Star Trek Conservatives, and making connections to bridge differences

This is getting posted across four comments, as apparantly I’m too wordy for TYT’s forum post limit. Sorry.

Context: I’m the sort of guy who can enjoy a good science fiction, who grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my conservative Christian parents, and still found my way to a Progressive viewpoint.

I have recently come across the YouTube channel of Steve Shives, who is clearly a left leaning Trekkie in a Conservative section of the country who is making great content addressing both political/social issues of today, and using the Star Trek universe at times to shine a light on current issues with a tongue and cheek attitude. The ideas I’m building below are based from two of his videos: What Actually Makes Star Trek… Star Trek? and What Do Conservatives Actually Like About Star Trek?. Together, this is over an hour of analysis and introspection of Star Trek and Conservativism, which I appreciated, and has lead me to start delving into the content being created within the universe. It has also led me to see an opportunity for Progressives to reach out to Conservatives, if we frame our perspective the right way.

While I suggest checking out these videos on your own, the points I want to highlight are Trek’s dedication to a Progressive outlook on Humanity, and that despite that Conservatives still enjoy Trek for its portrayal of a Human military presence in space, defending the ideals of America’s take on how to lead while also being ready to be the arm of the law when the times need it. I feel that if we can get Conservative Trekkies to acknowledge these points and speak with them on a level they can appreciate without talking down to them.

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If you want to get context for my take on Trek as being Progressive, Steve explains how Star Trek is Progressive from 22:44-34:38 of the first linked video. He paints Trek as a vehicle to address current issues of the day through alien worlds, sharing one episode of Star Trek The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”, which Captain Kirk encounters aliens so similar to America that they have an identical United States Constitution, which Kirk reminds these “aliens” that the words “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution” adding that these words are for all people, not just the one side of a dispute, and “They must apply to all people, or they mean nothing”. That idea, right there, that the words of the US Constitution must apply to all people, otherwise they mean nothing, must be put in front of the American people again, as a mirror to what our country has become. A quote from Captain James Tiberius Kirk that is just as relevant now as it was in 1968.

While this thought might start to lose Conservatives, it then helps to remind people why Star Trek is seen as acceptable to Conservatives in the first place, which brings us to the second video. He provides a number of reasons why the show resonates with Conservative Americans. The first among them the fact that the majority of characters tend to present as Human American-types, with outliers from early series being alien, or from identifiable cultures from Earth (Scottish, generic Asian [I’m unsure if Sulu is ever truly given a nationality, I never personally watched the series, sorry], etc). Along with that, as I mentioned above, the structure of Earth’s government is clearly based on the American government structure, with Starfleet, despite being presented as a scientific organization primarily, is still clearly a military operation, following a similar structure to our military with rank and roles. The final point being that even when Star Trek is being “Progressively preachy”, it’s a world in the far future so there’s no need to work towards these goals now, as the future of Star Trek is so far out, getting there lands squarely on the shoulders of our children’s children, or even further. On that point, I think there’s room to open a narrative that contradicts that. Admittedly, this is theoretical, but it opens the possibility to question that last point, that Star Trek is too far out in the future to worry about.

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Earlier this year, the James Webb Telescope identified a planet 120 light years away whose atmosphere includes a molecule called dimethyl sulphide, a molecule that we have only encountered on Earth, and is only known to be produced by life on Earth. The science behind how we figured this out originates from experiments done by Robert Bunsen of Bunsen Burner fame that later were used to help identify the elements that make up our solar system’s Sun, and have been extrapolated further to help understand what we see through these deep space telescopes. It’s all deeply interesting, but not truly important to my point.

My point is that we now know of a planet 120 light years away that has signs of life based on the limited information we can gather with the tools we have available to us today. We cannot tell what life is out there, and if there is how advanced it is compared to us, but if we have an honest look back as our planet’s history, I feel there’s room for us to assume they would be further advanced than we are. Remember that of our planet’s estimated 4.53 billion years of existence, Homo Sapiens didn’t have the opportunity to claim the dominant species of the planet until after the dinosaurs became extinct after 165 million years of dominance. Consider that with Homo Sapiens (ie, Humans) only existing for around 200,000 years, having a species rule the planet for nearly 100x longer than we’ve existed total gives other planets an opportunity to develop an intelligent species long before we did. As such, maybe seeing Star Trek as a “distant future” is harmful to the advancement of our species.

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So how do we bridge this gap between our perspective and Conservatives? I might consider the lessons learned from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Season 5, Episode 2 story: “Darmok”. In this episode, the Enterprise encounters a Tamarian ship which they struggle to communicate with. The Tamarian captain has himself and Picard beamed down to a nearby planet, where throughout the episode, Picard learns to speak with the Tamarian captain through metaphor, stories of the Tamarian’s history, with the memorable quote of the episode being “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”. Once back aboard his ship, he finally makes clear the Enterprise’s intentions, and both go their own way, with the story of “Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel” being added to the Tamarian vocabulary.

In much the same way, we Progressives might be able to not only reach out to Conservative Trekkies through a shared understanding of the Star Trek universe, but other Conservatives as well through metaphors and stories commonly shared in Conservative circles. I’ve once before talked about using the Christian parable of The Good Samaritan to highlight how Progressives are working to get the government to behave much more similarly to the actions of The Good Samaritan instead of those who passed by the man robbed and left for dead on the side of the road.

At least, that’s what I’m proposing. Even if this whole thought experiment goes wasted, I hope those who cared to read enjoyed and appreciated it. I’d love to hear some thoughts and criticism of this all. I also understand that my “life on other planets” take is a bit “conspiracy theory-esque”, but considering this is a concept for reaching out to conservatives, do you really think something like a conspiracy theory won’t play well towards a large collection of Conservatives? I mean, a lot of them believe a man was dead for three days, then was raised from the dead. That sounds very conspiracy theory to me. Anyway, I hope you all have a good day.

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I think this is something that pretty much anyone would identify with. We could use this to find common ground with most people.

Exactly. And it comes from the mouth of the most “conservative presenting” Captain of the Star Trek universe, Captain James T. Kirk.

I say conservative presenting, because he was one of the few Captains with a tendency for physical violence (Sisko from Deep Space 9 also punch Q square in the face episode 1, so…), his sexual escapades implied on the show were perceived as predatory by some people, and he was a bit more trigger happy with the Enterprise than others have been. These characteristics make him seem like the type of character conservatives would align with should they be in politics. They just fail to see the progressiveness in his actions above that.

What’s the next step in reaching that audience? I’ll help if I can.