Where the Past Meets the Future


Star Trek DS9 - Past Tense Pt. 1, Screen Shot

Last night, I was reminded of the power of entertainment, Netflix and how art and life converge. I was watching episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when a familiar two-part episode, “Past Tense,” began. I had planned to skip it, but once I remembered the story line, I watched it again, for the first time in at least thirteen years.

The crew of the Defiant, in attempting to beam down to 24th-century San Francisco, find themselves in the year 2024, in a San Francisco and an America turned upside down by bad economic times. Two members of the crew, played by Avery Brooks (Cmdr. Benjamin Sisko, or “Hawk” for those of you who remember Spencer For Hire on ABC from the ’80s) and Alexander Siddiq (Dr. Julian Bashir, or more recently, on 24 and in the movie Kingdom of Heaven) find themselves in one of many government-run concentration camps for the homeless and unemployed. This just days before an uprising that exposes the truth of an unjust system of economic neglect and government cover-up to the nation and world.

It’s not that Americans don’t care, according to Brooks’ Sisko and Siddiq’s Bashir, it’s that “they’ve given up,” they’ve “forgotten how to care.” I paused the DVD and thought about that statement as I watched Tea Baggers’ Christine O’Donnell and Carl P. Paladino win in Delaware and New York, Kevin Powell get slaughtered by Ed Towns in Brooklyn, and Charles Rangel paste five other opponents in Harlem. Not to mention young Turk Adrian Fenty losing to the ol’ Blacks network and Vincent Gray in DC.

Last night proved to me that most Americans simply don’t know how to care about anything except for someone who looks and sounds like them, whether that politician represents their interests or not. Some may care, some may not, some may even have forgotten how to care. But way, way too many of us get caught up in style over substance, in grandiose grandstanding over a sensible platform, over a good handshake rather than someone giving us a real hand in our lives.

We are as shortsighted as a roach, running just hard enough to not get stomped on, but not seeing that the person with the size 14-4Es has two feet, not one. As Polyanna-ish as Star Trek is, that two-part episode from season three of Deep Space Nine presents a stark and nasty future that is already beginning to manifest itself right now. All because we’ve allowed our bigotry and fear to lead us in the direction of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2 Responses to Where the Past Meets the Future

  1. Derrick Lancaster says:

    Human nature is blamed for many things, but aligning yourself with people that a)look like you or, b) think like you is probably the most likely form. Our American society remains unwilling and not ready for a discussion on race or differences yet we continue to play mediator, peace-maker and democracy-spreader to the rest of the planet. DS9 is just an extension of this nature: if aliens are to be encountered, we want to be first to have the discussion…

    I don’t know that I can blame most Americans (the lethargic masses, sheep, cattle) for coming up short in this arena. Politics are a complicated beast, and beyond reality TV, Oprah, The View and The National Enquirer people aren’t going to become too invested in the process. Unfortunately, it forces those of us that care to live with the outcome…

    • Politics isn’t that complicated. People can be, but not politics. Ultimately the problem here is b) in your column, combined with fear in all its various forms (I’m referring to my book Fear of a “Black” America here. It’s a real shame, in any case.

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