Star Wars and slavery: A quandary awakens

Through an American prism, Turkish slavery seems as otherworldly as Star Wars slavery. But the similarities are striking. The Turks relied on slaves to manage their civil service and fight their wars. You could even make quite a career as a slave. Sokollu Mehmed Pasha was a slave and the de facto ruler of the Ottoman Empire for 15 years.

As for what to think about the slavery in “Star Wars,” I’m still struggling. Maybe when humans design sentient computers, there’s nothing wrong with programming them to be eternally loyal. Maybe.

That makes me think about how our understanding of the past is constantly changing, not because we have new facts about what happened yesterday, but because we have new understanding about who we are today. Some old movies are hard to watch because of the ways blacks or Native Americans or gays are depicted. My daughter loves I Love Lucy and Little House on the Prairie, but sometimes she asks very good and pointed questions about why girls were expected to stay at home. People saw things differently then, I explain.

If there comes a day when we make sentient and emotionally complex androids, we may have to have similar conversations with them about the Star Wars franchise. Best not to show them Blade Runner at all.