I loved Rogue One: A Star Wars story. In fact I may be in the minority of Star Wars fans, but I loved it more then I loved The Force Awakens. I felt that the space dog fights in Rogue were the best since Return of the Jedi, the “thing the heroes must destroy in space to win the day” original, the characters engaging, the story gripping, the special effects cutting edge, and Ben Mendelson’s Director Orson Krennic a more engaging villain then General Hux in The Force Awakens. Sure one cameo or two was a little wonky but chances are that they will clean that up a bit for the DVD/Blu Ray (they’ve done it before).
But if I were to pick my favorite character of all of the new ones we met in this first stand-alone Star Wars film , it was the Guardian of the Whill, Chirrut Imwe. Not fully trained as a Jedi, he demonstrates skills and abilities on par with the greats, like Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Qui-Gon Jinn with the wisdom and serenity of Yoda. The most engaging part: he was blind. Not counting Darth Vader in his giant walking prosthetic iron lung, or for that matter Saw Gerrera, this is the first time we have seen a character in Star Wars who can truly be described as physically disabled by our standards.
Yet in the broad scenes of the Star Wars mythology, what makes this so important, isn’t just the fact that he’s blind, but that he has a better understanding of something The Jedi missed prior to their downfall. Throughout the Prequel Trilogy and the Clone Wars series we see that the fabled Jedi had gotten so caught up in politics and dogma, that they lost their ability to be fully effective as keepers of the peace. There were some exceptions, chief among them being Qui-Gon Jinn who urged his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to be mindful of the Living Force.
Like Qui-Gon, Chirrut trusts solely in the living Force ( or has he calls it “The Force of Others”) in all times and circumstances and this allows him to be one of the fiercest fighters we’ve seen in the series to date. He is able to naturally do what Obi-Wan had to have Luke do wherein a helmet with a blast shield down.
Thus, he is typically even in the film in tense moments repeating his mantra,
“I am in The Force, and The Force is with me.”
Initially it just sounds like the ramblings of some old beggar, seeking handouts. In fact even the heroes Jyn and Cassian don’t think much of Imwe when they first meet him. Like many traveling through the Star Wars equivalent of Jerusalem they just want to get to their destination and not bother with every random beggar and dealer they encounter on the crowded streets. The Storm Troopers don’t see him as much of a threat and just urge him to move on. That is until they are surrounded troops and Imwe shows his fighting ability that makes them stop and pause for a moment. Imwe, in this instance used his disability to his advantage. No one would expect much from him, which gave him an element of surprise. He was far stronger and more powerful than any one could imagine.
He holds the same stalwart faith in the Force that Yoda would later impart to Luke in Empire Strikes Back when he chastised Luke for placing too much credence in the size and shape of things in the world, as he told him,
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm.For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”
Thus, he shows something that many advocates in the disability rights community strive for. A new definition for disability. One that doesn’t mean “weak” or “useless”, just “differently abled”. That is something that really hits home for me personally.
As a kid, I related to Luke off all the Star Wars characters, and not just because I have a similar complexion to him. Not only was I a bit of a whiner, I tended to drift off, and my mind was very rarely on where I was or what I was doing as I’d gaze off into the future. As an adult I’ve grown to see more of myself in Obi-Wan. However, the minute Cirrut started knocking storm troopers around despite how everyone underestimates him, we clicked.
While it’s not a physical disability, I’m on the Autism Spectrum. Add to it a severe case of dyscalculia (think dyslexia but with numbers instead of words) and by society’s definition, I am for all intense and purposes, just as “disabled” as a blind man or a deaf woman. Thus, there are those in the world that underestimate me at every turn and see me as crazy, or worse, thanks to the media and politicians on both sides of the aisle using my diagnosis as a catch all phrase to describe the mentally ill. If they don’t see me as a threat, they assume I’m an arrogant, insufferable “genius” type.
I’ve even had a teacher tell me to accept academic failure as my only option, and those who’d claim to love me tell me life would be better off without me, or that no one can ever love me. I was harassed at work by customers because of the “retarded” way I walk(there worse, not mine) to the point I asked to leave early as I fought back tears. It’s cost me girlfriends as it has made my relationships with my friends and family more difficult than they should be. In fact, the only relationships I have ever had that weren’t difficult, have been with my loving and loyal canine companions that have been part of my life since the day my parents brought me home from the hospital. (Hmm, perhaps Han Solo and Cassian Andor are on to something about having none-human companions.)
I never asked for this diagnosis, and in fact I have long tried my best to be “normal”. Science has managed to explain how my condition comes to be ( a genetic mutation), psychology affixes the label, but society, that is the one that has given me the stigma. Hillary Clinton may have believed that it takes a village to raise a child, but it has been my humble experience that this same village is just as likely to chase someone like me with torches and pitch forks out on a rail.
With all this stacked against me, what strength can I hope to find? After all, autism makes me look weak and useless. Simply put, while society may scorn me and regard me as weak, I know I have a much greater power. My faith. I am a Christian and I have to believe that God has a plan and a purpose for my life. If I didn’t have that belief, there would be no reason for me to go on.
In those moments, I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist,
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”
This, along with being blessed with parents who have patience and unconditional that borders on the superhuman level, has sustained me through the most challenging times in my life, and given me a power to overcome the obstacles thrown in my way. It’s something that gives me pause and helps me put these diagnoses in perspective as I know every day I look in the mirror that I can’t do everything on my own. I need help, not just from God, but the people in my life, the few who can look past the exterior to see the “luminous being” I am. Thus, they find instead of the arrogant, insufferable genius type, they find more of a whimsical Yoda type. The kind of guy who one moment will be super-psyched about an awesome flashlight he discovers in your camping gear, and then the next says something so profound you never thought of before. They don’t see someone disabled…just differently abled.
When the world calls me a retard or a failure, or incompetent, or worse, I try remember those words of the Psalmist. Like Chirrut Imwe with his blindness, and Yoda with his height I know my limitations don’t define me. With that strength behind me, I get to define them. Thus I can say in those overwhelming times, when the world seems against me, and they say I’ll amount to nothing,
“I am in the Force and the Force is in me.”