Was Spock “queer”? Of course he was, by one definition of the word. He was unique. And he was (and remains) my favorite character on “Star Trek.”
If you’re a fan of the show, you may have heard of a rich literature that suggests Kirk and Spock were something more than friends. That they were, in some sense, lovers. And indeed there apparently exists plenty of imaginary pornographic imagery of such a relationship, which, to be honest, I have not checked out. I’ll use my own imagination here.
The whole idea of Spock as queer was revived for me by this article at Tropics of Meta:
When I watched “Star Trek” in reruns in the 1970s, I never thought of Spock as “queer” in this way. I viewed him as exceptionally loyal and in such a close friendship with Kirk that it transcended our limited sexual categories. But just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too can be other forms of attraction.
The notion of Spock’s “queerness” strikes me as part of the richness of “Star Trek.” That it’s open to multiple interpretations. That it had complex characters who couldn’t be reduced to one type.
As a character, Spock was truly a stroke of genius. Half Vulcan, half human. Always alien — and always conflicted. Spock is a friend and inspiration to anyone who doesn’t quite fit in. Anyone who feels himself or herself (or themselves!) to be “alien” in some way.
His superior, Captain Kirk, seems to be a conventional ladies’ man, but you get the sense they’re all disposable. Kirk is in love with his ship, with his command, and the only “human” who’s truly indispensable to him is Spock, or so it seems to me.
They had a “queer” relationship in the best sense of the word: rich, complex, special, and unique. They could (and did) risk their lives for each other. May we all have more of such “queer” relationships in our lives!
When the first hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001, I was at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I was in my car, listening to the radio, just outside the North Gate, where a B-52 sits on static display as a symbol of American power. The first reports suggested it was an accident, but it soon became apparent it was a deliberate act. As a second and then a third plane hit the WTC and the Pentagon, I remember hearing speculation that 9/11 could have a higher death toll than the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day of the U.S. Civil War. It was bad enough, if not that bad.
I remember confusion and chaos in the government, and the use of the word “folks” by President George W. Bush to describe the hijackers. Very quickly, his rhetoric changed, and soon America would be launched on a global crusade against terrorists and other evildoers.
The flags came out and America came together, but that team spirit, so to speak, was quickly seized upon and exploited by Bush/Cheney to justify war anywhere and everywhere. Good will was squandered and wise counsel was rejected in a calculated plot for power-projection disguised as righteous vengeance. Sweep everything up, related and unrelated, go big: those were the sentiments of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and crew. They had failed so badly at protecting America on 9/11; they were not going to fail to use 9/11 for their own nefarious purposes.
And now, 20 years later, we’re witnessing how badly their hubris and dishonesty have damaged democracy in America, as well as damaging or destroying millions of lives around the globe.
After finishing my tour at the AF Academy in 2002, I became the Dean of Students at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey. I wonder how many of “my” young troops who so proudly crossed the stage with newly acquired language skills in Pashto and Dari and Arabic never made it home from Bush and Cheney’s GWOT, their “global war on terror.”
9/11 remains a traumatic day for America. It’s a day we remember where we were and what we were doing when we first learned of this horrific attack on our country. However briefly, 9/11 brought America together, but militarism and constant warfare along with prejudice and ignorance have served only to weaken our democracy while impoverishing our country.
This madness was on my mind as I recently re-watched “The City on the Edge of Forever,” a classic Star Trek episode in which history’s changed when Dr. McCoy travels back in time to 1930s America. Here he saves the life of Edith Keeler, a social activist who, in an alternate timeline, delays U.S. entry into World War II, which allows the Nazis to develop the atomic bomb first, thereby winning the war. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock learn they must prevent McCoy from saving Keeler, which is complicated by the fact that Kirk falls hard for her. She’s a visionary who speaks of space travel and a better world. As Kirk courts her, Keeler says she dreams of a future in which all the money currently spent on war and death … and Kirk completes her thought by saying that that money will be spent instead on life. Kindred spirits they are, Kirk and Keeler, yet to restore history to its proper place, he must let her die.
Keeler’s dream of peace – of all the trillions of dollars spent on weapons and war and death being instead spent on life – is the proper one, the right one, even as it was tragically premature. For this she must die, forgotten to history, a bit player remembered only for running a small neighborhood mission for those with nowhere else to go.
I’ve always been attracted to science fiction and to plots both utopian, or at least hopeful, and dystopian. But in the dystopia in which we increasingly find ourselves today, we need hopeful visions. We need Edith Keelers. But to use Star Trek-speak again, what I see issuing from the U.S. government is far more consistent with a Klingon Empire driven by war than a peaceful and life-affirming “federation” of planets. The U.S. empire is not about to go quietly, nor will it go peacefully.
It’s time for a new course, a far less bellicose one, but a no less determined one, where Americans look within rather than without. Echoing Edith Keeler, let’s spend our money and resources on life, not death, love, not war. Let’s try that for the next 20 years. If we do, I bet we’ll be a lot better off in 2041 than we are today.
In my latest for TomDispatch.com, I tackle the Pentagon’s latest proclivity for “near-peer” conflicts, the near-peers being China and Russia, which conveniently serves to justify huge war budgets in perpetuity. It’s the Cold War, rebooted and rebranded, with a new generation of nuclear weapons thrown into the mix to make things even more interesting. As they say, what could possibly go wrong?
What follows is an excerpt that focuses on a “Star Trek” episode that has much to teach us:
In the 1970s, in fact, I avidly watched reruns of the original Star Trek. Lately, one episode, “A Taste of Armageddon,” has been on my mind. It featured two planets, Eminiar VII and Vendikar, at war with each other for 500 years. Here was the catch: those planets no longer used real weapons. Instead, they fought bloodlessly with computer-simulated attacks, even as citizens marked as “dead” had to report to disintegration chambers in a bizarre ritual meant to keep the peace through a computer-driven holocaust. The peoples of these two planets had become so accustomed to endless war that they couldn’t imagine an alternative, especially one that ended in a negotiated peace.
So many years later, I can’t help thinking that our country’s military establishment has something in common with the leaders of Eminiar VII and Vendikar. There’s so much repetition when it comes to America’s wars — with little hope of negotiated settlements, little talk of radically different approaches, and a remarkably blasé attitude toward death — especially when it’s largely the death of others; when foreign peoples, as if on another planet, are just “disintegrated,” whether by monster bombs like MOAB or more discrete Hellfire missile strikes via remotely piloted drones.
What gives? Right now, America’s military leaders are clearly turning back to the war they’d prefer to be fighting, the one they think they can win (or at least eternally not lose). A conventional warlike state vis-à-vis those near-peers seems to play to their skills. It’s also a form of “war” that makes loads of money for the military-industrial complex, driving lucrative acquisition decisions about weaponry in a remarkably predictable fashion.
Near-peer “war” remains largely a fantasy set of operations (though with all-too-real dangers of possible conflagrations to come, right up to nuclear disaster). In contrast, real war, as in this century’s terror wars, is a realm of chaos. So much the better to keep things as predictable as possible. Fresh and original ideas about war (and peace) are unlikely to prove profitable for the military-industrial complex. Worse yet, at an individual level, they could damage one’s chances for promotion or, on retirement, for future posts within the industrial part of that complex. It’s a lot healthier to salute smartly, keep planning for a near-peer future, and conform rather than fall on one’s sword for a dissenting idea (especially one related to peace and so to less money for the Pentagon).
Please read the article in its entirety here at TomDispatch.
In the Star Trek episode, “Mirror, Mirror,” Captain Kirk and a few other crewmembers find themselves in a parallel universe on a more barbaric ship. On this imperial version of the Enterprise, disobedient or otherwise malperforming crew are punished, tortured really, in an “agony booth.” And that’s exactly how I felt last night watching the Biden-Trump debate. What did I do wrong to be put in this agony booth? Fortunately, I was able to escape after 75 minutes. The “full-duration” just may have killed me.
I watched the debate with my wife (agony loves company), and she had some of the best lines of the night. Here’s a sampling:
Great, two old white guys again. It’s blinking Biden versus bully-boy Trump.
Trump’s just a horrible, badgering bully.
Biden’s already muddled and is mixing up his numbers.
Trump never smiles, never laughs. Mean people suck.
Trump is steamrolling over everything.
Really, the less said about this “debate,” the better. It was insult after insult, interruption after interruption, most of the insults and interruption coming from Trump. His followers, I assume, enjoy his bully-boy tactics, but they left me cold and made the “debate” unwatchable.
As usual, Trump played some of his greatest hits. Covid-19 is “the China plague” and is “China’s fault.” A vaccine is “weeks away” (with no mention of how many weeks. Five? Fifteen? Fifty?). He’s going to make insulin for diabetics as cheap and available as water. Even that he was the one who brought back Big Ten college football.
Speaking of football, Trump earned many penalties in this debate. Taunting. Unsportsmanlike conduct. Delay of game. Unnecessary roughness. The list goes on. Next time, instead of a debate moderator, I suggest a team of NFL referees with whistles and plenty of penalty flags.
Media spokespeople and candidate spin rooms are most concerned about which candidate “won” or “lost” the debate. My sense is that Trump, in dominating the debate — what a nasty man he is — “won.” And who lost? Anyone who was expecting a real debate.
Welcome to the agony booth that is politics in America.
Trump isn’t a politician — he’s a brand. What he wants more than anything is brand loyalty. So he plays to his base as much as possible, maintaining their loyalty by hitting “hot button” issues like immigration, abortion, white power, guns, Confederate generals, standing for the flag and the national anthem, the bible (while gassing peaceful protesters), and so on.
Obama was also a brand — but he arguably gave his most fervent supporters much less than Trump. What I mean is this: Obama posed as a progressive but ruled mostly as a corporate Republican-lite, taking his base for granted, figuring quite rightly they had nowhere else to go. What that meant in practice was a feckless administration that led to disillusion, setting the stage for another, much less moderate, brand name: Trump.
Early in 2010, I was flummoxed by Obama and his feckless leadership. Tapping into my affection for science fiction and “Star Trek,” I wrote the article below on how Obama had to “Learn from Mr. Spock” and take bigger chances. Of course, Obama had no interest in going big — he much preferred to cash in and go home. And so he has.
Trump and Obama: well-known brand names, but one has served his base more loyally than the other. Guess which one? Hint: It’s the one who overacts, much like William Shatner playing Captain Kirk.
President Obama: Learn from Mr. Spock! (Posted 1/27/2010)
President Obama’s cool, cerebral, logical style has drawn comparisons to Mr. Spock of Star Trek, as played by Leonard Nimoy in the original series from the 1960s. Like that half-Vulcan, half-human Spock, Obama is a man of two worlds, of White America and Black America, of Kansas and Kenya. Like Spock, he’s a careful thinker, a man who measures his words with precision, a man who seems to pride himself in being in control of his emotions.
Yet perhaps the most telling similarity between fictional Spock and factual Obama is their lack of command experience. Spock was Captain Kirk’s loyal first officer. An expert in science, he had no desire to gain the captain’s chair. Before he gained the Oval Office, Obama was a community organizer, a law professor, a state senator, and a U.S. senator. Respectable positions, but not ones requiring a command presence.
Both lack Kirk-like swagger, yet each had to take command. In Spock’s case, it came in the Star Trek episode, “The Galileo Seven.” His decisions, the criticisms he faces, even his mistakes are uncannily like those of Obama in his first year of office.
To set the scene: Spock leads six crewmembers in a shuttlecraft that crashes on a dangerous planet. As Spock and crew race against time to repair their disabled craft, they are attacked by a primitive race of large, hairy humanoids. While facing down an enemy he barely understands, Spock simultaneously has to win the trust of a crew that thinks he’s a heartless machine, and perhaps even a malfunctioning one at that. He succeeds, but only after experiencing a most unSpock-like inspiration.
Along the way, Spock makes several questionable decisions. He seeks both to understand the hostile primitives and to intimidate them. Rather than hitting them hard, he directs fire away from them, concluding “logically” that they’ll run away and stay away after seeing “phaser” fire. Meanwhile, he posts a guard in a vulnerable position. The result: the primitives return, the guard is killed, and a vacillating Spock is barely able to keep control over an increasingly insolent crew.
What went wrong? Spock doesn’t know. Logically, the primitives should have respected the superior technology of the marooned crew. But as the thoroughly human Dr. McCoy points out, the primitives were just as likely to act irrationally as rationally. Facing dangerous intruders in their midst, they didn’t run and hide; they attacked with unappeasable anger.
While under attack, Spock even experiences a moment of “analysis paralysis” as he thinks out loud about his failings. A crewmember cuttingly remarks, “We could use a little inspiration.” Even the good doctor calls for less analysis and more action.
Now, let’s turn to Obama. Consider the Republicans as stand-ins for the hairy primitives (resemblances, if any, are purely coincidental). Throughout his first year of office, Obama acted as if he could both reason with them – creating an amicable modus vivendi – and intimidate them if the occasion demanded.
What he failed to realize (the “irrational” or “illogical” element) was that Republicans could neither be convinced by sweet talk nor intimidated by warning shots. Implacable opposition and anger were their preferred options. By misinterpreting his opponents, Spock lost a crewmember; Obama (perhaps) a legacy.
How does Spock recover and save the day? By gambling. As the repaired shuttlecraft crawls into orbit, Spock jettisons what little fuel remains and ignites it. Like sending up a flare, the redoubtable Mr. Scott, the chief engineer, notes ruefully, as the shuttle starts to burn up on reentry. But the desperate gamble works. Kirk, showing his usual command resourcefulness, had stretched his orders just enough to stay within scanning range of the planet. Seeing the flare, he beams Spock and the other survivors on board the Enterprise a split-second before the shuttle disintegrates.
The lesson? Sometimes a commander has to grab the reins of command and act. Sometimes, he even has to gamble at frightfully long odds. Earlier, Spock had said he neither enjoyed command nor was he frightened by it. He had to learn to enjoy it – and to be frightened by it. In the process, he learned that cool logic and rational analysis are not enough: not when facing determined opponents and seemingly lost causes.
So, President Obama, what can you learn from Spock’s first command? That we could use a little inspiration. That we want less analysis and more action. That we may even need a game-changing gamble.
C’mon, Mr. President: Jettison the fuel and ignite it. Maybe, just maybe, the path you blaze will lead us home again.
Postscript (7/1/20): Obama never took command. He never took risks on behalf of progressive principles. (Perhaps he just didn’t have any.) The emptiness of his brand enabled Trump. Will Trump’s emptiness enable more fecklessness in the name of Joe Biden?
Space, the “final frontier,” isn’t what it used to be. In the 1960s and early 1970s I grew up a fan of NASA as well as Star Trek with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. NASA was (and is) a civilian space agency, even though its corps of astronauts was originally drawn from the ranks of military test pilots. Star Trekoffered a vision of a “federation” of planets in the future, united by a vision “to explore strange new worlds,” venturing forth boldly in the cause of peace. Within the US military, space itself was considered to be the new “high ground,” admittedly a great place for spy satellites (which helped to keep the peace) but a disastrous place for war. (Of course, that didn’t prevent the military from proposing crazy ideas, like building a military base on the moon armed with nuclear-tipped missiles.)
Attracted to the space mission, my first assignment as a military officer was to Air Force Space Command. I helped to support the Space Surveillance Center in Cheyenne Mountain Complex, which kept track of all objects in earth orbit, from satellites to space junk. (You don’t want a lost hammer or other space junk colliding with your billion-dollar satellite at a speed of roughly 17,000 miles per hour.) In the mid-1980s, when I was in AFSPACECOM, an offensive space force to “dominate” space was a vision shared by very few people. I had a small role to play in supporting tests of an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile launched from F-15s, but those tests were curtailed and later cancelled as the Soviet Union, considered as America’s main rival for control of space, began to collapse in the late 1980s.
But that was then, and this is now, and the “now” of the moment is a new US military service, an offensive space force, proposed by the Trump administration as essential to US national security. At TomDispatch.com, William Hartung provides the details of Trump’s new space force in this fine article. As I read Hartung’s article, a thought flashed through my mind: We’re not the peaceful Federation of Star Trek. We’re much more like the Klingon Empire.
In the original Star Trek, the Klingons were a highly aggressive and thoroughly militaristic species that was dedicated to dominating space. They were proudly imperial and driven by conquest. Trump, who with his bombast and barking and boasting would make a great Klingon, sees a “space force” that’s all military: that’s all about domination through aggressive action and better offensive weaponry.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying: Everywhere we go, there we are. Increasingly for America, that saying means: Everywhere we go, there our military and weapons are. Even in space.
The “final frontier” of space, which in my youth was largely a realm of peaceful exploration, whether by NASA in the real-world or in the imaginary future of Star Trek, is now under Trump an increasingly militarized place. This is so because our minds, perhaps humanity’s true “final frontier,” have also been thoroughly militarized.
A war-driven people will bring war with them wherever they go. If the Vulcans (like Mr. Spock, who was half-Vulcan) are smart, they won’t reach out to humans if and when we find a “warp” drive that allows us to travel much faster than the speed of light. Logical and peaceful beings that they are, perhaps they’ll quarantine earth and humanity instead. Maybe with the Vulcan equivalent of a big, fat, beautiful wall?
(For an extended essay on sports and the military, please see my latest at TomDispatch.com: “Why Can’t We Just Play Ball? The Militarization of Sports and the Redefinition of Patriotism,” August 19, 2018, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176459.)
There’s a lot of blurring and blending of sports with the military in the USA today, but my service branch, the U.S. Air Force, has taken it to a new level. The Falcons football team at the USAF Academy has issued a new “alternate” uniform in honor of air power and specifically the AC-130 gunship. What this means is that cadets can now wear helmets that feature spooky, grim-reaper-like images together with images of the AC-130 firing on some indistinct enemy below. Check it out above and below:
The fog and the shark-like tailfin in the background are nice touches. Somebody probably got a promotion and/or a commendation medal for putting this campaign together.
Of course, the Air Force celebrates flight, using falcons as the team mascot, which makes sense. But uniforms dedicated to and celebrating a specific weapon system — really? The AC-130 gunship rains death from the sky; it’s a nasty weapon system and certainly one that I’d want on my side in a shooting war. But putting it on football helmets with images of screaming skeletons is a bit much.
How did military academies like West Point and Annapolis play football for so long with just regular uniforms? Without images of tanks or battleships adorning their uniforms?
I know: I’m an old fuddy-duddy. This is the new military — the military of warriors and warfighters. These new uniforms: so cool! So sexy! Dealing death is so much fun!
Why is it that these new “alternate” football uniforms of the AF Academy remind me, not of our citizen-airmen force of the past, but of some sinister, darker, force of the future? Why does the Star Trek episode, “Mirror, Mirror,” come to mind? (Hint: We’re no longer the “good” Federation.)
(You can go to https://twitter.com/hashtag/LetsFly and watch an Air Force video that links AC-130 combat footage with the new uniform, complete with lusty music and stoked players.)
Mercy has been on my mind since re-watching “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. There’s a nasty little character known as Gollum. Before he was seduced by Sauron’s ring (the one ring of power), Gollum was known as Smeagol. Twisted and consumed by the Dark Lord’s ring, Smeagol becomes a shadow of himself, eventually forgetting his real name and becoming Gollum, a name related to the guttural coughs and sounds he makes.
Gollum loses the Ring to Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit of the Shire. The Ring extends Bilbo’s life but also begins to twist him as well. As Sauron returns to power in Mordor, he needs only to regain the Ring to defeat the combined might of the peoples of Middle Earth. Bilbo passes the Ring to his much younger cousin, Frodo, who together with a Fellowship consisting of representatives drawn from men, elves, dwarfs, and hobbits as well as the wizard Gandalf, journeys to Mordor to destroy the Ring and vanquish Sauron.
Early in his journey to Mordor, Frodo says he wishes Bilbo had killed Gollum when he’d had the opportunity. (Gollum, drawn by the Ring, is shadowing the Fellowship on its journey.) Gandalf sagely advises Frodo that Gollum may yet play an important role, and that mercy is not a quality to disparage. As the Fellowship is separated and Frodo has to journey to Mordor with only his faithful friend Sam beside him, Gollum soon becomes their indispensable guide, and Frodo begins to pity him. Frodo, by showing Gollum mercy, reawakens the good within him, calling him Smeagol and preventing Sam from hurting him.
But the corrupting power of the Ring overtakes Smeagol again, and Gollum reemerges. Even so, without Gollum’s help, Frodo and Sam would never have made it to Mordor and the fires of Mount Doom. On the brink of destroying the Ring, Frodo too becomes consumed by its power, choosing to use it instead of casting it into the fire. Here again, Gollum emerges as an instrumental character. He fights Frodo for the Ring, gains it, but loses his footing and falls into the fires of Mount Doom, destroying himself as well as the Ring and saving Middle Earth.
It was Bilbo and Frodo’s mercy that spared the life of Gollum, setting the stage for Gollum’s actions that ultimately save Frodo and the rest of Middle Earth from Sauron’s dominance. Without Gollum’s help, Frodo and Sam would never have made it to Mount Doom; or, if by some miracle they had, Frodo in donning the Ring would have been ensnared by Sauron’s power and executed by him. If Frodo is the hero of the tale, Gollum is the anti-hero, as indispensable to Middle Earth’s salvation as Frodo and the Fellowship.
Another story about the role of mercy came in one of my favorite “Star Trek” episodes, “Arena.” In this episode, Captain Kirk has to fight a duel with an enemy captain of a lizard-like species known as the Gorn. It’s supposed to be a fight to the death, overseen by a much superior species known as the Metrons. When Kirk succeeds in besting the Gorn captain, however, he refuses to kill the Gorn, saying that perhaps the Gorn had a legitimate reason for attacking a Federation outpost. A Metron spokesperson appears and is impressed by Kirk, saying that he has demonstrated the advanced trait of mercy, something the Metrons hardly suspected “savage” humans were capable of showing.
Perhaps war between the Federation and the Gorn is not inevitable, this episode suggests. Diplomacy may yet resolve a territorial dispute without more blood being shed, all because Kirk had the courage to show mercy to his opponent: an opponent who wouldn’t have shown mercy to him if their fates had been reversed.
Mercy, nowadays, is not in vogue in the USA. America’s enemies must always be smited, preferably killed, in the name of righteous vengeance. Only weak people show mercy, or so our national narrative appears to suggest. But recall the saying that in insisting on an eye for an eye, soon we’ll all be blind.
The desire for murderous vengeance is making us blind. The cycle of violence continues with no end in sight. Savagery begets more savagery. It’s as if we’ve put on Sauron’s ring and become consumed by it.
Do we have the courage of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and even of that man of action, Captain Kirk? Can our toughness be informed by and infused with mercy?
My wife, who knows how to cut to the chase, pointed out a big aspect of Trump’s appeal to me this morning: “Trump is the anti-Obama.”
Think about it. When it comes to their personal qualities, it would be hard to envision two men who are such polar opposites. Consider Obama. He’s cool. Rational. Analytical. A thinker. He’s also polite, cautious, and considerate. He’s a skilled writer and a poised, often inspirational, speaker. He’s at pains to broadcast a message of inclusiveness. He’s all about diversity and tolerance and embracing those who are different. He’s also by all accounts a loyal family man, a loving husband and father, with a strong marriage.
Consider Trump. Everything I just said about Obama is the opposite for Trump. Trump is emotional. Flamboyant. Given to knee-jerk responses. A man of action. He appears to be impolite, impetuous, and inconsiderate. Near as I can tell, Trump’s books are ghost-written, and his speaking style is bombastic and inflammatory rather than poised and inspirational. Promoting divisiveness rather than inclusiveness, his message of “making America great again” is read by some of his supporters as making America white-male-dominated again. Hardly a loyal family man, he’s on his third marriage, the previous two ending acrimoniously, and if you credit his boasts caught on tape he was trying to cheat on his current wife while they were still newlyweds.
Now, which one of these men is more desirable as a role model? The loyal husband and family man, the one who embraces diversity and brings people together? Or the disloyal husband, the one who boasts of sexual encounters, who objectifies women, the one who rejects tolerance for rhetoric that drives intolerance?
It’s sobering to see self-styled conservative or evangelical Christians, who claim they are all about family values and the sanctity of marriage, twisting their professed beliefs to embrace Trump and reject Obama. Certainly, in some cases racism is involved here, a sense that Obama is “not one of us,” whereas Trump, with all his glaring flaws of character and behavior, is accepted as the imperfect guy who’s “just like me” (or perhaps just like a black sheep of the family).
Here’s another way of looking at it if you’re a “Star Trek” fan: Trump is Captain Kirk to Obama’s Mr. Spock. In his coolly logical manner, Obama has often been compared to Mr. Spock. And Trump as Captain Kirk: it seems to work, since Kirk was a man of action, often emotional, a womanizer, sometimes intemperate.
But this is to insult Captain Kirk. More than anything, Kirk was a leader: a man who brought a diverse crew together and made them better. Yes, he could be intemperate, but he had a capacity for personal growth. Smart, tough, and experienced, Kirk was a ladies’ man, but he wasn’t married and never forced himself on women (with the notable exception of “The Enemy Within” episode, in which Kirk is split in two, his hyper-aggressive twin given to attacking women for his own pleasure).
In Trump you’re not getting Captain Kirk, America. You’re getting a one-dimensional “evil” Kirk, or perhaps a Khan Noonien Singh, another “Star Trek” character (played memorably by Ricardo Montalbán), a tyrant and ruthless dictator, a man who believes it’s the right of the strong to take or do whatever they want. (So-called Alpha Male behavior, according to one of Trump’s sons, though I prefer a different A-term: Asshole Male.)
Some of Trump’s success, at least initially, came from the fact he was a powerful contrast to Obama, the anti-Obama, if you will. And the “anti-” was more than symbolic, considering how Trump drove the birther movement and its false narrative of how Obama was illegitimate as president. And I can understand after eight years the desire among many for a “Captain Kirk” after two terms of “Mr. Spock.”
But Trump is much more Khan than Kirk. He’d embrace Khan’s motto that “Such [superior] men [like me] dare take what they want.” But a man who believes in his own inherent superiority — that his might will make right — is not a leader. He’s a tyrant. And tyranny is the very opposite of democracy.
Much of our foreign policy is driven by fear–fear that if we don’t act, whether in the Middle East or Africa or elsewhere–the bad people there will thrive, after which they’ll come for us in the good old USA. Most of us will recall George W. Bush’s saying, “We’ll fight them over there so that we don’t have to fight them here.” But what if constantly fighting them “over there” is a guarantee of blowback right here in Homeland USA?
As one of my conservative friends (Yes – I have them!) says, “If they (the enemy) stay over there, I’ll airlift knives, forks, and condiments to them.”
Well, we’ll never know unless we try. Call the cavalry home, America. Send in the cutlery and condiments. And let’s see what happens.
OK, call me an isolationist. All these American machinations in and deployments to the Middle East and Africa – paraphrasing Otto von Bismarck, to me they aren’t worth the bones of a single Pennsylvanian grenadier. Isn’t the Middle East of today roughly the equivalent to the Balkans of c.1910? Except for the oil, why bother with Iraq and Iran? Radical Islam is no picnic, but a direct threat to the USA? Come on. If we leave, my bet is radical Islam will burn itself out.
Our constant interventions in the Middle East merely fan the flames of radicalism there, except when we throw fuel on the fire by sending lots of weapons or burning a Koran or wiping out (accidently, of course) another convoy of civilians with Hellfire missiles. If we’re the enemy’s “Great Satan,” let’s leave and see how they do in a paradise without the US serpent in it.
The problem is that our foreign policy “experts” are subservient to national and international (corporate and financial) interests (among others), and those interests, along with their own hubris, make it impossible for them to order strategic withdrawals, much less imagine them.
Put briefly, our experts see the world as a stage (or as a staging area for military forces), upon which the USA must play the leading role. They believe that if we don’t occupy that stage, and dominate it, some other country will, e.g. China will take over Africa.
The US military, meanwhile, favors “proactive,” forward-leaning, can-do, spirit. The mentality is: We must act, or someone else will. And our way of acting is necessarily a military way, since that is what our nation favors–and funds.
For my fellow “Star Trek” fans, the U.S. government is like the aggressive, action-driven Captain Kirk (even better: the bombastic, scene-hogging William Shatner), but without Mr. Spock or Dr. McCoy at his side to provide cool logic or warm compassion. So all we get is warp drive and phasers (or lots of histrionic overacting and scene-stealing, a la Shatner).
We can do better, America. Let’s start by calling the cavalry home. Cutlery and condiments to the fore!