One of the primary movements in academia, one that has not only taken hold, but in many disciplines, has taken over, is deconstruction. It’s the idea that great literature, written almost entirely by dead white men, is of necessity, patriarchal, anti-women, sexist, racist, homophobic, and any other phobic and ist one might imagine. Therefore, the primary job of the serious academic is not to teach the classics for their value as literature and as a means of transmitting and upholding vital cultural conventions, but to deconstruct them, to tear them to pieces and show how evil they and their authors are.
This is arguably the very reason for all of the “studies” departments in the modern university: black studies, women’s studies, queer studies, gay studies, etc. There is apparently little or nothing of value in the great works of the past, produced by history’s greatest minds, but there is certainly endless political and financial advantage in shredding it, whether there is any validity to the deconstruction at hand or not.
Obviously, such thinking leads to a complete repudiation of the beliefs, values and habits that have built America, and that make individual success and prosperity possible. Delayed gratification, hard work, self-reliance, personal integrity, valuing education, being truthful, dealing with everyone with sincerity and good will, altruism, reliability, all are seen as symbols of a repressive patriarchy. Black children attempting to practice these essential qualities, particularly valuing education, are often shamed, told they are “acting white.”
A current, if minor, example of deconstructionism is the backlash over the success of the newest iteration of the Star Wars franchise: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The offensive character that must be deconstructed is Rey, the young, orphaned scavenger which whom the Force is strong indeed. The complaint is that she is a “Mary Sue,” a hero that has nothing wrong with them.
That a substantial portion of American society would readily agree with the idea that personal perfection and heroism are prima facie wrong and due disparagement demonstrates the success deconstruction has had in making us doubt the very qualities that have always made America and Americans exceptional. Deconstructionists reflexively attack the very idea of American exceptionalism.
Without a doubt, internal and external conflict are essential elements of drama. Marvel heroes have always been conflicted in one way or another, which is a significant part of what makes them interesting. Their doubts reflect their essential humanity.
The last seven years, the Age of Obama, have been rife with cultural deconstruction. Individuality is bad, greedy, evil. Unalienable rights are destructive to a harmonious society. We must all surrender our freedoms and individuality to a benevolent, all-knowing central government run by experts, the self-imagined elite, who alone know how to run a complex society, and who will decide what is best for all. From all according to their abilities, to all according to what federal bureaucrats think best at the moment.
What is it about Rey that so bothers the cultural elite? She is everything they are not. Rey is young, beautiful, athletic, self-assured, hard working, decent, kind, smart, cunning, reliable, courageous, self-sacrificing, altruistic, loyal, a real Boy or Girl Scout, the kind of daughter any parent would be proud to call their own, the kind of girl anyone would want for a friend.
In other words, she is to progressive deconstructionists as holy water is to vampires.
The suggestion that she is a mindless Mary Sue is a cheap bit of distraction, a knowing lie. Rey lives, alone, scrambling to survive and doing it quite well, on a pathetic, desert planet, waiting for family to return. She knows they won’t, but hope springs eternal in the good, so she is faithful, as reluctant to leave as Luke Skywalker was until circumstances freed him from his obligations.
She does risk her life for others, including a little droid. She is utterly unafraid of physical conflict and is an adept fighter. Living the life she lives, that would be a necessity for survival.
When the Force manifests within her, she struggles against it, but necessity–perhaps destiny–encourages her to accept what she is, and what she can become. Her obvious skill with a blaster–an advanced particle handgun–is only one factor at which deconstructionists sneer. In reality, women are often good shots, not having to overcome ego issues and bad habits men often develop. Being inspired and guided by the Force is certainly helpful.
Why is the Force so strong with her, just as it was with Luke? Both are inherently good. Not perfect–there is no such thing among human beings–just good.
That too makes deconstructionists profoundly uncomfortable. So much of what they praise, of what they are, is anything but good. They feel this acutely, which is why they so viciously attack the virtuous. The mere existence of good people, by comparison, leaves them wanting. The existence of a true hero makes them furious.
If John Wayne were alive, just as he did as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, he would say of Rey “she reminds me of me!” Men–real men, not pajama boys–not only admire Rey, they desire her. They are inspired by her. She is the kind of woman that makes them want to be better men. They would be proud to be her friend, her lover, and proud to fight beside her.
For girls, she is inspiration personified. Feminism has always proclaimed that women can do anything men can, that women have no limits. Rey is the living embodiment of that ethic. Of course, traditional feminism allows women only to be what feminism proclaims authentic. Rey badly breaks that limited mold.
In Rey, young girls can see a woman they can truly idolize, someone they want to grow up to become. She is beautiful, but for Rey, beauty is entirely beside the point. She can run, climb, fight, fly, shoot, and she even cries. She demonstrates all that is most true, best in the feminine character, but radiates physical strength and more importantly, character. She’s the best friend a girl can always depend upon, and the mother/fierce protector every girl needs and can rely upon.
A substantial part of Rey’s internal struggle in The Force Awakens is her reluctance to accept greater responsibilities, to devote herself to a way of life about which she never dreamed, to give up all of her former dreams to embrace an uncertain, unknowable future. But this is the way of all courageous, capable people.
The truly brave, people who are willing to sacrifice, to put aside their dreams for the good of others, of something bigger than themselves, always accept assignments, responsibilities they didn’t seek. These are the kinds of people we want in positions of power and responsibility, not the flatterers that seek power, but the people who seek it not. It is these people that can be trusted with power because they understand that it is a sacred trust to be handled with great care and kindness, not wielded for self-gratification and to harm others.
George Washington, a true hero, didn’t seek high office, but his country demanded it of him. He was never comfortable with the Presidency, and ever aware that everything he did would affect every president that followed him, but he did his duty, and when his term expired, he had a choice. He could have remained president for life. Americans would have loved it just as they loved him, but he put principle above all else and retired to private life. He knew well the precedent that would set. We have had precious few like him.
At a time when people that abuse power are admired by some, when the crimes of the powerful not only go unpunished, but are actually lauded, when lies are the currency of so many elected officials and bureaucrats, when the President of the United States cannot–or will not–tell our allies from our enemies, when he is incapable of distinguishing good from evil, deconstructionism runs riot.
Fortunately, evil cannot win if good men and women recognize and fight it. It helps that Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, appears to be a genuinely decent young woman who appreciates the opportunity she has been given and works hard to be worthy of it, to create in Rey a true hero worthy of emulation. Hopefully she will take to heart Han Solo’s advice to Luke “Great kid; don’t get cocky.”
It’s long past time to reverse deconstruction’s soul-destroying nihilism. It is time to once again embrace all that makes Americans great and worthy people. It is time to teach and praise the habits and character traits that reflect true character and goodness. And above all, it is time to unabashedly support true heroes–like Rey. The basis of heroism is not courage, but the willingness to lay down one’s life for others. There is no greater love than this, and Rey loves greatly.
Rey is, after all, fictional, but we can see the strength and character of people we know in her. That’s what good literature does. We can see where we fail, and what we believe we can become. Seeing Rey, a character in a movie, we can leave the theater with the resolution to become better people, because we have seen goodness, and we too want to be good.
Being good men and women is a fundamental, life-long struggle. Captain America, Luke Skywalker, Rey, Audie Murphy, Leigh Ann Hester, Monica Lin Brown, Kimberly Campbell, and many others show us what we can be, if we too know the difference between the trivial and meaningful, and good and evil.
Most Americans want to be good people. They want to be heroic. They want, once again, to be like the best Americans that have ever lived. They too want to love greatly. That’s why movies like Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Battle For Los Angeles, American Sniper, and Star Wars; The Force Awakens are so popular, and why progressive deconstructionists so hate them, and why they sneer at the God and gun clingers of fly-over country.
Trying to denigrate, to explain away Rey’s innate goodness, heroism and love speaks eloquently of the ankle-biting empty souls and heads of those that sneer at her, and those that would honestly, and with true hearts, emulate her.