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With Me Or Against Me

Hm:

Conservative Web logs were lacerating Mr. Lucas over the film's perceived jabs at President Bush - as when Anakin Skywalker, on his way to becoming the evil Darth Vader, warns, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," in an echo of Mr. Bush's post-9/11 ultimatum, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
Okay, but it's not like Bush thought this up all on his own. It was Jesus Christ who said "he who is not with me is against me" (Luke 23:11). I've heard and read Zbigniew Brezezinski attribute this sentiment to V.I. Lenin on several occassions as well, though I don't know if he ever actually said it. It doesn't strike me as a particularly remarkable sentiment, it's just run-of-the-mill grandiosity and egotism. When Jesus says it, it makes perfect sense. He really is (in the story, at least), the Savior of mankind, and his mission on earth is the most important possible thing. Everyone needs to change sides. The objectionable thing about invocations of this idea in political contexts is the self-importance it displays, like George W. Bush's policy vision is the equivalent of Christ's program of salvation. It's just the sort of thing you would expect Anakin, who obviously suffers from a high degree of self-regard, to say.

May 19, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

some people should take off their polarizers and just enjoy the fukkin world once in a while like actual human, beings instead of trying to turn everything into some asinine political issue.

Posted by: cleek | May 19, 2005 1:18:24 PM

The way I always heard it was "whoever is not against you is for you." Luke 9:50 http://bible.oremus.org/browser.cgi?passage=Luke+9

Luke 23:11 seems to be an entirely unrelated scene from the passion.

However, I agree that having Darth Vader say the opposite of what Jesus said is a bit of a stretch to interpret as a slur against George W. Bush.

Posted by: PaulC | May 19, 2005 1:24:06 PM

some people should take off their polarizers and just enjoy the fukkin world once in a while like actual human, beings instead of trying to turn everything into some asinine political issue.

Amen.

Posted by: Al | May 19, 2005 1:32:39 PM

To compare GW Bush to Darth Vader is ridiculous.

Vader was a skilled warrior and a natural leader, and Bush was an AWOL coward and a guy who never accomplished anything except through his family's connections.

Sheesh! Show a little respect for the Sith Lord!

Posted by: David | May 19, 2005 1:34:30 PM

It might be a stretch to consider it anti-Bush were it not for Lucas's remarks at Cannes:


CANNES, France (CNN) -- "Star Wars" director George Lucas says that although he wrote the original film during the Vietnam War, his six-part saga could apply to the war in Iraq.

''In terms of evil, one of the original concepts was how does a democracy turn itself into a dictatorship,'' Lucas told a news conference at Cannes, where his final episode had its world premiere.

''The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.

http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Movies/05/16/cannes.starwars/

Appears to me that Lucas was trying to borrow a bit of Michael Moore's mojo. After all, what better way to sell your bloated juggernaut of American cultural imperialism to European audiences but to suggest that it is really a criticism of American imperialism. If only his dialog and plots were half as clever. It may blow up in his face in the U.S. -- but, on the other hand, what better way to sell the thing to a world audience than have U.S. conservatives protesting it? Man, if that happens, the Germans will go see it 10 times each.

Posted by: Slocum | May 19, 2005 1:37:53 PM

It is funny though, to see Republicans adopting the thin-skinnedness usually associated with oppressed minorities.

Posted by: PaulC | May 19, 2005 1:41:10 PM

Man, if that happens, the Germans will go see it 10 times each.

Hell, I wasn't going to forgive him for Jar Jar Binks, but maybe now I WILL go see it!

Posted by: David | May 19, 2005 1:41:11 PM

PaulC and Matt: Jesus said both.

The reason why Matt's quote seems inaccurate is that he reversed the chapter and verse numbers.

Matt, by Luke 23:11 you meant Luke 11:23

Luke 11:23
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters."

Luke 9:49-50:
"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."
"Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."

Posted by: Glaivester | May 19, 2005 1:45:37 PM

The phrase itself is morally neutral, though it does connote self-importance. In Star Wars terms, you can imagine the Rebel Alliance saying the same thing to potential allies.

You have to imagine, because they didn't. When Han Solo begs off from the Rebel cause after delivering the Princess to Yavin, Leia is ticked, but lets him go.

FWIW, anti-Lucas conservatives should take solace in Attack of the Clones, in which the threatened arms buildup by the Separatists turns out not to be fantasy. We even see the droid factory!

Posted by: Grumpy | May 19, 2005 1:49:40 PM

Besides, Bush is unificater, not a dividamarizer. I don't know if you can say the same about Darth Vader.

Posted by: nacho_mama | May 19, 2005 1:53:20 PM

The reason why Matt's quote seems inaccurate is that he reversed the chapter and verse numbers.

To be fair, I believe Matthew was thinking of Jesus H. Christ (R-MS).

Posted by: Delicious Pundit | May 19, 2005 2:29:20 PM

Anybody here play "Knights of the Old Republic"?

In the game, the sith are always trying to rationalize their evil behaviors. Normally, the sith are just evil. But when they try to rationalize, they come across as republican.

Posted by: Josh Yelon | May 19, 2005 2:29:24 PM

An Iraqi I know tells me that Saddam also famously said something very similar (the first thing many Iraqis thought of when W said it).

Posted by: Michael Farris | May 19, 2005 2:33:49 PM

Don't forget Hitler's version of same: "Ver is nicht mit uns ist gegen uns."

Posted by: Mark | May 19, 2005 2:56:29 PM

This is possibly somewhat tangential to the main topic here, but it could be pointed out that both versions of the phrase are contained throughout all three of the synoptic gospels :

It is in Mark (by most accounts the earliest gospel, and most likely sourced by the other two) :

Mark 9:38-39:
"for whoever is not against us is for us"


And then in Matthew (probably the next gospel written), but reversed :

Matthew 12:30:
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters."


And then in Luke (probably the last of the synoptics written) in both forms :

Luke 9:50:
"for whoever is not against you is for you."

Luke 11:23:
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters."


So both Bush and Anakin choose to use the less inclusive form, which is also probably the less accurate version.

Scott

Posted by: Scott Chacon | May 19, 2005 3:04:53 PM

Abb1 11:23-24:

She who is not with me is doesn't know what she is missing.

Come to me, tell me I'm the one, oh baby, come to me, oh baby, be with me.

Posted by: abb1 | May 19, 2005 3:53:20 PM

Perhaps the issue is that whenever someone says "you are with me or against me" they are in essence trying to take on the characteristics of God. It is not that "with us or against us" is an offensive thing to say, but that it is offensive when people who don't have the authority to say it say it.

Posted by: Glaivester | May 19, 2005 4:11:21 PM

Now MoveOn is jumping on the Star-Wars-as-metaphor-for-current-affairs bandwagon. I just got this email: Today, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith opens at theaters nation-wide. And weirdly enough, the plot of what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest films in movie history revolves around a scheming senator who, seduced by visions of absolute power, transforms a democratic republic into an empire.

We've put together a new TV ad, based on the same theme, that we're launching today. It's our first (and only) political ad to feature both a space battle and an army of judge robots. You can check it out at:

http://www.moveonpac.org/savetherepublic/?id=5543-3450602-nw_oF.mD18adQQTUvvqkCg&t=11
Sigh.

Posted by: Rebecca | May 19, 2005 4:24:07 PM

Oddly enough I've only really seen the "he who isn't against me is with me" sort of meme. A lovely bit of fellow travellism.

Posted by: McAdder | May 19, 2005 4:31:32 PM

The issue is less Anakin/Vader's line than the line taken in context wtih Obi Wan's response: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes."

Posted by: John | May 19, 2005 5:34:35 PM

It is important to note that the Bible uses that basic formulation four times; twice in the negative "He who is not for me is against me" way -- both directed at the people like the Pharisees as instruction to correct their own lives -- and twice in the positive "who is not against us is with us" -- both directed at his apostles, in instruction on how they should react to others.

A lesson that can be drawn from that is that a Christian should be careful himself (or herself) to be for Christ, but should grant others the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by: cmdicely | May 19, 2005 6:00:34 PM

My own take on the matter:

http://cntodd.blogspot.com/2005/05/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-sith.html

Posted by: cntodd | May 19, 2005 6:31:00 PM

Not "grandiosity and egotism", ignorant little Matthew. Please go read the 2002 NSS and work it out, fercrissake.

Posted by: ronb | May 19, 2005 6:47:52 PM

If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Posted by: epistemology | May 19, 2005 7:19:58 PM

If you are not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate . . . .

My take on the with/against phrase - it only makes sense directed at someone not openly attacking you - for then what is the point - but nevertheless is stubbornly refusing to support you unquestioningly (regardless of merit). It draws lines that perhaps need not be drawn.

The important thing is not that Lucas might have put Bush's words (however sourced) in our villain-to-be's mouth, it's that Bush was saying something that under many circumstances *belongs* in a villain's (or at least a very rash) mouth.

Was it Socrates who brought up that bit about how morality must exist apart from God because then what if God said that killing and eating helpless elderly ladies was moral (not exactly, but you get the jist)? Sometimes I get the impression that ome people take the opposite side of this when it comes to Bush - whatever he says, is right.

Posted by: Dan S. | May 19, 2005 8:29:04 PM

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