“I love democracy. I love the Republic.” – Chancellor Sheev Palpatine
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” – Abraham Lincoln
Chancellor Sheev Palpatine was a political genius, influencer and diplomat with a career that spanned decades. Sheev Palpatine was first introduced in the Phantom Menace as the influential senator from Naboo. Charming, articulate, intelligent and even caring, Palpatine quickly gained the trust of Padmé Amidala and the confidence of the Jedi. The politician had wit, intelligence, wisdom and a caring nature that was the essence of the Republic.
Palpatine was also master schemer, manipulator, liar and had all the traits of a narcissist and a psychopath. Through deception and manipulation he rose to the rank of Chancellor in the intergalactic senate. Over the ensuing years Palpatine was able to fool very capable and intelligent beings. He convinced all that he stood on the side of justice, truth and liberty. Behind that mask was the manifestation of pure evil; the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Sidious.
We know the story. Chancellor Palpatine led a double life. In the senate he advocated for peace and order while in the shadows he orchestrated war and chaos. In public he spoke highly of the principles of democracy and justice while he exploited loop holes in the constitution to remain in power past his elected term. Advocating fairness and ethics, Palpatine used bribery and coercion to sway the Trade Federation and keep allies and foes in check. Count Dooku was used as a pretense to start war and seed chaos in the galaxy. Through deception Palpatine was granted emergency executive powers allowing him to build the greatest army the galaxy had ever seen. Through manipulation by fear and rage he convinced the Republic to enter a long and brutal war with the Separatist confederacy.
Palpatine played mentor and benefactor to Anakin Skywalker and manipulated his emotions and love for Padmé Amidala. He exploited that love to twist Anakin to the Dark Side. As his dictatorial powers in the senate increased, Palpatine was able to exploit weaknesses in the Jedi Order and sow division. Through Palpatine’s persuasion and manipulation, Anakin was gradually alienated further from the Jedi Order. Palpatine exploited Anakin’s pain, fear and anger by promising to grant him the power to save Padmé from a prophesied death. In return Anakin submitted himself to the unmasked Dark Lord and became Darth Vader.
“So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.” – Padmé Amidala
Order 66 was issued. The Jedi Temple was ransacked and the Jedi were slaughtered almost to the last. Some Jedi managed to escape to exile. The remnants of the Republic fled and started a fledgling rebellion. The Republic Fell and Palpatine with Darth Vader beside him declared the rise of the Empire. Darth Sidious became Emperor Palpatine and democracy died with thunderous applause.
The story is reminiscent of the fall of the Roman Republic with the rise of the dictator Julius Caesar. Cato the Younger, a celebrated Roman Stoic, resisted Caesar and is remembered for his courage, tenacity, stubbornness and dedication to principal. Leading a resistance against Caesar, first in the Senate and then on the battlefield, Cato fought to preserve the Republic but to no avail. His army was eventually defeated and Cato chose to take his own life than bending a knee to Caesar.
A long time ago in a galaxy far away Obi-wan Kenobi faced his former friend and pupil and also chose death over submission. Raising his Lightsaber to open his defense he was cut down by Darth Vader. The act freed Kenobi to unite with the Force and pushed Luke Skywalker to his ultimate destiny. One day the Empire would be toppled and the Republic would be restored. The Force would find balance.
In the real world there is no absolute good or evil, only shades of. No one but the worst psychopaths intend to do evil. The vast majority of people in this world simply make decisions everyday on how to live their lives. People choose to act in ways that are beneficial to their lives and the lives of others or they do not. Most people in most cases act in accordance with nature, which is to act in their own best interests without compromising or harming others. When we are asked to choose between political parties in an election we are exercising our democratic right to choose between individuals that are sworn to act in the best interests of the nation. We decide who best serves that ideal.
When I chose to drink I had no choice. By choosing to remain sober I keep the darkness at bay. I can continue to choose. Addiction, any addiction whether to power, love, prestige, fame or substance robs us of our choice. Eventually what we crave, owns us.
Lincoln once said that in every man there resides two conflicting sides. As an alcoholic I was at war with myself for decades and eventually one side emerged. Sometimes the better angel does not always prevail but eventually they do come out, if we let them. Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom or at least get a glimpse of it before we do. Remember that, especially in these times. We still have our democracy and we still have our freedom to choose what is right.