Tagged: Yoda

John Ostrander: Progressions


“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

I never took the above quote very seriously. I liked it, it stuck with me, but I had always thought it was just George Lucas pop-pseudo vaguely Buddhisty philosophy.

Now… I’m not so sure.

Now I think I’m seeing it all around me in the wake of Donald Trump’s election this past week. Now it reverberates in me. There’s a lot of fear out there and some of it led to Trump’s winning. That has led to a lot of anger and there is also a lot of hate going around right now, on all sides of the political spectrum.

And I think it will lead to suffering.

The “dark side,” however, is not Lucas’s dark side of the Force. It is a dark side of our country, of us. It’s always there. It’s always been there.

We’re such an odd mixture. We pride ourselves on freedom, freedom for all, but blacks were denied that freedom and it was enshrined in the Constitution where they were defined as only 3/5ths of a person. Women weren’t even mentioned in the document until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified and even today they don’t have equal rights in many cases.

The attitude towards Native Americans, to paraphrase General Phillip Sheridan, was that the only good Indian was a dead Indian. Our wretched track record on treaties only confirms the attitude behind such a statement. It can still be seen in the protest to the pipeline in North Dakota. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the attitude towards Latinos, Asians and the LGBTQ community among others.

It is fear – fear of the Others, the ones not like Us, the ones from Another Tribe. It is the consequence of the zero-sum mentality; for the Others to have more, I will have less. Equality, parity, means I will lose. Whites, and white males especially, are told they are privileged. I know that the first time I heard that, my response as a white male was that I wasn’t privileged. I had little money, little power, and my existence was precarious. I felt I wasn’t privileged; I was barely surviving.

I did learn better. The privilege that I had was that I had more opportunities, even if they didn’t always come through. I wouldn’t be followed when I went to a store because of my skin color; I didn’t face a glass ceiling or made less money for the same work because of my sex or that I was assumed to be inherently disordered because of my sexual orientation. I wasn’t threatened with deportation because of my nationality or regarded with suspicion because of my religion. All because I was born a Christian white male.

However, many people who are barely making it fear that for someone else to get more they must have less and they are barely existing as it is. Politicians and media exploit that for their own purposes. That fear leads to anger, that anger leads to hate, that hate leads to suffering. That’s the progression, that’s real, that’s going on right now whether you’re liberal or conservative. We all are going to suffer, this country is going to suffer, and I honestly don’t know if we’re going to survive as a people or a country. I really don’t know.

If there is a way to escape this progression? Marvin Gaye hit it with his song What’s Going On.

Mother, mother

There’s too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There’s far too many of you dying

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh

Father, father

We don’t need to escalate

You see, war is not the answer

For only love can conquer hate

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me, so you can see

Oh, what’s going on

What’s going on

Yeah, what’s going on

Ah, what’s going on

On the one side, those of us who voted for Hillary Clinton have to see that not every Donald Trump supporter is a bigot, a xenophobe, a misogynist. They have some valid concerns and some real fears and they feel those concerns were not being heard. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yes, there is plenty of racism and bigotry and plain out hate in the Trump campaign but we have to sort those out and listen to the real concerns.

Those who voted for Trump have to listen, too, to the very real fears and concerns of our side. From what we’ve seen, from what we’ve heard, we see a despot in the making. That’s not just paranoia; the comparisons are apt and are there to be seen. We fear the loss of so much that is important to us – equal rights, the right of every woman to choose, the right to live in this country. We don’t feel we can wait and see what Trump does; we know what he has said and how he has behaved. There is real and valid fears and that leads to anger and that will lead to hate and that will lead to suffering.

What breaks the progression? Martin Luther King Jr said it better than I can.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.

“So it goes.

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Those great philosophers, Bill and Ted, summed it up quite nicely: Be excellent to one another.

Party on, dudes.



Dennis O’Neil: The Cosmic Orphans

Planet X Fantastic FourHere we are, like orphans with our noses flattened against the candy store window, gazing at the tasty wonders just inches from our faces, but destined never, never to taste them.

Poor us!

Astronomers have identified 3,422 exoplanets – planets that orbit stars other than our own. Of these, they estimate that about a thousand might support something that we’d identify as life. That’s what they think. But barring some unforeseeable, game-changing Something, they’ll never know for sure. Because they haven’t really seen these worlds apart, these star-gazers, even through their most impressive telescopes. The doggone things are just too far away!

Planet X GrootSo they see stuff like spots crossing the far-away star and do spectroscopic analyses of light and apply esoteric disciplines that I’ve probably never heard of and then… I don’t know – make a best guess or two?

Frustrating, isn’t it? We have a wired-in appetite for Other and a good thing, too, because that appetite enables us to propagate the species, especially on warm spring nights scented with blossoms and that person over there, basking in the soft moonlight, is breathtakingly lovely… Whoa! We’re not in the smut-peddling game here and anyway, you get the idea. We Want Other.

Planet X DeadpoolAnd generally, we can’t have it. But we have another wired-in trait that can serve as a substitute. Beginning in infancy, we create cause and effect narratives. I cry, I get picked up kinds of things. That narrative-building trait evolves, along with the rest of us, and eventually we’re using it to create poems and jokes and plays and religions and comic books and who-knows-what-all, including extraterrestrials. Imaginary extraterrestrials, to be sure, but we take what we can get.

It’s an old, old trick. As early as 5000 years ago the Sumerians were making figurine of creatures from Planet X, and there may have been earlier mythic aliens that didn’t manage to get written down. The early gods were first cousins to these aliens and they go way back.


Well. We have Superman and Supergirl and Hawkman and Hawkwoman and ET and J’onn J’onzz, The Martian Manhunter (that J’onn J’onzz) and Yoda and pulpy Bug Eyed Monsters and whole lot of fictional Others and…

Maybe we’re not satisfied. Maybe we look into the night sky and wonder if we’re alone in the universe and if we are, what that might mean.

I’d sure like a taste of that candy. But maybe it should remain behind the glass. Might not be good for me.

John Ostrander: Redeeming Vader

anakin-skywalker_311439_mBy its nature, a trilogy connects. In movies, it becomes a single story united by narrative and/or theme. Each component film should stand on its own but they should come together as a single narrative.

Star Wars, especially the Original Trilogy (now known as Episodes IV, V, and VI), is a good example of this. In it, Luke Skywalker follows the Hero’s Journey (as defined by Joseph Campbell ), working with and through classic archetypes as he becomes not only a Jedi but a true hero. It is Luke’s story.

A funny thing happened when Lucas brought out the Prequel Trilogy (also known as Episodes I, II, and III). The story shifted from its focus on Luke Skywalker to his father, Anakin Skywalker, who was the villain of the Original Trilogy – Darth Vader. The overall story is now the fall of Anakin and the final redemption of Darth Vader. It completely changes the focus of all six movies. We are asked to accept this. At the end of Episode VI, Anakin’s Force Ghost takes its place with the Force Ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, the two Jedi who represent the wise mentors and forces for good.

I have serious reservations about this. I don’t know if Anakin/Vader deserves or achieves redemption. Anakin, as he turns to the Dark Side, betrays all his friends. He kills children. Let me repeat that – he kills children. Episode III makes it clear even if it doesn’t show it. Anakin/Vader leads a cadre of Clone Troopers into the Jedi Temple and we see him confront children, the young students, some of which look to be six to eight. They know him only as a Jedi and trust him. We are later told that some of their corpses had lightsaber marks on them and Anakin is the only one who has a lightsaber in that attack. Anakin killed the children. How is that redeemable?

Why does Anakin turn to the Dark Side? Partly because he feels his fellow Jedi aren’t treating him with enough respect; as tragic flaws go, this is rather petty. Also, Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine, Anakin’s mentor, convinced Anakin that he could prevent Anakin’s wife, Padme, from dying. Ever.

Anakin had Separation Anxieties. He couldn’t save his mother from death at the hands of the Tusken Raiders so, once again, he slaughtered every Tusken man, woman, and – once again – child in the tribe. But Sidious tells Anakin he can keep Padme from ever dying and the chump believes him. It’s enough to send him careening down the path of the Dark side, becoming Darth Vader in the process.

And yet both Padme and, later on, Luke insist that there is good in him. Damned if I could see it.

How is Vader redeemed? When he decides he can’t turn Luke to the Dark Side, he decides to turn Luke’s sister. He tries to kill Luke. Instead, Luke defeats him, literally disarming him. Palpatine wanders in and tells Luke to kill Vader and take his place. Luke refuses, tossing away his lightsaber … a rather boneheaded move. Sidious then shoots lightning from his hands and starts to slowly turn Luke into a Crispy Critter. Vader, despite his son’s pleas, just watches for a few moments before finally turning on Sidious and tossing the Emperor to his doom, getting mortally wounded himself along the way. And this act supposedly redeems Anakin.

What exactly did Anakin/Vader do? Did he renounce the Dark Side? No. Did he regret his betrayal of his fellow Jedi? No. Did he feel bad about slaughtering the innocent children? Nope. He turned on his former Master because Sidious was killing Anakin’s son whom Vader himself had been trying to kill only a few moments earlier.

I admit to being an agnostic but I’m specifically a Roman Catholic agnostic. I was raised and steeped in the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and the notion of redemption was a strong part of that. The concept is that suffering expiates past sin or sins. Anakin/Vader sacrifices his own life to destroy Sidious. Why does he do it? To save his own child. Motivations matter and, it seems to me, this one is private, personal, and rather selfish. I don’t see the act as redemptive.

If Anakin isn’t redeemed, then the story for all six movies falls apart since it has become Anakin’s story. He’s not heroic, he’s not tragic, he becomes a monster. He massacres whole groups of beings, he betrays his friends, he kills children. Making the first six episodes retroactively about him just undermines the whole series.

Disney could actually fix some of this. Lucas kept on tinkering with “Did Han Solo shoot first?” (Yes, Han shot first.) Disney could remove the scenes and lines that indicate Anakin killed children if they want. Otherwise, we can just look forward to Episode VII. No Anakin, no Vader to morally compromise the story.

Or so we can hope.