Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Federation, not an Empire

...“Star Trek” is often reduced to kitsch: Kirk’s paunch, Spock’s pointy ears, green-skinned alien girls. But it was more than escapism and rubber-suited aliens. It was a morality play, with Capt. James T. Kirk as a futuristic John F. Kennedy piloting a warp-driven PT-109 through the far reaches of the galaxy.

Kirk, for me, embodied an American idea: His mission was to explore the final frontier, not to conquer it. He was moral without moralizing. Week after week, he confronted the specters of intolerance and injustice, and week after week found a way to defeat them without ever becoming them. Jim Kirk may have beat up his share of bad guys, but you could never imagine him torturing them.

A favorite quote: “We’re human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we won’t kill today.” Kirk clearly understood humanity’s many flaws, yet never lost faith in our ability to rise above the muck and reach for the stars.

“Star Trek” painted a noble, heroic vision of the future, and that vision became my lodestar... What is the obligation of a free society toward the less fortunate? Does an “advanced” culture have the right to spread its ideas among more “primitive” ones? What does it mean to be human, and at what point do we lose our humanity to our technology?

And as I grew into an adult, and my political views took shape, I treasured “Star Trek” as a dream of what my country could one day become — a liberal and tolerant society, unafraid to live by its ideals in a dangerous universe, and secure in the knowledge that its greatness derived from the strength of its ideas rather than the power of its phasers...

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