All the stars and planets were aligned…Just after the election I had a birthday, which I share with my binary brother, Lewis. In sixty years, we’ve never spent a birthday apart. Like so many of us, he was shocked, saddened, crushed by the election results. There was only one thing to do. We played space age hooky, beamed him out of the office and transported ourselves to the Seattle Center.
Specifically, to the EMP, which is celebrating 50 years of Star Trek.
I hardly remember life before Star Trek. And talk about The Next Generation! My children absorbed Star Trek by osmosis in utero. As I ascended the stairs to the EMP tribute, the Star Trek theme song elicited a visceral response that only gets stronger as I get older. I’ve lived long enough now to see many of these stories played out on my planet in real time.
The Star Trek universe was built upon a future where poverty was eliminated, equality and diversity went hand in hand, and the good of the many took precedence over the few. Humans had learned to cooperate, and put an end to war. All of Earth and the Federation of Planets collaborated on peaceful missions of exploration. What a concept! A bit rosy, but a vision worth striving for.
My brother and I arrived early and shared the floor with only a few others, including a very cute couple in Star Fleet uniforms.
We had shared a womb for nine months, and managed to both fit into a Borg Regeneration Chamber too.
Star Trek had action and adventure, but was also thoughtful and intelligent. Writers could get away with astute critical social commentary, because it was all happening in another universe. Thinly veiled stories posed tough questions about civil rights, social disparity and racism in our own society.
Martin Luther King was marching for basic civil rights and a place at the lunch counter for African Americans when Classic Trek was filmed, featuring a black woman as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, fourth in command on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Her surname means ‘freedom’ in Swahili.
It wasn’t long before a woman would captain the Federation Starship Voyager.
A black man was in command of the space station, Deep Space Nine.
Julian Bashir, whose Arabic name means “bringer of good news,” was the doctor on DS9.
In the original series Lt. Hikaru Sulu was played by George Takei, who is gay. Fifty years later, in the most recent Star Trek movie, writers gave Sulu a child and a husband, a powerful tribute to the actor who first brought Sulu to life. More importantly, it was an unwavering moral and political statement of inclusiveness that brought tears to my eyes.
For just a little while, it felt good to be in a place of Equal Opportunity bridges, and not walls. Right now we are in the middle of our own episode, so scary it seems like science fiction, with the world we’ve worked so hard to build spinning out of control. The incidence of hate crimes is rising dramatically. Social security is threatened. Fifty years of social progress is at risk as minorities, immigrants, women, LGBTQ, those with disabilities, and the poor are in danger of being disenfranchised. The environment is on the brink of ruin beyond recovery because in this episode The Almighty Dollar is worshipped at all costs. In this story, we don’t have other worlds to relocate to after we’ve ruined this planet. Too many episodes begin with civilizations that have self-destructed, or are ruled by uncaring masters who live in the clouds in their own decadent paradise, while the workers they exploit to maintain their carefree lifestyle live in a harsh ugly world. You probably saw “Patterns of Force,” the episode pictured below; there are people old enough to have lived through that reality, and who recognize the signs in our country today.
If we wait until the 24th century to be rescued, or for ‘enlightenment’ to kick in, we’re going to find ourselves back in the Dark Ages wondering what happened. Anyone who has watched Star Trek knows how difficult it is to travel back in time to change the future. Star Trek’s writers say, “…start by picking a resolution…then plan each step so it drives the story toward the ending you want…”
Every episode needs conflict to give a story purpose and move the plot forward. Star Trek writers created a terrifying foe called The Borg...”individuals who have been captured and assimilated…and transformed into mindless worker drones…What’s frightening about the Borg is not their violence…They are unhampered by empathy for other beings, believing their way is perfection…The Borg are, in essence, a virus that uses civilizations as its hosts.”
Can you see where our country is headed? We will NOT be assimilated. Our story must end with a world where people of every race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation live and work together as equals, without fear of banishment, punishment or judgement simply for being who they are. This episode must end with respect, inclusivity, and compassion for all. We must do whatever it takes to make it so. The reason Star Trek has become such a lasting legacy is because it is hopeful and empowering and delivers a message we need to hear. The captain’s chair is ready. Let’s take our tall ship, keep an eye on that star to steer her by, and go full speed ahead, warp factor 10. Whatever happens, please remember…Resistance is NOT futile. It is the only way we ever have or ever will make any headway, and it will be a crucial message to the next generation.
©2016 Naomi Baltuck