I’ve been waiting breathlessly for the return of Babylon 5, a science fiction classic I got into belatedly. I even co-opted one of its characters, Lyta Alexander, when I was in an online RPG 20 years ago. Sure enough, it came on Amazon Prime finally, and I’ve started watching it. I hit a wall, though, watching the seventh episode in the first season, called “The War Prayer.”
The 1994 show, for those who don’t know, tells the story of a space station constructed after an interplanetary war in the year 2250, built to allow humans and aliens to interact in a hope of achieving peace.
This particular episode deals with a group on Earth called the Homeguard. These folks oppose dealing with aliens at all. Their chant and watchwords are “Earth First.” They terrorize aliens in an effort to scare them away and keep the station and Earth’s resources for humans only.
The station commander and security advisor discuss the situation, wondering what will happen if they release information about this “Earth First” group. Commander Sinclair bitterly points out that most who know about it are already fervent supporters, “and most of the rest just don’t give a damn.”
So, 24 years ago, we see the exact theme playing out that we see in today’s “Murrika.” Except here it’s a little more sinister. The leader of the country and those who support him in the government are pushing “America First,” not just random extremist groups. We are terrorizing members of American cultural sub-groups, instead of Centauri, Narn and other aliens. Blacks, LGBTQ, immigrants–anyone who is not part of that specific WASP male culture risks being made second-class, losing their rights, or even being terrorized and killed at rallies or on the street.
Women are losing rights over their own bodies, due to recommendations made by committees of white men. Is it any wonder that The Handmaids’ Tale is so dark and frightening for us to watch? How long until we reach that point? In the show, the women’s rights slowly disappeared, one by one. The right to a job. The right to handle their own money. The right to read and write. The right to choose to have a baby. The right not to be raped. We see in the current government that while major brouhahas are going on in one place, calling the attention of the media and activists, that in Washington, Congress is quietly whittling away at other laws–many of which the majority don’t even read.
Not to mention the amendments and special interest-bits that get tagged on.
Clearly, this whole “Me and the people like me First” campaign is not new. It didn’t start with the current administration. it didn’t start with the last administration. It didn’t start back when the Republicans came right out with the policy of opposition, no matter what was on the table. (George Voinovich, 2002). “The Other” is always something to be confronted; but should it be met with hatred and fear, or with a welcoming hand?
The hatred and fear continued in the Babylon 5 episode, as once the bad guys were caught and charged with the terrorist acts, the leader turns to his former friend on the station, and says this:
Malcolm Biggs: I can’t believe you did this to me, Susan. What kind of a human are you to side with – [looks at (aliens) Delenn and Mayan] *them* ?
Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova: I find many of these people to be more human than you and your kind. But I don’t suppose you’d understand that.
“I can’t believe you did this to me.”
“I can’t believe you made me do this.”
“Look what your parents made me do.”
The New Yorker on June 11, 2018, points out that the Trump Administration uses the language of domestic violence. It sure does. As someone who’s worked with domestic violence victims and survivors for over 20 years, what I read in the news makes me sick. And it doesn’t look like it will end any time soon.
The sickness isn’t just one man. It’s pervasive in the system.
Maybe–just maybe–there are enough people willing to put themselves on the line to change things in fall 2018, in spring 2020. But we’ve been wallowing for a long time, living with all those who “just don’t give a damn.” When good people don’t engage, whoever’s loudest gets to control things, truth and justice be damned.
So I’ll go back to my nice fictional space station, where I expect this won’t be the last time we hear the Earth-Firsters. Because this is us. And we deserve what we get.