Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Among its many spin-offs in television and movies, Star Trek also boasts a little celebrated animated series. It never really took off, but starting in 1973, Star Trek: The Animated Series celebrated two seasons of shows and featured many of the cast from the original series. Of course, this all occurred long before the internet or even cable television, back in the days when kids like me (I was 10) would all get up very early in the morning to watch cartoons on network television (CBS, NBC and ABC) on Saturdays as this was our only opportunity to see them. If any of my friends are fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I remember seeing them before they had their own show. As a bit of trivia, they actually started out as one of three cartoons that shared the same show, kind of a “test run” for all three. Each week, they would show an episode of one of the three cartoons. The other two never went any further.
The original Star Trek series touched on some very sensitive social issues such as racism, fascism and more through its relatively short time (it only had three seasons). Apparently, the animated series was no different, as one episode (and only one…isn’t that odd?) has burned itself into my memory. A group of humans started an outpost on a strange planet and had found Satan living there. They called the Federation, and the Enterprise was sent to investigate. Sure enough, they tracked down a humanoid life-form living on the planet, relatively small (maybe three feet tall), red, with a forked tail and two small horns on his head. I think maybe he had some powers to elude the humans as well, but the point of the show was that the human settlers were frightened out of their mind and had decided that they must kill this creature for the good of all humans.
The episode addressed the issue of bias based on appearance. The creature turned out to be intelligent, and harmless. Kirk found himself trying to figure out how to get the settlers to accept the creature despite their fear and being 1973 and a 30-minute show with commercial breaks, it wasn’t very difficult to do. Today, those fears are alive and all too well.
The UN is pressuring Israel to stop its rocket attacks on Hamas for fear of the conflict spreading (as of the writing of this post the conflict is continuing). The conflict began when Hamas launched several rockets into Israel from Palestine. This is very much a holy war. Even as Israel can claim it’s self-defense and retaliation, it’s still a war between the Sunni Muslims and Judaism. Palestine’s very constitution, in fact, calls for the destruction of Israel. This killing and destruction are based on religious texts (or their interpretation, anyway) that are thousands of years old.
In America, more states than not are working on legislation to make it more difficult for some target groups to vote. These are all attempts to keep power, and all based on fear. The excuses given is to ensure there are no “irregularities” in voting, alluding to the 2020 election which has been determined to be one of the most straight-up and honest elections in history with almost no voter fraud (certainly not enough to sway the results). The fear driving these regulations are based on “The Big Lie”, an effort by Trump to convince voters that the only reason he lost the election was because it was “stolen” from him through voter fraud.
We’ve grown up fearing what we do not know. There’s a good chance that you’ve seen a child staring at somebody in a wheelchair, unsure what to make of it, no doubt having questions but unsure how to ask them. Most of the appearance-based fear of which we are familiar has to be based on race, though. Seeing children of different ethnicities playing together makes it clear that this fear is not inherent, it’s taught, and yet we’ve all learned the lesson well. Africans were brought with such a low stature that they were seen as property rather than as humans, and the Native people started out as nothing but savages fighting us for land that we viewed as ours for the taking. For hundreds of years, these AMERICANS have been fighting for their rights, beginning with the basic right to life itself. Progress has been made, and yet even today they have to fight for their rights, fighting against voter suppression, police brutality, suspicion, and fear.
Because they look different.