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I never saw Star Wars

Actor Carrie Fisher poses for cameras as she arrives at the European Premiere of "Star Wars, The Force Awakens"

Actor Carrie Fisher poses for cameras as she arrives at the European Premiere of "Star Wars, The Force Awakens"

That's right. I never saw Star Wars until last night. That may strike many as strange. After all, Star Wars first hyper-spaced itself onto the silver screen in 1977 when I was just 17, the right demographic for the movie. And I am a Sci-Fi fan, so an even more perfect demographic.

But there was something about it which I just didn’t get. The thing is I was never keen on Western movies. All that John-Wayne-white-man-against-Native-American stuff somehow seemed wrong. And Star Wars was effectively a Space Western.

But following the announcement that Carrie Fisher had died after suffering a stroke on a plane, I felt obliged to sit down and watch it, if, for nothing else, to try and understand this pop culture phenomenon.

I have to be honest and say that I still don’t get it. With its clunky script and clunkier acting, particularly by Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, I still can’t warm to it. But I must agree with fans: Carrie Fisher effectively breaks the mould of weak, vulnerable princess, and is as credible a role-model for female emancipation as any Germaine Greer.

So, yes, in a way, I get it. I get why people are upset, particularly as Carrie reappears in the franchise in the last and next installment of the series (you’ll have to wait a year to see that one).

Just like I get why people want to see the back of 2016 which seems to have provided us with a glut of goodbyes.

Unlike a guy (who shall remain nameless) on Facebook, I get it.

This guy wrote yesterday that he didn't understand why people are so surprised at the number of deaths. After all many of these people were ‘of an age’ when it was time for them to pop their clogs off. And, after all, we all have to die, and we all know of mothers, fathers, cousins, nephews who have died this year.

And he is of course right. Except that…

Unlike our friends and relatives, these people have managed to capture something others didn’t: our imagination, the zeitgeist, our dreams, our hopes, our needs, our struggles.

I don't just see a list of famous people, I see points in my life, moments of inspiration, emotional often uplifting journeys

When I think of Pierre Boulez, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan, Ronnie Corbett, Zara Hadid, Harper Lee, Umberto Eco, George Martin, Keith Emerson (joined nine months later by his musical partner Greg Lake), Prince, Muhammed Ali, Abbas Kiarostami, Toots Thielemans, Gene Wilder, Edward Albee, Victoria Wood, Andrew Sachs,Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Fidel Castro, Ron Glass, John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Richard Adams and now mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, I don't just see a list of famous people, I see points in my life, moments of inspiration, emotional often uplifting journeys. These people have woken me up to possibilities.

And they have literally made me laugh and cry.

But as we see the backside of this annus horribilis (yes pun well and truly intended), I would like to honour one man; a man who you will not see on any obituary list of 2016.

In fact he died in 2015. But, to my shame, I was totally unaware of him till this year. But he, like all those mentioned above, has become a source of inspiration.

For this man had shown courage and fortitude far beyond the call of duty, all in the name of preserving what is truly human: our culture.

Khaled al-Assad stood up to the brutality that is ISIS.

His name is Khaled al-Assad and he did something very few of us are willing to do.

In order to save the cultural icons, the artefacts, and the symbols of what is best and creative in humanity, he stood up to the brutality that is ISIS.

His story was retold by his daughter last March as the Syrian Army took control of the city once again.

With just 48 hours before ISIS descended on Palmyra, instead of escaping the city with his family and other citizens, Khaled al-Assad, who was the head of antiquities in that city, frantically hid all of the most important pieces of that ancient cities.

When DAESH (as ISIS do not like to be called) entered the city, he was still busily hiding the last remaining artefacts. He was caught and, despite their best efforts, Khaled al-Assad refused to tell them the whereabouts of the treasures.

In recompense, Khalid was beheaded brutally. He refused to kneel as ordered. He said he would fall standing like an old palm tree in Palmyra.

Unfortunately DAESH regained control of Palmyra on December 11.

Let us hope that the death of this 83 year old man who showed such love for his country’s heritage will not be in vain.

It’s never too late to honour people of this calibre so this end of year blog is dedicated to him.

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