An inspired look at the Rebellion of Star Wars lore and the American Revolution.
We all know the backdrop for one of our favorite, if not the favorite stories, the Star Wars original trilogy. The two opposing parties, the Rebellion and the Empire were, by proxy, continuing the larger struggle between the resurgent Jedi and the all powerful Sith. As a child, I took it for granted as my young mind could more easily comprehend the mythic tale of good versus evil. The Rebels were the good guys and the Empire were the bad. Yet, it was especially relevant to me as a citizen of the United States and the history that formed our country. Perhaps it was merely coincidence that the members of the Rebellion spoke with variations of American accents, and the Empire was heavily populated with officers who spoke with the air of British aristocracy.
So as we head towards the Fourth of July holiday, my thoughts turn to that of our country’s history and the purpose of our rebellion. I hope that people know the tales of the American Revolutionary War, at least on some base level, but to boil it down again to its simplest form, the colonies in the Americas under British control determined that the British government had failed in its purpose. They believed that the government derived its power from the consent of the governed and that these scales were decidedly tilted to the benefit of the crown. It wasn’t something that happened overnight, but bit-by-bit and piece-by-piece, legislation was enacted that placed the colonists at both an economic and societal disadvantage.
Not everyone in parliament bullied and pushed the colonies into a corner (Continental Congress). Several championed a continued relationship with the colonists and hoped to restore the trust that was needed between the two. Alas, and in part because communications were limited by the awkward constraints of penned letters, events spiraled out of control and war was the inevitable result.
Although we could well list the causes of the American Revolution like the Stamp Act and the Intolerable Acts, I think that we need to understand the philosophy of the forefathers (Parliamentary taxation). Each man who signed the Declaration of Independence did so understanding that they were, in essence, signing their own death sentences (The Declaration). So why would they do this and not just accept the rule of the British government as, according to John Adams, almost two-thirds of the colonists did (Marina)?
They believed in something greater than their physical existence and that a “natural law” existed as a result of this. At this time the philosophical concepts of John Locke and Rousseau were entrenched into the thinking of those who began the American Revolution. According to Jim Powell, Locke was extremely influential to the thinking of Thomas Jefferson, who penned the Declaration of Independence, and indeed, even paraphrased Locke’s concepts that “no one ought to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty, or Possessions.”
Locke reasoned that in order to maintain this natural law, the citizens must be able to stand in the face of a government that seeks to upend the citizens’ rights to protect the four categories above. “He defended the natural law tradition whose glorious lineage goes back to the ancient Jews: the tradition that rulers cannot legitimately do anything they want, because there are moral laws applying to everyone (Powell).” This concept transcends any known boundaries including race, creed and gender and is the ultimate foundation of our rights as citizens of the United States of America.
So how does this apply to our classic tale of Star Wars? I often become lost in speculation regarding the purpose of the Galactic Civil War. We know the causes: that Palpatine manipulated events in order to become Emperor and rule as a tyrant over the galaxy, and as Princess Leia eloquently stated in Star Wars: A New Hope, little by little as he and his agents tightened their grips more star systems slipped through their fingers. But I ask upon what moral foundation was the Rebellion waged? What was the philosophy that propelled otherwise peaceful people into only war as a recourse? Is the Force the impetus behind a form of natural law that the Rebel Alliance adheres to?
With these questions in mind, it is with much interest that I have followed the creation of the Rebellion illustrated in Star Wars Rebels and look forward to seeing behind the scenes Rebel Government in action with Star Wars: Rogue One. Will we eventually see the reasoning from a non-Jedi galactic citizen’s standpoint as to the morality of declaring treason and rebelling against the Empire? Will we see an Alliance version of the Declaration of Independence? Will we have an in-universe official canon equivalent to July 4, 1776?
I hope so, and I’m sure John Locke would be a great fan of Star Wars and would gladly offer his two cents on the matter.
- “Continental Congress, 1774-1781.” history.state.gov/milestones/1776-1783. Office of the
Historian, n.d. 29 June 2016.
- Declaration of Independence Road Trip. “The Declaration of Independence.” classbrain.com.
Class Brain, 2 April 2004. 29 June 2016.
- Marina, William. “Only 1/3rd of Americans Supported the American Revolution?”
historynewsnetwork.org. History News Network, 8 August 2005. 29 June 2016.
- “Parliamentary taxation of colonies, international trade, and the American Revolution, 1763–
1775.” history.state.gov/milestones/1750-1775. Office of the Historian, n.d. 29 June 2016.
- Powell, Jim. “John Locke: Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property.” fee.org. Foundation for
Economic Freedom, 1 August 1996. 29 June 2016.
I like accounting and the Dark Side. Co-host of Starships, Sabers, & Scoundrels.