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This is the time of year for reflection, re-evaluation and standing in line to see the latest Star Wars movie. In past instalments, Star Wars has always been about the battle between good and evil, light and dark and the blurring lines at play between those two absolutes.
But that conflict is not just applicable to space fantasy and events that happened “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Countries on our very own planet can also find themselves caught between two opposing forces that pull and tempt them into following one path or another.
Perhaps as in no time in recent memory, the year just ending has caused both Americans and a watching world to question whether the U.S.A. still aspires to be a force for good or if it has crossed over to the dark side.
Despite all the hand-wringing and frustration, 2017 has simply provided a more focused and concentrated example of what the U.S. has always been – a nation in a perpetual tug of war with its own foundational nature.
One positive step would be to do away with words like ‘evil’ or any variation that implies that political leaders – or the ordinary citizens who support them – are motivated by a malevolent desire to do harm just for the sake of being cruel. To do so would be deplorable and, well, let’s not even go there.
Call me naïve but I believe that politicians – and most people – are motivated by a desire to do good and rally around policies that they believe will lead to an improvement in the status quo. There may be deep and sincere disagreement with the methods employed or the assumptions and beliefs that lead to decisions being made, but I’m quite certain that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans pay homage or pledge fealty to any dark lord or emperor bent on using them to bring misery to the masses.
In other words, both sides look in the mirror and see themselves more as Luke Skywalker than Darth Vader.
Like both those fictional and now iconic pop culture characters, the United States is a layered and complex country whose only enduring consistency can be found in the contradictions built in to its very structure and self-image.
On the one hand, it is the home – both native and adopted – to individuals and corporations who have amassed a significant portion of the wealth that this world has to offer. They are the privileged, the accomplished and, perhaps, the plunderers of treasure that may have more in common with piracy than philanthropy.
On the other hand, it’s also a country that sees itself as the champion of the disadvantaged, the downtrodden and the legions of common people who have come to its shores in search of that most elusive and ill-defined of human goals – a better life.
Even those millions born here – those who have never set foot in another country – are themselves seekers of a special life that they feel is promised to them by that defining phrase lifted from the Declaration of Independence – “the pursuit of happiness” – and the seductive promise of realizing the American dream for themselves and their families.
It’s a country whose fiercest critics also hold themselves out to be its most faithful patriots. It’s a country that can be resistant to change, nostalgic for a mythical past and downright reactionary in whom it chooses to elect to political office. Yet it also is eternally hopeful and believes itself to be a forward-looking trailblazer for the rest of the world to follow. It remains perpetually confident that the best is yet to come.
As do I. Whatever 2018 brings, it will not bring an exploding Death Star or a jaw-dropping “I am your father” moment between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. There will be no Jedi warriors elected to Congress nor Imperial stormtroopers stationed at the borders. The debate will continue, the ongoing saga will see another chapter.
So pass the popcorn and rest easy. May the force be with you, merry Christmas and happy new year.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
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