For Surak

Today marks the finale to my week-long series of comments on the US Presidential election this November. I’ve explained why I’m voting for Clinton (despite my reservations about her record, and a Biblical disgust with her “deplorables” speech), had some fun in presenting the case both for and against Trump, gave the third-party candidates more attention than they probably deserve, and provided a running analysis of the first debate.

One last promise remains to be kept — that Star Trek reference. Have to pay homage to the man in that bowl-cut hairdo, pointy ears, and serious eyebrows.

If you’re a fan of the original television series from the 1960s, you may recognize that the image at the top of this post is not Spock, but rather a different Vulcan, Surak. (Many Vulcan names begin with S, end with k, and have five letters. You’re welcome.) He appeared in one of the final shows of that initial run, titled “The Savage Curtain” but often referred to by Star Trek fans as “The Abe Lincoln Episode.” That’s because the show begins with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock scanning a planet for life forms, when all of a sudden the Great Emancipator appears on the Enterprise’s viewscreen, complete with Amish beard and stovepipe hat, sitting on a marble seat like he’s posing for his memorial. And believe it or not, the episode only gets weirder after that.


He’s actually called Yarnek, and he’s an Excaliban, but it’s a lot more fun to just call them Rock People

At Honest Abe’s invitation, Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet, where they all meet the Rock People. (I will eventually get to US politics; just hang in there with me a little bit longer.) They apparently can read minds and create humans (out of rocks, I guess), and like to stage “plays” to learn about people who aren’t made out of rocks. For their next play, they’ve created Genghis Khan and a team of Bad People, and order Kirk and his team to fight them to the death. See, the Rock People want to understand the difference between good and evil, which they obviously need to study since they apparently have no problem with kidnapping people and forcing them into mortal combat.

To help out Team Kirk, the Rock People also create Surak, who’s like the Buddha or Moses of Vulcan; Spock is very impressed, even though Surak’s probably made out of rocks like Lincoln. The Bad People then show up and start throwing plastic rocks, and after Team Kirk repels the attack and regroups, Surak tells his teammates he will no longer fight, but will rather go to the other team and propose a peace treaty. Kirk tries to dissuade him, but Surak dismisses his arguments; many peace emissaries, Surak explains, were killed on Vulcan before the logic of peace was finally accepted. Surak then goes off and gets himself killed; Lincoln tries to save him and gets a spear in the back; the Bad People attack again, Team Kirk wins, and the Rock People let them beam back to the Enterprise so they can fly around space for two more episodes before getting cancelled and then becoming legends on UHF.

Oh right, this is about politics. In a recent poll, seven percent of respondents reported they have lost a friendship over this year’s election. More so than in past election cycles, the conversation between the major political parties has turned into a shouting match, neither side willing to give any consideration to the other; thoughtful debate has been replaced with a mindless battle of insults, the “winner” being the one who comes up with the most clever putdown.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I don’t often write about politics. I had engaged in political debate during my graduate school years, and let’s just say I didn’t do well at it — I’d get frustrated, angry, and end most discussions suffering some form of embarrassment. I realized I wasn’t very good at political discourse, and for no other reason than the sake of my mental health, decided to stay silent.

The nastiness of this election, however, has inspired me to try again, this time with the goal of somehow elevating the level of political discourse. To agree, but challenge; to disagree, but continue the conversation. I want to channel my inner Surak, taking the high road and approaching my adversaries with words of logic, challenging their ideas without insulting their integrity, refusing to see political arguments as a fight to the death but a struggle in which both combatants can win. It’s not going to be easy, will be more work than fun at times, and I expect to be hit with plastic rocks and get a few spears in the back along the way. But that’s how I’ve got to do this; besides, the father of Vulan philosophy wouldn’t have it any other way.

All right, Star Trek reference is completed, as is my political commentary, at least for now. Time to move on to a different subject tomorrow.

Hirsute Hollering

Anyone who’s read this blog over the past few months is familiar with my contempt for the person I can only call The Fraud. My opinion hasn’t changed: He is an existential threat to the United States; should he somehow get elected this November (wouldn’t bet on that, but far stranger things have happened), the damage he could cause might take decades to repair.

I’ll give him one thing though — he is entertaining. What he says and does can be downright scary at times, but there’s a certain car-crash fascination that comes with every one of his inane ramblings. And there’s no harm in a little amusement, so long as you don’t forget about his very real menace.

Comedians, though — they’ve been largely disappointing in regards to The Fraud. There is a long tradition of brilliant political satire in America, demonstrated most famously by Jon Stewart and the pre-CBS Stephen Colbert. Yet for every Jon Oliver and Samantha Bee these days, there seems to be a dozen pathetic standups, telling the same lame jokes about The Fraud’s hair and poorly imitating his accent. Go for the easy targets, the cheap chuckles; play along with his hucksterism and ignore his vacuous substance, letting The Fraud laugh all the way to the bank, and perhaps the most powerful position in the world.

When I read the first few lines of Elan Mudrow‘s recent poem on The Fraud, I feared this would be more of the same, a rimshot in verse. But Elan’s too insightful to be satisfied with easy answers, and her poem uses his hair as a metaphor for our angst-ridden age, where a bad case of bed-head can send us into a frenzy of angry despair. In her poem, The Fraud is a symptom of our collective anxiety, and his outrageous behavior a sign of our desperation:

We’re you poking your nose

in some other country’s junk drawer

Hoping to find a flat iron?

“Hair Yell” is the best poem, and one of the best overall commentaries, about The Fraud to date.

Why The Status-Quo Of American Politics Has Come Under Siege

Joseph E. Rathjen at the The Political and Social Chaos Blog analyzes the surprising rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump The Fraud (hey, this is my blog and if I feels like indulging in juvenile invective, thats what I’s be doin’). A year ago, the idea that an avowed socialist would remain a viable candidate this late into a major political party’s nominating season, or that a misogynistic charlatan could win the other party’s nomination while proclaiming openly fascistic policies, would have been dismissed as preposterous. And yet, here we are.

I’m very curious to see how the parties respond to this year’s campaigns. If conventional wisdom finally holds true in this topsy-turvy year and Trump is soundly defeated this fall while the Senate flips to Democratic control, perhaps the Republican party will finally recognize it is facing an existential crisis at the national political level, having just lost the popular vote for the sixth time in the last seven presidential election. As for the Democrats, a resounding win that ignores Sanders’ continued popularity (especially among young voters) could lead to a disastrous complacency that results in yet another mid-term catastrophe in 2018.

My instincts tell me that this fall’s results will produce a Republican party that openly embraces Hispanic and Latino voters (immigration reform becoming a major component of the party platform), along with a notable increase in Libertarian and Green party membership, especially among the young, as dissatisfaction with both major parties increases. The Democrats will probably have reason to party come November, but the hangover they experience when the party ends will be long and painful.