Andor

I mentioned this briefly in my Status Updates newsletter that went out yesterday1, but I just wanted to expand on my thoughts here briefly. I am really enjoying the new Star Wars series on Disney+, Andor. (Some minor spoilers follow here for those who haven’t watched yet.)

Diego Luna, who plays the title character

The story follows Cassian Andor’s entry into the burgeoning Rebellion, years prior to the events of the equally good Rogue One. The series is being presented as a more “adult” take on Star Wars, with a darker story, more mature themes, and just an overall much more serious tenor. It is a classic spy thriller, and honestly one could be forgiven for not even realizing this takes place in the Star Wars universe until several episodes in. We don’t see stormtroopers, lightsabers, classic battle ships, or hear familiar strains of orchestral music until episode 4 at the earliest, and even there, its all very muted and distant. The story stands alone really well, and while I’ve seen some criticism about this from fellow Star Wars fans, I actually really like it. The galaxy is a big place. Life in places looks different than life in other places. It is completely conceivable to me that on an mid-to-outer rim world like Ferrix, life would have its own rhythms, and the absence of the Empire in favor of a corporate security presence is very plausible. Its not that I don’t want more “classic” Star Wars stuff; I love Mandalorian and Kenobi and the other Star Wars content that scratches all those itches and includes all the Easter eggs and callbacks. But its just really cool to see something very different.

We are five episodes in, and the first three episodes in particular really stood out to me. There is a coherent storyline that makes them all feel like a movie, and they climax in a showdown where the tension builds and builds at the end of episode three that is unlike anything I have ever seen in Star Wars. It was riveting, and three weeks on from first watching it, I am still thinking about it a lot. It was just fantastic film making, which for all its glories and successes, it not something that is often said about Star Wars.

I am, all in all, a big fan of what Star Wars has become under Disney. I was a Star Wars fan before, and have only seen my love for that world grow as a result of everything we have gotten over the last seven years. I see old SW heads still complaining about all the Disney stuff, and I just think to myself, aren’t we supposed to be having fun? Isn’t this imaginary world of spaceships and lightsabers and aliens and robots supposed to be something we enjoy taking in, and something we should be overjoyed to get more of? How lucky are we, after all the years where all the Star Wars we had was the original films and a handful of less than stellar novels and comic books, to now have new Star Wars material to take in month after month! We get these really well done shows, we get some stellar novels, including the fascinating new High Republic stuff, we get some really well done video games, and even the comics are really enjoyable (and I say that as someone who is not really a comic book person at all.) This should be fun. God knows there is enough dreariness out there. Let’s enjoy2.

Anyways, I’ll get off my soapbox. Andor is good, really really good, and even if you are not a Star Wars fan, it is the kind of thrilling sci-fi – spy thriller that anyone who loves a good story can get behind. I can’t wait to see more.

1 Are you subscribed to my newsletter? No? Well, you should be! There is a lot of good stuff happening over there. Its free, check it out!

2 All of this paragraph also applies to Tolkien and the new Rings of Power series, which I am loving as well. I may write about that more soon.

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Christian illiberalism

While I’m on the topic of labels…

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself largely disillusioned by classical liberalism, especially as it finds itself being practiced today, in a world where rampant individualism and capitalism have collided in a way that I think is doing significant damage to people, culture, politics and the earth. Nonetheless, I keep finding myself drawn back to classical liberalism, especially at intersects with democracy and pluralistic Western society. I’m steeped in this liberal tradition, and I don’t anticipate ever being fully free of it.

That said, I just want to lay down a marker to say, I find the Christian illiberalism of Leah Libresco Sargeant (click that link and read that article, don’t pass it by) very attractive and powerful, and I keep at least a toe in that camp. Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder and Alasdair Macintyre all influence me the same way, and remind me that, inevitably, Christianity in its best forms finds itself at odds with classical liberalism. This is a tension I will always have to live with.

conservative-liberal-socialist-democrat-leftist-anglican-anabaptist-christian

I’m working on a longer piece for my newsletter (which you should subscribe to!) in which I try to account for my political and ideological wanderings over the last couple of years. But, a couple of shorter pieces have come across the radar in recent weeks that I identify strongly with. First, as pointed out by Kevin Drum, is this piece by Ruy Teixeira at Politico. Teixeira is formerly of the progressive Center for American Progressive, but is moving to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, mostly because of his disillusionment with the identarian left and its illiberal proclivities. Drum highlighted the line that really hits home for me:

I’m just a social democrat, man. Trying to make the world a better place.

Ain’t that the truth. Progressives would be a lot better off if we remembered what kinds of policies put food on the table for most people (and thus what policies most voters actually care about.) It points me back to Alan Jacobs’ short and helpful reminder from a couple months back:

Your periodic reminder from Leszek Kołakowski: It’s possible to be a conservative-liberal-socialist

I resemble that remark. It feels nice to be seen, amidst a progressive left that seems in many ways to have left me and some of my fellow travelers behind. Its for that very reason that I don’t really claim the term “progressive” anymore, but instead float somewhere between “leftist” and “classical liberal”, with a smattering of social democrat sprinkled in, and floating above it all (and really, superseding it all), “Christian.”