Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Analogous Absurdity


I have neglected this blog for too long. I have a few embryonic posts on important topics that I will post soon, but I just had to address this little bit of geeky ephemera.

Apparently, some homophobic fan boy recently objected to a lesbian scene in a Star Trek novel. He wrote a letter, and the writer gave a great response. My first three reactions to the incident were: 1) Imagine that fan boy's reaction if the characters were gay males. 2) Dude, where have you been? Lesbians on Star Trek are old news. The Deep Space 9 episode “Rejoined” aired in 1995. Catch up. And 3) It's fucking STAR TREK. If you have a problem with any form of tolerance you are in the wrong fandom.

Watch Starship Troopers instead.

I call this an analogous absurdity because the homophobe’s response looks a whole lot like conservative "patriotism." One of the many points I hammer home in my book is that America is supposed to stand for liberty, equality, and democracy and that conservatives chronically oppose those things. These three big ideals cover a lot of ground, and the ripple effects cause conservatives to oppose America’s every ethos – from our status of a multicultural nation of immigrants to the very concept of progress itself. As I wrote before in this blog, William F. Buckley Jr. declared in the National Review’s 1955 mission statement that his magazine “stands athwart history shouting Stop!” By contrast, Thomas Jefferson once wrote:

But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

In that respect, Star Trek – and every inherently secular humanistic message contained in it – is an extension of America. Both are animated by a vision of an advanced, scientific-thinking society that is both tolerant and egalitarian, and yet nevertheless values individuals' right to live as they like. As Thomas Jefferson explained, “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action, according to our will, within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” But theocrats cannot grasp this. They think "God's law" trumps all else. Jefferson thought otherwise. "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." Legislating Leviticus is inherently un-American.

This vision was committed to our coinage. As Benjamin Franklin had inscribed on our nation's first penny "Mind Your Business." On the opposite side of the coin are the words "We Are One" surrounded by thirteen interlocking rings to represent the thirteen original colonies. This later became our nation's motto E Pluribus Unum - "One From Many." In time, this got tied to our generous multicultural identity - the one outlined in the poem on the Statue of Liberty that reads: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me."

In my book, I argue that the interdependent ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy form a tripod with each leg supporting the other two and thus the structure as a whole. I further argue that empathy and generosity are the glue that holds all the pieces together. Of course, the conservative temperament cuts against all of these things. It stands athwart history and America's liberal traditions shouting self-contradictory nonsense. Just as there are Trekkers who do not get Star Trek, there are Americans who do not get America. And for the same basic reasons.

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