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The Clone Wars: The Deserter | What We Can Learn About Identity

Over the past year, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into the conflicts between my past, and who I want to be in the future. The things I have accomplished have shaped the expectations not only that I have of myself, but that others have of me. 

In many ways, it comes down to the decision of whether I get to choose who I am today and tomorrow, or if my identity is already set in stone. The things about me, that are me; are they flexible or rigid? How much loyalty do I owe those who have expectations of me, especially when those expectations are based on who I was in the past? 

The Clone Wars: The Deserter

The 10th episode of The Clone Wars season 2, titled “The Deserter”, asks many of these same questions. In the story, Captain Rex, a clone commander who is the definition of a loyal soldier, finds himself face to face with a traitor. Rex is injured in battle, and finds shelter at a local farm. The farmer’s wife, Suu, puts him in the barn (they always put them in the barn). At some point in the night, he senses someone sneaking up on him. When he jumps off his makeshift bed, he finds himself looking in a mirror. The farmer, as it turns out, is a clone deserter named Cut. 

To Rex, Cut is the lowest of low. Rex reminds the deserter of the oath he took. Nevermind that Clones never got a choice of whether to take that oath. To Rex, Cut abandoned his brothers. To the Captain, loyalty is everything. 

As Rex gets to know the family, including the couple’s two Twi’lek children (the time-frame suggests they aren’t his biological children), Cut begins to change Rex’s point of view. Cut is loyal, just not to the Grand Army of the Republic. He is principled, but his principals guide him to being a great father, husband, and farmer, not a soldier. He never felt comfortable fighting in a war, it just wasn’t him. As the two Clones talked, it became clear that they were just two different people, with different needs and desires. 

Rex, Cut, William, and Harry

Honestly, Rex and Cut remind me of two other brothers, who have been in the news lately. Prince William and Harry of England. William always seemed suited to serve the crown, and to follow protocol. Harry never seemed interested in that life. He was more Teddy Roosevelt than British royal. Harry also seems to have other parallels to Cut. They both seem to have been labeled deserters. The reaction that the press, the public, and perhaps even his own brother have given him, suggests that everyone expected Harry to just surrender all choice in life, and follow the path he was born for. 

It is kind of sad actually. Harry can’t even enjoy the life he wants, with the woman he loves, without other people–including his brother–passing judgement on him. Cut was the same way. He just wanted some kind of agency in his life, and here he was being judged by someone who had a different world-view. Someone who made assumptions about him, based on his own sets of values. 

In the rest of the episode, Rex and Cut had to work together to protect the family from commando droids. Seeing how passionately Cut protected his family, made Rex realize that his Clone brother was not a coward, nor was he disloyal. He was brave, and willing to fight for what he wanted. He was loyal to the things that were important to him. In the end, Rex decided not to turn Cut in for desertion. 

We All Have Different Needs

There is another part of this story that is important. The point that could be missed. That is, neither Rex nor Cut were wrong in living their lives the way they were. Becoming a farmer and having a family was right for Cut. Being a soldier, and leading his troops was right for Rex. There is a danger in expecting everyone to be carefree, and to go after what they want in life at all cost. Some people crave structure, to have some decisions made for them so they can focus on other areas of their lives. Others feel trapped by the confines of what birthright, life choices, and education has led them into becoming.

This is also where the story of William and Harry parallels that of Rex and Cut. William probably enjoys the structure of being a prince. He was made to follow protocol. Harry, on the other hand felt confined by it.  In life, we often expect everyone else to have the same needs in life we do. Some of us would look at William, and think that everyone should follow his example. Others would look at Harry and think that everyone should break free from whatever chains keep them from becoming their true self.

Religion: Confining or Stabilizing 

In many ways this is similar to how people view religion right now. There are those who feel that everyone needs to have the structure of religion to have a good moral center. While others feel that having a religion define your morality restricts you from being all you can be. The truth is, that for some, the absence of religion or any higher purpose, could lead to a chaotic life. While others need the freedom to determine their own path, and would be miserable with the confinement of religion or other types of groups. Not all of us need the same level of structure in our lives.

Conclusion

Overall, the story of the Deserter, was about Rex losing some of the rigidness that defined him in earlier episodes. It was about him growing as a person, and an individual. He was able to accept Cut’s decisions, while also holding onto the values he believed in for himself. However, meeting Cut also helped him begin a personal journey. In following seasons he was able to stay a disciplined commander, while also beginning to question who he was, and whether his current life path was the best for him. For those who know the rest of the story of Captain Rex, they will know how important this moment in his life is to get him to where he is in the future. 

For us, in the real world, we can take lessons from Rex, Cut ,William, and Harry. We can begin to ask ourselves how much we want to be beholden to our pasts, our traditions, and the expectations of others. If we go on this journey of self discovery, we may find that we need to hold onto these things to maintain sanity, or we may find that they keep us from living our best lives. Everyone’s journey is different.

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