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By Richard Shelter | June 2, 2005

Most classic films have at least one distinct line of dialog, something very memorable. Some of these become cultural jokes that stay with us a few years. But if we’re lucky, once in a long time when we really need it, some become cultural touchstones that actually have a chance of changing how people think.

At every screening of the new Star Wars film, there is a burst of spontaneous applause when this line of dialog is said. From the screenplay:

ANAKIN: Don’t lecture me, Obi-Wan. I see through the lies of the Jedi. I do not fear the dark side as you do. I have brought peace, justice, freedom, and security to my new Empire.

OBI-WAN: Your new Empire?

ANAKIN: Don’t make me kill you.

OBI-WAN: Anakin, my allegiance is to the Republic … to democracy.

ANAKIN: If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.

OBI-WAN: Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes.

There are already bumper stickers out with this line. Some of them have Bush’s picture on them.

I think that’s wrong. There should be pictures of Bush, Bin Laden, and some Zionist radical, to be equally fair.

Call me crazy, but sometimes pop culture creates a catch-phase that very simply capsulates an unspoken emotion, that distills it down to a single phrase:

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Most of us, as we get older, learn some truisms about life: Change is inevitable, life is not black and white but shades of gray, you have to give a little to get a little back, walk a mile in another man’s shoes, the love you take is equal to the love you make, etc. etc. All the words you have heard from your elders all your life trying to make you understand the great strength of wisdom: compromise. It’s a big planet and if we preserve it, there’s room for everyone if you just learn to accept and even celebrate the differences. I grew up in New York City with a hundred different cultural influences. And there’s an old saying in New York: Everything is Negotiable. You may laugh, but there is a lot of wisdom in that simple phrase.

Yet, think about this. All of the troubles in our world, from overpopulation, war, famine to the mundane culture wars in our country stem from corporate greed and religious extremism. I’m not going to go through the laundry list of evils in the world, just want to make a simple point here: the vast majority of us have much to fear from this age of religious revival. Whatever your beliefs, the extremist edge of all the world’s religions are pushing us toward a new Armageddon and this is what they want. They don’t want to compromise, they want the final conflict.

Problem is, it’s not going to be like they think it will and the rest of us, the vast worldwide majority who also have faith and just want to live in peace, are being pulled down with the rest of them.

See, I know very few Muslims, and yet I feel like my knowledge of their beliefs is being stymied in an age when cross-cultural understanding would seem to be the way to peace. Well, anyone who understands how the world systems work knows why this is: much easier to keep us in the West hating a bunch of “towel heads” than truly understanding the problems of the Arab world. And the al-Qaeda groups, and all their affiliates, further broaden this wall between our cultures, seeking nothing less than “Jihad” against all the “infidels,” the “non-believers,” of the world, especially those of us in the West. And they believe that the more of us they kill, the more they will be rewarded in the afterlife.

I’ve known many, many Jews in my lifetime, a by product of a life in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Love them, love the culture, much respect to the journeys of the tribes. That being said, why are a small handful in the Middle East, outnumbered a million to one, provoking the rest of the area. Why? Someone please explain to me the endgame here. To an outside observer, it would seem to be all about bringing about the “final conflict” that would settle the jurisdiction of the area once and for all.

Finally, I was raised a Christian, originally Catholic but in a non-religious household (Nowadays, I myself consider Jesus and Buddha to be my homeboys, to quote The Boss.) And with all love to my “born again” mother down in Florida, who goes to church every day (and implores me to do the same to meet a woman to marry) the biggest thing we have to fear in this country is the radical religious right.

Why? Not because of red state blue state culture wars, stem cells, abortion rights, gay marriage, liberal media, etc. etc. No, as important as those issues may feel to you on any given day, it goes much deeper than that: these people, for whatever reasons they have in each of their lives, believe that we are in the final days and this is what they want! They are in love with the idea of The Rapture in their lifetimes. They are convinced of the glory of meeting God soon and they will do whatever they can to bring this about, according to their beliefs.

This is why they support Bush so blindly, even the poor; they think of him as one of their own. They interpret the Book of Revelations and Nostradamus and they soak up all the Fox news about “who is the real enemy” and it makes their life easier to understand, more black and white. Good and evil become simple conflicts for which they’ll sacrifice anything, their time, money and even their children, without a moment’s doubt or hesitation. These can be good people, devout people. And yet, ironically, they consider the Muslims to be extremists, while their own government does their terrorism for them.

The world’s governments and corporate powers think they can use this as a means to their own ends, but they are wrong. They are opening a Pandora’s Box that eventually will get outside of their control. But it has served their purposes for the time being and they are not thinking of the long term. And unless we are careful, we are entering a new age, with something very old in a new paradigm, something slightly beyond Orwell: the use of religion for eternal conflict, eternal war, being used by the world corporate power. Think of the Crusades, but with modern technology. Problem is that this time the wars won’t last centuries. This time, cities could disappear in moments.

Which brings me back to Star Wars –

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Whatever your beliefs, are you guilty of being a “Sith”? Someone who believes so strongly in your God’s words that acceptance of others different from yourself is intolerable? Someone who can’t negotiate to live in peace? Someone who thinks “Kill ’em all, let God sort them out”? Someone who needs guidance of what to believe in? (Guidance that, I’m sure, leaders would be more than happy to provide you.) Do you wave the flag, burn the flag, any flag and think, “Either you’re with us or against us”?

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Think of the simple beauty of that statement. Think about creating a new cultural classification for those who will not compromise. For those who feel that they answer to a higher authority. For those that think they know what’s better for you or they’ll remove you.

This simple word, with all of its subtext and meaning, could become the phrase for the rest of us to use. For those of us who understand the true endgame that’s around us and want to put an end to all the hostility. We can now have one word that succinctly describes all of the radical extremists around us, whatever their beliefs, whatever their politics, whatever their stripe.

The Sith.

Go ahead and fire up some Back Talk>>>

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