Saturday, March 05, 2005

....Cast the first stone

Ok, so I admit it. I’m a science fiction geek. Hopeless. Star Trek, Babylon 5, Stargate; I love ‘em all. So imagine my surprise when I found a compelling political statement applicable to America in an episode that I was watching. I took the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine out of the library recently, I thought I had seen them all. The episode I was watching was one where Lieutenant Worf (a Klingon warrior in Starfleet) and Lieutenant Commander Dax (his symbiote lover) decide to go on vacation to the planet Risa ( a climate controlled hedonistic ‘pleasure’ planet) Worf is the quintessential straight man- prudish, straitlaced, and inflexible. While there, he meets Fullerton, a leader of a group called the “Essentialists”, a cultish, “Moral Majority” type group who are concerned about the decadence of the Federation. Now, I personally expected to see the typical, obligatory “Christian” TV stereotype. You know the one I mean---racist, sexist, ignorant, xenophobic. But listen carefully to Fullerton’s address to a group of Risa pleasure seekers:

…….(courtesy applause) “That’s right. Take a good look. I can only imagine what you must think of me. A middle-aged, ponderous academic, sweltering under the hot Risian sun, wasting time telling you things you don’t want to hear.
But do you know what I see when I look at you? Children. Spoiled, pampered children. For some reason, the citizens of the Federation have come to believe that they are entitled to a life of luxury not earned; fought for by others. If you want food, you go to a replicator. If you want amusement, you go to a holosuite, and if you need protection, you call Starfleet.
But someday, someday soon, you’re going to have to learn to take care of yourselves. Because if I see you as helpless children, how do you think the Borg see you? Or the Romulans? Or the Klingons? Or the Dominion? These empires look at the Federation and they see a prize. A prize that we have forgotten how to protect, and if we don’t change our ways, they’re going to take it from us.
…(other voices)…..and we embrace the kind of hard work that built the Federation in the first place.
Or we can lie here napping in the sun. Until we wake up……with Jem’Hadar guns to our heads.
The choice is ours. Heaven help us if we make the wrong one.”

The title of this episode, as one might have guessed from my use of the imperative in the title of the piece, was “Let he who is without sin…..”.

Despite that the intent by the writers was to create a foil for the main characters that could be ridiculed, his message resonated with me. And in a time where the words “freedom” and “individual liberty” are thrown around capriciously, and following an election where the ideas of “morals” and “values” are derided as secret code for the establishment of a Christian theocracy, it may bear well for us to step back and look at what all this means in the context of what is happening in our nation. We seem to forget that power may not always be an ineptly and awkwardly wielded as the Islamic fundamentalists do.

A famous writer wrote once, ”In a civilization where everything goes, eventually everything will.” That has never been more true than it is today. Because that is what we see happening around us. We hear with increasing volume and frequency about “rights” and “freedom”, but exponentially less about “responsibilities”---to ourselves, to our communities, to our nation. Even as we speak, there are people devising arguments for why our fundamental liberties should be extended to non-citizens captured during war. Even now, our own soldiers are being prosecuted for doing what we trained them to do. Even now, a group called NAMBLA devises ‘legal’ ways to prey on the most innocent and vulnerable in our society, with some academic, and also some apparent Consitutional sanction. We claim to want to protect our children from terrorists, and then leave them one click away at the public library from filth whose only limit is the depths of human depravity. We hire academics to teach in our universities whom have publicly advocated sex with animals and euthanasia of children up to nine months after birth. (Peter Singer—I’ve read it) The walls of the keep inexorably erode as we wipe Cheetos dust from our shirts during a commercial.
We are a people whose nation is a portrait of contradictions. We have the highest percentage worldwide of people believing in God and moral standards, and yet, as Cap’n DOC has pointed out on more than one occasion, we are the world’s biggest distributor AND consumer of pornography. We complain about how terrible it is that China aborts baby girls, but our abortion rate per ten individuals in higher than theirs. We have a staggeringly high out-of wedlock birth rate, and we have a very high divorce rate. We have individuals seeking to rapidly seek to eradicate any vestige of religion from not only the public view, but also from public discourse. We then marvel at statistics that show plummeting educational standards, and wince at Americans who can more readily quote from Marx than Alexander Hamilton, all the while thinking its Hamilton they’re quoting. We ‘tolerate’ a broader and broader standard of appropriate behavior, and then seem shocked when two teenagers murder scores of their classmates, or when someone like Ward Churchill ends up teaching our children. We are rapidly creating a society whose members cannot distinguish fame from notoriety, self-esteem from accomplishment, protesting from vandalism, and indeed, more broadly, right from wrong.
There are many things to say about Pass the Gas, but what always amazed me was that he seemed truly (as opposed to intentionally, like he usually tried to appear) oblivious to the fact was that the things that your average non-American objected to about America were not the military or support for Israel, but rather our toxic culture. All you have to do is ask them. They fear Lovin’ Livin, not the Command Post. They fear the pervasive idea in our culture that all ideas are right and nothing is wrong and everything should be tolerated and all moral standards are relative to one another. They don’t want their daughters to be Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith at The Grammys. But that is what they see. We force feed it to them.
It is commonly known that the nation of Israel was destroyed utterly by the Babylonians. What is not commonly known is that that victory at that time was the military equivalent of the United States today being overrun and destroyed by Ecuador. The same could be said to a lesser extent about Rome and the Visigoths. How could this happen? What’s the common thread? The common thread is that both were comprised with a citizenry who forgot what made them great; who became so self-indulgent and enamored of their own pleasures that it superseded responsibility to its community.
I say these things because I don’t wish to see liberty take root and thrive in the Middle East only to see it rot from within here, because we are too unwilling or too stupid to attach value to the things that made this country great: discipline, belief in God, hard work, protection of the young, punishment of criminals, the importance of having a mother and a father, and responsibility to your family and community, to name just a few.
Yet we are inexorably moving towards a society where every rule, every standard, every taboo, is considered a ‘relative’ one. We are desperately trying even to reject the idea that there even exists such a thing as right and wrong. A society like that has one logical conclusion: destruction, either by its own hand, or the hand of another, external power, as “Fullerton” notes in his little soliloquy.
Now while I would like to say that the perfect solution is for every NAMBLA member to be swinging from the nearest tree with a bullet in their brain, the solution is deeper and more complex. We need to start rejecting the idea that there are no standards, we need to cease this idea of ‘tolerating’ false ideologies. We need to develop the courage to say that which is false is false. We need to reattach value to the things of value that built thin country into what it is. We need to “cast the first stone”, so to speak, for what’s right. We used to. Merely by saying that there is such a thing as “right” or “wrong”, you establish that there is another, higher standard by which you distinguish the two. Logic 101. Because if we don’t, eventually someone’s going to come along and do it for us.
Benjamin Frankin was reportedly asked after the Constitutional Convention in 1787 whether we had a republic or a democracy. With his typical wry Franklinesque humor, he replied,

”A republic. For as long as you can keep it.”

Wise words. Rome isn’t burning, but even now Nero’s fiddle is out of its case, and you can hear it tuning up in the words of race baiting demagogues like Jesse Jackson, bloviators like Ted Kennedy, in popular culture like “The Anna Nicole Smith Show” and “Girls Gone Wild”, in the writings of Peter Singer of Princeton University, and in the ‘lectures’ of Ward Churchill.

The choice is ours. Heaven help us if we make the wrong one.”

Think about it.