Monday, July 18, 2011

“Live Long and Prosper”

I have to admit when I hear these words it’s hard not to picture the stereotypical Sci-Fi convention equipped with futuristic space costumes and Vulcan salutes. And I’m not alone; the Simpsons, Futurama, and even Family Guy have all poked fun at Star Trek at one time or another, but in this case imitation truly is the most sincere form of flattery. Trekkers everywhere will tell you that laced deep within the interstellar adventures of Starfleet Academy are teachings of loyalty, tolerance, and social responsibility that transcend both time ‘and space.’

NAPF’s Peace Leadership Director Paul Chappell recently sent me a radio interview called, “Star Trek and Peace” and I have to say: I get it. While the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry originally sold the idea for Star Trek as a ‘Western in outer space,’ the only showdowns we see on the frontier are those concerning peace, war, and morality. When describing the theme of the show Roddenberry says, "It speaks to some basic human needs, that there is a tomorrow - it's not all going to be over in a big flash and a bomb, that the human race is improving, that we have things to be proud of as humans. No, ancient astronauts did not build the pyramids - human beings built them because they're clever and they work hard. And 'Star Trek' is about those things."

And he’s right. Not only does Starfleet Academy represent a hard-working peacekeeping navy, but it unites both aliens and humans alike to benefit the greater good. When faced with moral dilemmas like ‘just war’ and self-defense, Star Trek forces us to self-reflect and ask “in combating evil, how much evil can we do ourselves?” This reoccurring theme is often paired with the idea that what we leave behind is just as important as how we lived.

The show also tackles the issue of nuclear weapons. In an episode called “The Doomsday Machine” the USS Enterprise crew encounters a powerful device built to destroy both sides in a war. Although it was intended only as a deterrent (sound familiar?) the device ended up being activated and destroying its creators. The episode originally aired in 1967; does anyone else find it odd that the theme is just as prevalent over forty years later?

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