So, I let my preschoolers watch a PG-13 movie. I know, bad mommy. In my defense, it was Star Wars (that makes it OK, doesn’t it?). It was also Tony’s custom version, expurgated for three- and six-year-old eyes. And, we LIVE on the planet of Tatooine. Besides, the damage had already been done six years ago when Axa saw it multiple times in the theater as a baby in the Philippines.
Bizarrely enough, Star Wars is something my children can really relate to. As we were preparing to come to Tunisia in the wake of the revolution, I cast about for a way to explain the events to them without overwhelming or frightening them. Back when the revolution was just scattered demonstrations in little Tunisian towns, we had already watched the original three Star Wars movies in anticipation of our move. Those movies became a perfect way for me to describe current events in Tunisia and the feelings of the Tunisian people in a way that Axa and Dominique instantly related to. The desperate struggle of the Rebel Alliance against the evil Emperor and his Storm Troopers paralleled nicely the street demonstrators in Tunis and their crusade against President Ben Ali and his sinister security forces.
After our arrival in Tunisia, we watched Episode 1. The Senate of the Republic illustrated beautifully the sort of parliamentary government many Tunisians would like to have, as well as vividly echoing their reasons for preferring to avoid a government with so much emphasis on presidential personality. When we watched Episode 2, we had just visited El-Djem, an incredibly preserved Roman amphitheater in central Tunisia. At the time of our visit, I couldn’t bring myself to describe the function of the amphitheater to my children, other than telling them that the Romans made lions and bears fight one anther. But when they didn’t seem overly traumatized by seeing Padme, Anakin and Obi Wan fighting fantastic beasts in the coliseum scene, I gathered my courage to admit to them that scenes like that had figured prominently in El-Djem’s history.
Episode 3 is certainly heavier than any of the other five. And that’s why we ended up skipping much of the second half when watching it with our children. But after all, is the horrifying Darth Sidius/Emperor Palpatine any more disturbing than Darth Qaddafi, the maniacal despot next door? With heavy hearts, we watch as the rebels in Libya are forced back toward their stronghold. The window of freedom seems to be closing for them, even as Clinton and the rest of the G8 discuss options and scenarios for international intervention. Hopefully, the rebels can hold on, and the international community can find a way to help them before time runs out. Yoda and a clone army out of nowhere is about what this revolution needs now. In Star Wars terms, I’m hoping this will be a Return of the Jedi triumph rather than a Revenge of the Sith tragedy. Only time will tell.