War is a terrible thing. No sane person can argue otherwise. In its wake it leaves death, destruction, and scars… scars you sometimes cannot see.
Such was the theme of the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels, “The Last Battle”. Rex, Kanan, Ezra, and Zeb faced what remained of the droid army, in its original state, to truly bring an end to the struggle that lasted through the prequel trilogy.
Except when it comes to war, and more particularly the scars of war, there sometimes is not an end. Captain Rex, beloved by many, respected by all, had to deal with these scars as they were slashed open once again, and for the first time in Star Wars we saw blatant evidence of a rising epidemic in our world: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In a time of war, instant communication, and glorified violence, more and more people are dealing with PTSD. Most well known are the soldiers, like Rex, who return from war with nightmares of gun fire and landmines. This disease can literally take over someone’s life, potentially leaving them homeless and without a hand to help. Which is why this episode of Rebels was not only important, it was essential.
Our kids are growing up in a time where they see and know quite literally everything. The students I teach know more at their age than I did by the time I reached high school, and I am speaking not of knowing the light side. The dark side of cyber-bullying, in-person bullying, body shaming, etc., has gone to a level that could never have previously been fathomed. Yet it is their reality, and it is leaving more and more with them with a plethora of issues, from anxiety all the way to PTSD. Their seeing heroes like Rex and Kanan deal with similar issues can do nothing but good, particularly if we encourage conversations about it with them.
Nonetheless, the honest truth is so many people have trouble talking about their issues. I did for years on end when it came to my eating disorder, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.Quite frankly, I did not know how to put it into words, that is until I really started to delve into Star Wars and other stories. The characters and their trials helped me understand my own and encouraged me to “come clean” about the fact that I was not perfect. I could go on for ages about how seeing Luke choke the Gamorrean guard showed me how I was letting the darkness in me take over, or how understanding that part of Han’s swagger was a defense mechanism helped me admit that I had walls up, but the bottom line is that stories help us see more of our truest selves.
We need more of that today. Too often, and I say this as much to myself as I do you, we hide behind screens and our only sunlight is the screen light. We allow the pictures on Intsagram or the jokes on Twitter to devalue the greatness inside of us, and it leaves us with scars. While we can defeat the Sith in our lives, we cannot get rid of the scars. Rex shows us, however, that they can be managed, making life not only livable once again, but enjoyable.
That is why Star Wars is important. We need it, and other stories, like that of Harry Potter, Batman, and so on, to help us see, and help our children see, that the scars, come as they may, can heal.
Come back next week for part two: Characters in Star Wars with PTSD