Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Star Wars, National Identity and the Seduction of the Dark Side


I was five years old when Star War: The New Hope (or Episode IV) was released and as a child I watched it countless times. I anxiously awaited each new chapter in this space opera which would become for many one of the great American stories. I grew up wanting to be Luke Skywalker, being able to wield the force and fly in X-Wing Starfighters and I believe many of my peers wanted to be either Luke or Han Solo or Princess Leia. Yet, there has been a trend I am noticing more and more lately and I think it says something about our society. In a narrative about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker there has become an increasing fondness for the fallen Anakin, or Darth Vader and the Empire which he serves.

I never reflected on this phenomenon until recently. Admittedly the Stormtroopers and Darth Vader had the cooler costumes with their skeletal look. Yet one of the reasons for portraying these soldiers in this manner was to reinforce the message of the Empire they served, one of fear. I enjoyed the occasional video of Darth Vader and his troopers dancing to M.C. Hammer as it combined pieces of my childhood. Yet, the movies continually presented the Galactic Empire and its forces, or the First Order in Episode VIII, as forces that needed to be rebelled against. Lucas intentionally or unintentionally tapped into the piece of the American narrative that rebelled against an English empire in the Eighteenth Century that was perceived by the colonists as oppressive. The movies wanted us to identify with the Rebellion for all their flaws. Yet, somehow in culture something shifted, at least partially.

The movies and the literature and other media they spawned, with all their successes and flaws, presented a worldview that many Americans embraced.  Yet, for at least a portion of the American audience there was the shift in alliances. Perhaps I should have noticed the increased use of the Imperial March with its brassy statement of power and control being used by high schools and colleges within football games and other sporting events. Perhaps the emergence of things like the 501st legion which was committed to cos-play using Stormtrooper, Sith Lord or Clone Trooper costumes should have been something I noticed. Yet, it wasn’t until last summer when Benjamin Burnley from the band Breaking Benjamin, who I knew was an avid fan of many pop culture items like the Star Wars series, launched into a praise of the First Order/Galactic Empire to play the imperial march that I began to wonder, “do we know what we are rooting for?”

Ultimately a rock musician loving the Imperial March or a bunch of people creating Stormtrooper costumes for fun is not something that I worry about too much. Yet, when we begin to embrace the ideals and policies behind the Galactic Empire it does become extremely worrisome. When Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief advisor can remark, “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.” The peace and order throughout the galaxy in the movies was only achieved, temporarily, by the use of fear and military power that had no moral qualms with destroying entire worlds that disagreed with their policies or were merely inconvenient. Our current administration campaigned on the rhetoric of fear, and has continued to govern using that rhetoric. When a nation that has struggled throughout its life to become a place where “all men (and women) are created equal” begins to be governed in a way that appears increasing xenophobic (much as the Empire’s policies were portrayed) I worry about the image we are attempting to mold ourselves into.

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, during a time when there was a fear of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact which existed behind the iron curtain. It was a group of nations that had an enormous military and was equipped with a massive nuclear arsenal. Within the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact there was not the free press or the ability to protest that the United States and its NATO allies enjoyed. In the 80s it was easy to paint the Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire’ and at least for a young boy they became the concrete manifestation of the Galactic Empire within the Star Wars narrative. I still remember hearing Ronald Regan challenge Mikhail Gorbachev, “Mister Gorbachev tear down this wall!” When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Berlin Wall did fall, when former Warsaw Pact nations like East Germany and Poland as well as pieces of the former Soviet Union like Estonia and Latvia became a part of the NATO alliance I think we found ourselves at an identity crisis without the same type of massive enemy. Afghanistan and Iraq, where our forces have been deployed most recently, were no match conventionally for the United States military. When a nation with the best equipped military and an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction begins to use the rhetoric of fear on its own citizens as well as our allies throughout the world, when we begin to become the ones talking about building a wall, and when we begin to close ourselves off from others because of race or religion then our fragile American experiment is at risk of becoming a different vision.  When we American power comes from fear rather than projecting ‘certain unalienable rights’ that our founders claimed then we have lost our way. Darth Vader (as well as Satan) may represent power but not a power that I would be willing to align myself with.  If that is what our republic becomes then it will be indeed time for a rebellion to arise within our nation again. I, like many, hope that the rebellion if it occurs is done peaceable and through protest, mobilization, and voting. Again, this is one of those places where I pray that I am wrong, but through the stories of my youth and my faith I have a very different vision for this country than I fear our current administration does.

I Pray That I Am Wrong…

As a person who dearly loves this country and the dream of what it can be I dearly hope that I am wrong….

After an election that has caused long lasting trauma for people on the left, right and in the middle and where fear and anxiety were the dominant emotions we the people elected Donald Trump. I dearly hope that those who voted for Donald are right and I am wrong, that he is somehow better than what he appears to be: a better leader, a better learner, and a better human being. I pray that somehow he can learn that as the President of the United States he is no longer a reality TV star or a business man who maximizes his own personal profit at the cost of many others. I pray that he will neither destroy the credit of the American people with rash economic decisions or with our moral standing in the world. My fear is that he is not the type of man who will put the needs of the people before his own needs but I dearly hope that I am wrong.

As a veteran who gladly committed my service to this country when I was younger and who still has a strong attachment to not only my former regiment but to those who serve in any of the armed services and our allies across the globe, I dearly hope that President Trump will take the time to learn the intricacies of diplomacy and the importance of the promises our country has made in the past. Whether it is the Breton Woods accords which guaranteed commerce across the oceans protected by U.S. naval power or the alliances like NATO which continue to serve a vital role in preserving and protecting and providing a space in which freedom and democracy have a chance. I pray that he can understand the importance of things like the Geneva convention not only for our standing in the world but for the safety of our own soldiers when they are called into action. I hope that he understands that just because the executive branch of the United States government can call upon the complete set of weapons in the U.S. arsenal that force is only used as a last resort and that there are consequences for the type of warfare he so casually talked about in his campaign. I pray that his own seemingly fragile ego does not continually place those who are willing to serve in conflict because of a perceived insult to his person. Perhaps President Trump will be able to enhance America’s standing on the world stage, and for those who elected him to make America great again I pray that you are right and my fears this day are wrong.

As a Lutheran pastor who cares deeply for not only those who are members of my congregation but those well beyond the walls of any Christian community who are my neighbors, I hope that the language of scapegoating that was so rampant in the Trump campaign for president ends and there is no additional harm done. As a white straight male who has not spoken up enough on behalf of my friends and neighbors of color, of different or no religion, who are LBTGQ or are people with disabilities, I apologize. I refuse to see a future that reflects my denomination’s past in 1930s Germany. I will stand with you, perhaps falteringly at first as I learn how to use my voice, but I will not see a future where they came for my Muslim neighbor, but I was not Muslim and I did nothing, then they came for my Latino/Latina brothers and sisters and I did nothing. Granted as a white straight male I probably could coast through with little fear that my own personal status would be impacted, but that is not the America I believe in. I do believe it is self-evident that all men (and women) are created equal as our founding fathers could so boldly state in the Declaration of Independence.

To those who are celebrating this day, please know that almost half of your fellow Americans are mourning. Your version of the American dream and theirs may be somewhat different but I fear that you have elected someone who will not allow either sets of visions for the American dream to prosper. I pray that I am wrong…

But if I am not wrong and Donald Trump is not able to be an effective leader, to learn the role of President and assume the responsibilities that are a part of the office and that he can become a decent human being for the four years of his term then:

I hope that you can pay a fraction of the attention to the electronic communication of the new president that you have paid to Hillary Clinton’s during the past twelve years. Hillary Clinton was far from a perfect candidate but the news story of her emails was probably the key piece in the strategy to win this election but now the bar is set. Does the communication coming out of the office of President befit the office, is it causing harm to America’s security, is it antagonizing movements around the world that put our diplomats and military in dangerous situations? If President Trump’s previous actions on twitter are any indication I fear greatly for the security of our country. Again, I pray that I am wrong.

I hope that you can pay a fraction of the attention that you have paid to Bill Clinton in his affair with Monica Lewinsky to President Trump’s words and actions while in the presidency. Particularly for those of you who elected Trump when you have opposed other presidents on moral grounds I hope that you will apply the same standards for him. We have elected a person to the highest office in the land who, if he was a professional athlete, probably would not be able to play on any professional sports team. I hope you understand the message you sent to our daughters about the type of language that we are willing to tolerate when someone speaks about their bodies. Maybe Trump will be able to learn how to be a person who has the highest respect for women. I have my severe doubts but again I pray that I am wrong.

I fear for the damage that will be done to the U.S. and global economy and not just for my own self-serving reasons. Yes, I fear that the anxiety in the market will hurt my retirement account and could damage the long work of debt reduction I have undertaken in my personal life but my fears are greater for my children’s generation. I fear that people like my son who is autistic will not be able to find coverage for his healthcare needs since Trump and a Republican congress will likely overturn the Affordable Care Act and return us to the free market system of insurance without protections for those who are unable to get insurance. I worry that the trend of Republican presidents to decrease taxes, increase both military spending and the overall budget while reducing revenues will continue to add to the deficit that myself and my children will continue to have to pay back. I worry that the turning away from the advances made in alternative energy sources and an increased reliance on coal and oil will continue to have a negative impact on the world my children will inherit. I pray that I am wrong on this.

This day, like every day before, I will get up and go to work. I will pay my bills, my taxes and make sure my family has food on the table. I will pray for my country and those who have been elected to serve it. Yet, on this day I need to voice my own fears about the man we have elected to be our president. I pray that my fears do not come to pass. Yet, I have not given up working for this country to be the country that I love where all men and women are created equal, where we are a nation that other nations look to as an example of freedom and justice, to be a place where everyone has an opportunity for the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.