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Walker Bristol | Notes from the Underclass

The Force is strong with these ones

Published: Sunday, May 19, 2013

Updated: Sunday, May 19, 2013 08:05

 

For three years, I’ve been awfully proud and lucky to have been befriended, mentored and inspired by some brilliant people in the year above mine. It gives me nothing more than pleasure to congratulate them on their achievements leading up to what will undoubtedly be a brilliant May 19. I’ll certainly be joining them in the crowds — and, if you’re around, I hope you will too — to join hands and celebrate the eight-year anniversary of the release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Tufts was founded on, and today preserves, the Jedi values of active citizenship and interstellar citizenry. But sometimes that past is forgotten, and I certainly hope on May 19 that someone with a microphone acknowledges: We are prone to letting passion and power blind us. Yes, perhaps I’m speaking particularly about the recent policy instated by the Committee on Student Life offering religious student organizations the ability to exempt themselves from the non-discrimination policy. Letting those in power determine what faith is by a strict interpretation of doctrine? Obi-Wan hit the nail: “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” If we could talk to him today (we can, he’s One with the Force) I’m sure he would take a striking stance.

That’s not to say the whole ceremony needs to be critical of our institution: I’m all for us making sure May 19 is about celebration — celebration of genius cinematographer David Tattersall, celebration, of course, of Hayden Christensen’s salient performance and celebration of the part where there’s a lightsaber duel on a lava planet.

What I’m asking is that speakers and seniors and friends alike not be afraid to ask the hard questions — those that leave you lying awake late into the night. When will ASL fulfill Part I of the foreign language requirement? Should the guise of “free speech” really protect hateful and triggering rhetoric in on-campus publications? Why did they give Leia Organa a different last name when she was adopted but just keep Luke Skywalker as “Skywalker”? There are no easy answers; seeking them is a journey. But that journey, we must undertake.

As we’ve been told countless times by administrators and mommies alike, the events of the Star Wars franchise happened “a long time ago, and in a galaxy far, far away.” But that’s no excuse for disregarding how applicable are today the values professed by the leaders of the Galactic Republic before Order 66. Evil lingers all around us, often subtly, and we are all susceptible to the darker ways of the Force, at least insofar as we have some midichlorians. It is our burden, as people, to resist the temptation to don a red lightsaber and dismiss as “Rebel scum” those fighting for equity and just policy.

I applaud Tufts for pouring so many resources into an undoubtedly vital celebration on the Academic Quad today: to commemorate four years of hard student work by remembering arguably the most important Star Wars feature film of the last 10 years. But if you’re going to go through the effort to set up thousands of chairs, invite seniors’ families and friends and display a life-size Wampa ice sculpture at the reception, I feel that we shouldn’t let the values of the franchise we’re celebrating go unheard. Star Wars evokes the triumph of compassion over power, social justice over spite. We ought to appreciate all of these, both as students and graduates. It was put most clearly by the philosopher and protocol droid C-3PO, human-cyborg relations, when he delivers the final line of Episode III: “Oh, no.” Oh, no, indeed. Oh, no we won’t take injustice. Oh, no.

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Walker Bristol is a rising senior majoring in religion and philosophy. He can be reached at walker.bristol@tufts.edu.

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