“Did Darth Vader become a good guy after he helped Luke not get killed?”
That is the question my 5-year-old son, Calvin, asked after we watched Return of theJedi, the last of the six movies in the Star Wars saga. The one where Darth Vader is trying to kill his son, Luke Skywalker, with a lightsaber at the end of the film.
Evil Emperor Palpatine watches from his throne egging-on the father and his son to give in to their anger and hate. Vader stands down and watches as his son is painfully and slowly executed at the hands of the Emperor.
Moved by the sight of his son’s suffering, Vader stops Luke’s execution by sacrificing his own life to slay his Dark Side Master.
Calvin has been asking a lot of questions about good guys and bad guys since watching
Star Wars. His question about Vader’s actions struck me though because of the further questions it raised.
Questions that don’t have easy binary good guy or bad guy answers.
What is supreme good; is it our laws; our religions?
What is supreme evil; when is it confronted; when is it forgiven?
What terrors of war await us and what powers will we realize through peace?
On Friday, September 9, I had an assignment to photograph Bristol Central High School teacher Larry Covino.
Covino’s class is comprised of students who, ten years ago in 2001, were my son’s age.
Now 16, Alex Mandela said he knew something was different that day because his mom brought him home instead of taking him to daycare. Another student who lived in New Jersey at the time said she could see the smoke from the buildings but her mother wouldn’t tell her what happened.
After listening to his students, Covino told the class this story:
“I remember walking out of the door to the teacher’s room into that main hallway and I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Somebody was running. It was the guidance secretary running down the hall and I remember thinking to myself ‘why is she running? Teachers don’t run in the building. Why is she running?’
So I look and she yells to me, ‘Do you have a TV in your room?’ I’m still looking at her confused but I said, ‘Yeah, I have a TV in my room.’
‘You gotta turn it on. You gotta turn it on. We gotta go to your room. You have to turn it on.’
We walked up to my room and she wasn’t sure what was going on and she was kind of all upset.
I turned on the TV and they’re showing that first image of the hole in the building. For a few minutes we just sat. We just watched.The next thing I remember is my room was full of people. Teachers. Principal. Students.
I remember after the Pentagon got hit. I turned to another teacher and said, ‘We’re at war.’ And then thinking to myself, as the history teacher, ‘this hasn’t happened here before.’”