This winter break, I marathoned the original Star Wars trilogy with my family— we sat eagerly in front of the TV screen, blasting the Star Wars Main Theme, looking at “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” with awe in our eyes and the force in our hearts. As the main characters - Luke, Leia, and Han – developed from A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, we personally felt their hardships and victories, and began to love the trio as close friends. But when I looked more carefully at the battles Luke faces with Leia and Han against Darth Vader and the dark side of the force, I realized the original trilogy bears a striking resemblance to our life in the US in 2016 - 2017.
In the first part of the trilogy, A New Hope, we’re introduced to Luke Skywalker, a farmer who dreams of becoming a pilot. However, upon meeting Obi Wan (Ben) Kenobi, Luke learns that his destiny is to become a Jedi like his father before him. Ben begins training Luke to be a Jedi but is killed by Darth Vader before Luke’s training is complete. With insufficient training, Luke is most exposed to the dark side and must find Yoda – the ancient Jedi master - on his own and learn to master the force without giving into the dark side. I clearly saw Hillary Clinton as Obi Wan and the younger generation, particularly young women, as Luke. Young Americans were full of so much hope for the future, so certain that Trump couldn’t win the election that many stayed away from the polls and saw their candidate lose the election despite winning the popular vote.
Then, in The Empire Strikes Back, we get shocked with one of the most iconic movie plot twists of all time when Darth Vader informs Luke: “I am your father”. This revelation completely transforms Luke’s perspective about everything he fights for, everything he knows about his father Anakin, and everything about why he wanted to become a Jedi in the first place. In our lives in the past year, this transformative event was, of course, the morning of January 20th, where we saw the Presidential inauguration and were told by Trump literally “I am your President”. The inauguration changed our perspective on what we want to fight for to develop (or return to) the civil society, and what we can no longer take for granted (every vote counts, and many people unfortunately condone behavior and opinions that had long been considered unacceptable in “modern” America).
However, despite the enormous power of the dark side of the Force, we find that an unlikely collection of humans and non-humans from different parts of the galaxy (Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2) overcome their differences and join to fight a common foe –Darth Vader. That reminded me strongly of the movement that began with the Women’s March, where people with vastly different backgrounds came together to be seen, heard, and take a stand against bigotry and to give notice to the new administration that we will be fighting their policies every step of their way.
In the last movie of the original trilogy, The Return of the Jedi, Jabba the Hutt takes Leia as his slave and has Han in a carbon-freeze container, neither dead nor alive. Jabba runs an illegal smuggling group, flying just under the radar of the government, but with much more involvement than immediately perceived. When I watched this part of the movie, I couldn’t help but connect it to the potentially illegal activities conducted by members of Trump’s inner circle such as their involvement with Russia prior to the elections.
Jabba and illegal smuggling end up being a side-show to the main plot in The Empire Strikes Back. Unbeknownst to Luke, Han, and Leia, the Empire is building an even bigger Death Star, one completely impenetrable unless the force field around it is manually dissipated. When the rebels try to attack the new Death Star, the much bigger army from the Empire almost obliterates them. While the public today is engrossed in the public drama and controversy related to the Russia investigations, Trump has signed executive orders, appointed judges, and recently passed an extremely significant piece of tax legislation to further enrich people such as himself and to inflight financial pain on “blue” states (by capping the state tax deductions that citizens of these states currently avail themselves to).
In the end, the Emperor tells Luke to strike him down with the hatred and rage and to give into the dark side like his father had. It takes all Luke’s got, but he finally finds it in himself to forgive Darth Vader and stay true to the light side of the Force. This exchange, I believe, is the true lesson from Star Wars. We must never give in to the dark side. And that means we must continue the activism that began with the Women’s march.
The final lesson for us from the Star Wars trilogy is that it will likely get worse before it gets better. The Force is with us, always, and if we will ourselves to not be tempted by the hatred and anger of the dark side, to continue to participate in this country’s political life, to show up and vote, then and only then, 2018 has the potential to bring us A New Hope.