As I've mentioned in the past, one of my favorite episodes of the original Star Trek is entitled "The Enemy Within" - a transporter malfunction creates two versions of Captain Kirk.
One is intelligent, wise, compassionate, yet indecisive.
The other is....
Well, see for yourself:
Forceful? Yes. Decisive? Yes. But also crazed, lustful, paranoid.
And yet, as Spock points out, while separated, neither one is capable of surviving without the other. In the end, as much as the two repulse each other, they're forced to literally embrace each other to both survive and lead.
So, I've been following the coverage of the growing lynch mob qualities of the Palin/McCain rallies over the last few weeks.
And let's be real about this: McCain may be the official party nominee, but Sarah Palin is really the standard bearer for this particular facet of the Republican party these days. Given the choice, I'm sure many of them would prefer to have her at the top of the ticket simply because they trust her more. In their mind, she's one of them, through and through. McCain is, sadly, just someone who's hitched his carriage to them on the vain hope that this pony will carry him all the way to the Oval Office.
Honestly, I feel sort of sorry for both of them.
McCain, because, after the abuse he suffered at the hands of Bush & Co. back in 2000, could not get over his Presidential fixation and has debased himself over and over again by cowtowing to Bush, Falwell, et. al., hoping that these people that he once scorned will finally let him in the club. Frankly, much of his career has been spent seeking acceptance from the "cool kids". Originally, he hoped that by being a rebel Republican, he'd be popular among the Hollywood & press elites. And it worked. But it wasn't enough to get him elected, because as far as most Democrats are concerned, he's still a Republican. One they might want to have a beer with, but a Republican, nonetheless. So he did a switch, seeking favor from within his party. But, by then, it was too late, he'd pissed too many of them off. And the only reason he's the nominee now is because everyone else in the GOP field proved to be unacceptable to at least one sizable faction within the party (Rudy's too liberal and Romney's too Mormon for the cultural conservatives, and Huckabee was too much of a policy lightweight for the neocons and finance conservatives). In short, everyone else's constituencies killed the one guy they were the most offended by, and none of them were paying attention to McCain, leaving him the last man standing.
Sarah Palin's just like McCain in that her ambition consistently overrides whatever better judgment she may have about her career. I get the sense that when she was approached about taking the VP spot, she must have said to herself "well, how hard can it be?" My sympathy for her comes from the fact that she'll probably go down in the annuls of presidential election history in the same breath as Admiral Stockdale or Dan Quayle as a figure of national ridicule. But don't be misled. Even if McCain loses, we've probably not heard the last of Gov. Palin on the national stage.
Of course, there are limits to my sympathy.
And I suspect that McCain didn't fully appreciate the Frankenstein's monster he'd created by turning Palin loose to stoke up her base with the notion that Obama might somehow be a member of some fictitious joint Black/Muslim sleeper cell.
And, for the record, I'd just like to say two things:
1. If I were Obama, I would stand up during that prime time speech he's going to give the week before the election and say "Yes, my full name is, in fact Barack HUSSEIN Obama, and I have about as much in common with with Saddam Hussein as Bill Clinton has with George Clinton. Think, people!"
2. "Muslim" != "Enemy". My family was all raised in Protestant, Methodist traditions in the country churches on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Yet, my uncle converted to Islam some 30 years ago. And I can tell you that he, his wife, and his six children are among the most thoughtful, considerate, compassionate, disciplined, spiritual people I have ever known. His Islamic faith has given him a core of inner peace and personal strength the likes of which I feel I have almost never seen among even Christian clergy. And the VAST majority of Muslims are like that. Blaming all Muslims for the actions of a man like Bin Laden is like blaming all Christians for the actions of Hitler. Or Jim Jones. Or Timothy McVeigh.
But my point is this:
Even if Obama wins in a landslide next month (which, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, has a better than 50% probability of occurring. Hope springs eternal), these people who are currently literally screaming for his head aren't going anywhere.
The fearful, the paranoid, the hateful - these, too, are very much part of America. Always have been.
And yet, in these very same parts of the country, you probably get the highest recruitment ranks from the military. The highest church participation and activism. These people love this country. Many of them have wildly different, and, in some cases, mutually exclusive view of what this country is supposed to be.
And, as long as no one is picking up a pitchfork or a rope, that's actually OK.
It's called democracy.
I know Kos likes to talk about "breaking their spirits" and Karl Rove was renowned for seeking a permanent Republican majority, the fact of the matter is, short of straight up genocide, neither side can ever get rid of the other.
No matter how much it disgusts or repulses us, that other America is still America. And we could not have what we have without it.
That's not to say that it's a good thing. Far from it. The provincial hatreds and prejudices and fears are, in my mind, a part of our national shame.
And the generational times are changing for the better. But I don't think any of us on either side of the divide should delude ourselves into thinking that we can ever be rid of the other completely.
So, with that in mind, we have to look for the common ground, where it can be found.
And, where it cannot, and it comes to a point where we have to lay hands on each other in a non-Christian way to resolve our differences...
Well, just the thought of that makes me sad. But I have to acknowledge that there may just be some people who are beyond reasoning.
At which point, like Jill Scott said, we just have to take off these rings and deal with it.
It's ALL America. The good and the bad.
But, personally, just like J.J. Abrams, I'm encouraged by the fact that Star Trek is making it's return in the same year that a transformative, hopeful figure like Barack Obama potentially becomes the new leader of the free world. It's no accident that Star Trek's Final Frontier was the projected future from JFK's New Frontier. I mean, who can dispute the Kennedy-eque qualities of a character like this:
Yes, it's always been a challenge. But I, for one, am filled with hope.
The hope that this country will have leadership again who will once again make us proud through their actions at home and abroad. The hope that we will find the means and the will to resolve our most pressing problems while capitalizing on our most golden opportunities.
I believe the cultural zeitgeist is changing. I believe the sci-fi worlds of "Blade Runner" and "Mad Max" where an outgrown of our sense that The Future was dying. But now, people have hope again. The future looks bright again.
There will always be serpents. But that doesn't make the fruits of the garden any less sweet.