anghraine: luke walking onto a hill, backdrop of himself and the binary sunset; text: destiny awaits (luke skywalker)
[personal profile] anghraine
I see this come up all over the place. In fic, in meta, in casual discussions.

At the end of A New Hope, the Death Star prepares to obliterate the Rebellion's base. The Rebellion sends out a number of pilots to attack the Death Star's weak spot and one of them, Luke Skywalker, does so. He and the friends who helped him are rewarded and praised as heroes.

This always seemed straightforward heroism to me. But instead, it keeps getting used as fodder for various Not So Different arguments. It might be a story where Luke says, "you're an evil murderer, I'm not joining you!" and Vader/Mara/whomever replies, "ha, you're a murderer too! You killed millions of people on the Death Star, that's worse than anything we've done!" It might be an essay that says, "after all, Luke is a mass-murderer too. He killed millions of people on the Death Star." It might even be, "hey, the Rebellion isn't perfect - how many people died on the Death Star?"

... What?

No, really.  What?  Unless I'm missing something really important, this makes no sense whatsoever.

I'm not saying that there isn't a lot of Not So Different going on with Luke. This picture kind of says it all. Force-choking his enemies is really morally ambiguous.  But the Death Star is not one of those things.

Why?  Let's refresh.

(1) The Death Star has the power to destroy ENTIRE PLANETS.

(2) The Rebellion is at war with the Empire, and the Death Star (per above) is their most powerful weapon.

(3) The Death Star isn't not a colony. It's a military station - a perfectly valid target in the course of war.

(4) Even if it weren't, the Death Star is on the point of obliterating the entire Rebellion.  They shouldn't defend themselves against something that is trying to kill them?

(5) Luke was not acting alone; he was a soldier in a military endeavour which succeeded thanks largely to his efforts.

(6) The occupants of the Death Star are, overwhelmingly, enemy soldiers and officers. None of them seem to be conscripts - there's no sign at any point that enlisting in the Imperial forces is anything other than voluntary. The Republic, on the other hand . . .  They were not innocent bystanders. If they didn't know the purpose of the station . . . um, hello, Death Star???  What did they think it did, delivered first aid packages? Yet the only person to object in any way is Darth Vader.

(7) There may have been prisoners on the Death Star, as well. They would have been killed in the attack.

(8) The Death Star had already destroyed the planet Alderaan.

(9) Supposedly, because of the treason of its senator. However, they were going to destroy a highly-populated Core planet anyway - Alderaan was chosen simply to make a point to Leia specifically.

(10) Alderaan was peaceful and unarmed.

(11) Alderaan was an Imperial planet. For Americans, a roughly comparable situation would be the Air Force obliterating a state if one of its senators were accused of treason. 

The Empire was murdering in its own citizens. The Rebels were attacking the weapon they used to do it, and the enemy soldiers who manned that weapon. These things are not remotely the same! Destroying it was the only reasonable (and decent) thing to do. At worst, the death of the prisoners (...who were only present because of the Empire's own actions) was a regrettable necessity, and I'm fairly certain that Luke would have regarded it that way.

In conclusion, Luke Skywalker is not a mass murderer by any stretch of the imagination. Personally, I doubt the destruction of the Death Star would have weighed on his conscience anywhere near so much as the amputation of his father's mechanical hand. Because context matters.


anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (Default)

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