware in the world, it takes but to open
one's eyes…

Lucas
awed the world in the opening sequence of the original Star Wars
movie in 1977 with warships of overwhelming scale whose bulk moved
across the screen…and across and across, and across.

Today's
carriers are truly the emblems of modern America. So too are they
the proverbial elephant in the living room, the uninvited guest
too gross to overlook but too terrifying to see. The republic is
dead, long since replaced by Empire.

I
don't know about you, but I think George Lucas has his eyes open.

May
21,
2002

David
Calderwood [send
him mail
] is the author of Revolutionary
Language
.

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