Resist and rebel

This is just a random Star Wars post. Not connected to current events at all. For no reason whatsoever I was thinking about resistance and its more complicated and committed relative, rebellion, and just how fragile the sense of righteousness can be with those two acts of civil disobedience. Righteousness of course is a matter of perspective, dependent on our moral grounding and cultural needs, among other factors. The judge of it is often left to the winners or to historians.

In the Star Wars universe, at least in the timeline we are most familiar with, resistance and rebellion are central to the conflict. In the prequels, it is doubly at play. Senator Palpatine creates, in secret, a rebellion as a way to subtly achieve his resistance. Rebellion of course is dangerous, illegal business that must be committed to wholly or it will have no chance for success. It is out in the open. With rebellion, everyone must plant their flag and leave no doubt where they stand. They take on risk. Palpatine brilliantly resists the Republic, filled as it was with corruption, complacency and freedom, by orchestrating and manipulating the Separatists to take all the risk all while he plants his flag, as it were, with the Republic, the very thing he is trying to destroy. The Separatists believe in what they are doing (even if they are painted in an unsympathetic light) but they aren’t quite ready for rebellion, at least as shown in the movie. General Grievous and Nute Gunray are cowards throughout and they choose to fight with disposable droids rather than risk themselves. Hardly much of a rebellion. That’s the point though. It isn’t truly a rebellion. It’s just a tool for Palpatine to gain power. We never really learn if they are justified. We know they are pissed about taxes, but who isn’t, right? Count Dooku pontificates to Obi-Wan about his grievances with the Republic, but he is hardly a reliable narrator. The movement becomes a means for the Republic to consolidate its power base and morph into the Empire. Because of Palpatine’s machinations, being on the side of right is difficult to discern, though it becomes more clear as his rule progresses.

At first, it’s not so bad. Trade a few freedoms for quick government action and a sense of peace. But a few of the elite knew better. The true resistance begins. Mon Mothma and Bail Organa attempt to organize politically. Bail helps the Jedi, what’s left anyway, regroup and shelters the daughter of Vader, thus creating the ultimate tool of resistance and rebellion. Around the galaxy we see other signs of resistance. Small groups band together and engage in small acts of defiance. Political resistance is being organized and acts of rebellion emerge. Then Rogue One comes along and starts to shift the focus. This is the point where the leaders and the grunts must decide if resistance should give way to rebellion.  

In real life, this is a moment where a being can become a hero or a villain. Where events become cataclysmic or a salvation. Where a person will live on in reverence or become a footnote to history. This is the point where belief in a cause outweighs the consequences of action on behalf of that belief. This is the point where a person has to put their money where their mouth is. Indeed, even in the American Revolution, this was clear. The signers of the Declaration of Independence, after years of resistance, wrote, “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” They understood the consequences of rebellion. They believed in the righteousness of their cause. But I can’t help but wonder, just for a moment, if King George III, was really a bad guy. Wasn’t he just doing what was best for the citizens of his country? No. History ultimately decided colonialism and exploitation were pretty shitty. The book Lost Stars, though, gives a glimpse into this kind of thinking. It helps show just how being “right” is connected to perspective.  

In Rogue One we are presented with characters like Saw Gerrera, General Draven and Cassion Andor. They do things and operate in a way that challenges the fragility of righteousness. I think history would place them on the correct side of the war. Their rebellion was justified. The Empire was preparing to blow up planets after all. But does that automatically make their actions justifiable? Does being right always make you right? Where is the line? Who decides where to draw it? I like that the movie presents a spectrum of behavior and engagement with the rebellion. From the one senator’s desire to stop even resisting all the way to Saw’s “terrorist” activities. Most of all I love the spark that Jyn provides. She serves as the catalyst to completing the transition for resistance to rebellion. Well, Jyn and General Raddus. And the soldiers that go to Scarif. And x-wing pilots. And the soldiers with the chin-strap helmets that get messed up by Vader. Their actions together make it clear that the rebellion will be a rebellion in name and in action.  Jyn says her “father made a choice.  He sacrificed himself for the Rebellion.” At some point everyone must make a choice.

Resistance debates rebellion.

This idea continues into the original trilogy, though with a lighter tone.  But the stakes are still high. Leia trades the location of the rebellion for a chance to blow up the death star. Even though the chance for success is slim. Han tells us, “Besides, attacking that battle station ain’t my idea of courage. It’s more like suicide.”

In the end though he comes through. He risks his life and fortune (though he didn’t have much honor to start with) and does the right thing.  He carries this idea through to TFA when he next big opportunity arises to fight tyranny. 

The history of resistance and rebellion in Star Wars is an echo of history in our world. From the origins of our country to to the jungles of Vietnam.  There is always a fight for what is right in the face of oppression.  And always is there a debate about the existence of resistance and what form it should take.  Even though I wasn’t thinking of current events at all, as I wright this I start to see some parallels. I’m reminded of Jyn’s words. I’ll leave it at that:

What chance do we have? The question is what choice? Run, hide, plead for mercy, scatter your forces? You give way to an enemy this evil with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now! 

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