Today is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek’s premier on TV. I think it is a perfect day for some self-reflection and future-focused thought.
Who do I want to be in 50 years? Or 500 (I mean, obviously, who do I want to be remembered as in 500 years since there is no current method confirmed for living forever)?
Star Trek showed a universe of people trying to live in a utopia of acceptance, understanding, & morality. The original show really tackled some very difficult issues through the lens of aliens – sometimes with the aliens being “wrong” and sometimes showing how humans might still need improvements ourselves. TNG continued this theme, talking about ethical issues as well as social – personal responsibility and loyalty. I grew up with these questions. I love Star Trek because it helped me create a safe place to always go and explore issues that might be too scary or painful to explore in my own life: bullies, ethical quandaries, racial bias…
I find great irony that we are looking at 50 years since Star Trek first challenged gender, racial & social constructs we assumed and the election we are facing this year. Star Trek taught me that just because someone does something differently, it doesn’t make them wrong. It’s why I’m terrible at debate. I am too empathetic at internalizing my opponents’ point of view (I argue it’s what makes me better as a writer – I empathize with my villains’ POV). It also makes politics very painful to me because I don’t understand when people take the “the other side is always 100% WRONG.”
Who do we want to be for our grandchildren? How do we want American school children to learn about this era of history in the 23rd century? Will they learn how we continued to seek out ideas, try things and learn about the strengths of other views? Or will they see us slip into a new age of ignorance and fear? Will we invest in our children’s creativity or will we drive towards an ideology of obedience?
I firmly believe we need to ask some very scary questions about who we want to become. As a country. As a society. How do we see ourselves interacting with other peoples – and who would an alien see if they arrived at earth today? Tomorrow? Who will we want remembered and who would we want those aliens never to hear about? What is that really matters and what are we doing to accomplish it?