Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Strange New World

I wonder … what would Gene Roddenberry think?

A little context here:

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first airing of “Star Trek”, the television series that went where no man — where no one — had gone before.

Meaning out into the stars, yes … but in the context of the mid-1960s and what was considered okay to put on television, this series went to a few places and did a few things that were just about unheard of, at the time – beyond doing what science fiction does best, namely under-the-radar commentary on current events.

On the bridge of our fair starship Enterprise: well, yes, a white fellow in the commander’s seat, and a white fellow in charge of keeping everybody well and healthy … but look at the folks who are helping them out:

An African-American woman in charge of keeping the Enterprise in touch with the outside world.

A Russian fellow — at the time, you’ll recall, Soviet Russia wasn’t exactly considered your warmest fuzziest neighbor — in charge of figuring out how to navigate the ship from place to place.

An Asian man in charge of steering the darn truck! (And firing the phasers, when sadly necessary.)

Yes, a white fellow in charge of keeping the ship propelled properly, but sporting an accent that was darn near impenetrable.

And a green — green! — alien. Not an illegal alien. And not an alien that is here to menace our heroes. And not a “little green man”, as early science-fiction writers imagined. A tall, dark (greenish) and handsome native of another planet entirely. And, um, friendly. If a bit bemused by the humans surrounding him.

As opposed to hell-bent on conquering our world. Or taking our jobs.

The crew of the starship Enterprise was meant (overtly or not) to be a microcosm of the sort of world that Gene Roddenberry believed was possible, some day in the future. His vision has been derided by some as full of Pollyanna BS in its utopian glee; but honestly, who wouldn’t want to live in a world where everyone was judged by their character and not by what they looked like?

Who, indeed.

Fast-forward fifty years from the first appearance of Captain Kirk and his merry band of genuine friends, and … well, politically, we’re not exactly in a happy-clappy utopian mist of bliss, out here.

This morning, I was listening to a segment of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, an interview with a Florida resident who is likely to vote for Republican Party candidate Donald Trump. He didn’t see himself as a hardcore, rally-attending, rally-protester-punching, campaign-press-corps-threatening Trump supporter. No indeed. Rather, he saw himself as a person who, after much consideration, really did think that voting for Trump was his best option “in a weak [election] field.”

And to wrap up his self-assessment, he said a most curious thing.

This is not one [vote] that I’m gonna be bragging about in the future. This is the first presidential election cycle in my lifetime [in which] I have not had a yard sign, a bumper sticker, a pin, a shirt, a hat … there is nothing on my property that would tell you who I’m going to vote for. I told somebody, you know, I like ‘Star Trek’, but I am not dressing up like a Klingon and going to the convention, okay? I’m going to vote for Donald Trump, but his yard sign is not going in my front yard.”

Setting aside the fact that, well, in this case, as in many others throughout history, at least one voter is glad that American elections are done by secret ballot, so no one has to know that you actually voted for Candidate X … and also setting aside the inescapable impression that he held beliefs for which he really didn’t want to have to stand up and be counted …

Here we have a self-professed fan of “Star Trek”, a program whose underlying point was that the wonderful thing about the people that is going out and exploring the wonders of outer space is that they represent race full of human beings who have figured out how to live peaceably and productively with themselves, and have matured to the point that they have begun to appreciate and value people and things and aliens that are different, rather than continuing to be spooked and scared by “strange new worlds”, and probably to be violent toward “new life and new civilizations”.

And this Florida man is supporting a candidate who has managed to awaken many Americans’ latent hatreds, by way of behavior and policies that espouse exactly the opposite philosophy from that “Star Trek” show.

I wonder what Gene Roddenberry would think.

I can’t speak for him … but as for me, at the very least I think that Florida man fundamentally misunderstands “Star Trek”.

Either that or he just likes it for the phaser guns, and spaceships, and fistfights wherein William Shatner rips his own shirt, again.

What really makes me nervous is that, according to the original Star Trek canon, Earth and its humans had to endure a Third World War before they could come out the other side and start to rebuild their civilization into something that would one day become the Roddenberry vision.

Here’s hoping Mr. Roddenberry was wrong, at least in this one detail.

Twenty days.


October 19, 2016 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, news, npr, politics, radio, science fiction, television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cause and Effect

Remarkable how, even when matters of life and death are in play, there are people out there who just … can’t … put it … down.

I’m as politically-minded as the next guy. I’m as faith-based as the next guy (as I’ve joked in this space before, I’m a church choir director so I’m contractually bound to believe in something). I’m as prone to bouts of humor, hopefully appropriate, as the next guy. Sometimes talk of the left or right side of the aisle, thoughts of a higher power, and the use of snark … are all necessary.

Early this morning, the Washington Post published an article online about the widespread damage done yesterday and last night by Hurricane Sandy to the northeastern US. The piece focused on the effects of the storm on the Washington, DC area, as makes sense for a newspaper based there (even one that has to deal with national and international coverage, given its proximity to our nation’s capital). But it also dealt with the huge amount of damage done to New York City and New Jersey, and the daunting amount of work that will need to be done to recover from the storm’s effects.

People throughout that region have lost their homes, their businesses, and in some few cases, their lives. At this writing, “only” thirteen; but it’s not an insignificant number to the friends and family of the people who have died.

And then some yahoo commenter posted this comment below the Post article:

Did you notice that most of the states hit by the hurricane are liberal states who are going to vote for Obama? I think God is sending signs that starting in January 2013, we are going to have magic underpants in the White House!


Can’t put politics and/or organized religion down for two seconds…?

Well, Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment of New Orleans for its lifestyle of debauchery and such. And, as I recall, 9/11 was God’s retribution for America’s tolerance of The Gay. There’s precedent and pattern, right?

Friends, this is more than just a case of a random hyper-political person – who, incidentally, I bet doesn’t live anywhere near where Hurricane Sandy hit.

And the other two disaster-related comments represent more than just a case of a pretend preacher who needs to whip up his televangelistic flock so as to maintain his current level of bank account, a Reverend who isn’t truly reverent about a thing that truly matters.

This is a case – and, sadly, not an isolated one – of a person in the process of losing his or her humanity.

When I read the comment, I let out an instant and immediate, “oh, my God.” Then I made note of the content of my own outburst. Yes. “My God.” That’s what drove that Post article comment, and it’s what now drives many knee-jerk comments, many calculated statements of opinion (newspaper columns and the like), and a number of beliefs about what ought to be public policy. There are people in our world who care far more about their ideologies (political or spiritual) than they do about fellow human beings who might be adversely impacted by the results of those ideologies.

Also por ejamplo: lately, it has become clear that to a certain subset of people, rape and its resulting biological consequences are gifts from God, so yeah – precedent and pattern. Last week, the candidate for US Senator from Indiana, Richard Mourdock, defended his opposition to abortion by saying, “…I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Mr. Mourdock might be forgiven for not realizing how strongly this statement implies that life is such a gift from God that He (or She? in this case that’s doubtful) is okay with its creation through a violation of a human person. [Which is not the God I was taught about in Sunday School, by the way.] Shortly thereafter, Mourdock went on, “I believe God controls the universe. I don’t believe biology works in an uncontrolled fashion.”

Clearly there are people don’t believe meteorology works that way, either.

Yes, I know all about the story of Noah and the ark and the flood and the Bill Cosby sound effects, and various other Biblical tales of cities and regions being laid waste because they were misbehaving in God’s eyes. They’re all in the Old Testament, have ya noticed? That particular Testament is much more of a disaster movie than the Testament that followed it.

If we’re looking for patterns, I suppose we could note the fact that both Mr. Mourdock and Congressman Paul Ryan are experienced marathon runners; and both of them supportive radically restrictive policies regarding women’s reproductive rights; so that must mean that ALL marathon runners want to see the Roe v. Wade decision overturned.

Mustn’t it?

Friends, didn’t they try to teach us to think critically, in school (aside from Texas)?

Apparently there are people out there who will look for anything, any old coincidence, to make a statement supporting their beliefs. No matter how tenuous or just plain absurd the coincidence is. No matter how heartless the statement is.

This is not a big enough space to debate the question of the extent to which God controls the universe.

(I’ll give you a moment to contemplate the sheer unadulterated understatedness of that last sentence.)

All I know is that while we’re all here on earth, regardless of what our belief about that is, we at least owe it to each other to do one thing, especially in moments of disaster like the one that has befallen the area around New York City. We owe it to each other to follow at least one phrase out of that beloved (but oft-ignored, even by supposed followers) Good Book: the Gospel according to St. Mark, the twelfth chapter, somewhere between verses 28 and 31:

One of the teachers of the law … asked [Jesus], “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

I’m no Biblical scholar, but I think obeying the second commandment may be a good way to obey the first.

And the yahoos out there who post unthinking, unfeeling comments about God directing disasters toward people who don’t believe the things that they, the yahoos, do? The ones for whom such comments represent not not-well-thought-out jokes, but strongly-held beliefs?

At best, they’re missing the point.

October 30, 2012 Posted by | Internet, media, news, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment