To boldly go where we must go

To: The Hate Machine

Yesterday afternoon we participated in Stacey Abrams’s Star Trek: The Next Election (Zoom) party to benefit the Ossoff and Warnock campaigns. Well, actually we just tuned in and watched/listened as Abrams talked with members of the various Star Trek casts about politics and the messages and ethos of the shows. For the most part, everyone was upbeat, hopeful, and all in on encouraging coming together across the divide, negotiating with those across the aisle, and being understanding/accepting/loving even though it’s crazy hard a lot of the time. The basic working assumption they articulated was that conservatives who support you and your racist, misogynistic, xenophobic are simply misguided, that they’ve been brainwashed and breathed in the gaslighting gas and aren’t really, truly deep down bad, hateful people.

The one hold out on this was Marina Stiris (Counselor Troy) who passionately, emphatically challenged everyone in the gathering on the issue of “what is in their hearts.” She got really real about how when people truly hold hateful beliefs, it’s pointless to reach across the aisle in goodwill because you’re going to get your hand bit. She didn’t actually tag in that last part, but it was strongly implied. In the end, she claimed that she is not without hope, but she wasn’t willing to get on board the “we’re gonna be ok if we just stay loving and compassionate” spaceship with everyone else. And I love her even more for that. She admitted that she was really a terrible counselor on the show (Star Trek: Next Generation) and I would agree with her assessment, but her character always did the truth telling heavy lifting and it was refreshing to hear the real live Marina Stiris doing the same.

Memorable as Stiris’s comments were, it was another actor’s description of why his time on the show was so precious to him that felt the most poignant and resonant to me. I feel badly that I didn’t track who said it, but the person is a gay man in real life and he spoke of spending every workday immersed in a galaxy where humanity was well past the biases and bigotry that poison virtually every aspect of our actual collective life together. He said that getting to exist in that space, feeling so safe and affirmed and whole, led him to be an activist and to hold onto the hope that we can someday get there in real life.

I’ve not seen any of the series that have gay characters, but the combination of incredibly diverse actors and a fantasy world just around the corner where race and gender aren’t absolute dictators of one’s options were always so compelling to me. We still own the complete set of Next Generation and Deep Space Nine CD’s that we watched semi-religiously with our daughter when she was little. They are family treasures and we all refer to the time we spent with them fondly and somewhat wistfully.

Before I close, I just want to tell you about the day’s verklempt moment. It was when we were talking with our dear friend who works as a nurse at one of the UW Hospital outpatient clinics about the coming push to get the COVID vaccine distributed. I started in on my choke-up/tear-up reaction when we were talking about the fact that she will get to be vaccinated super soon, but what pushed me over the edge was when she said that over 700 people volunteered to person the shot clinics when the general call for volunteers went out earlier this week.

So there’s some goodness for you.

May we all be safe until it’s our turn to get the vaccine.
May we be happy to prioritize our essential workers who are in harm’s way.
May we hold fast and strong to the idea that a just world is right around the corner, not light years away.
May we accept though, that the hate in some people’s hearts may not be remediable.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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