I am a Trekkie, part of the pointy-eared cultish fan club of all things “Star Trek.” I once traveled 200 miles to listen to William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, aka Captain Kirk and Spock, argue the finer points of reason at a “Star Trek” convention.
As a casual Trekkie, I am not a fan of the Borg, the same-looking, same-thinking, robotic-walking cybernetic alien collective from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” bent on conquest of the universe. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger as “The Terminator” on steroids. Now imagine legions of him reciting not the iconic “I’ll be back,” but the more chilling “Resistance is futile.”
Members of Starfleet would not want to be caught drinking a beer with a Borg, a hideous vision of what we might become if we lost our individual identity.
In the universe of politics, we have lost our individual identity. We are now known as conservatives or liberals. We begin sentences with “Republicans” or “Democrats.” Republicans do this. Democrats did that. As if individual actions can be ascribed to an entire class of people. Political profiling, we might call it.
Democrats and Republicans, names stolen from a past yet forgotten idealism, would not be caught dead having a beer with a Borg — in this case the menacing visage of the opposing party bent on conquest of the political universe.
So polarized has the dynamic become, we no longer call it partisanship. We call it tribalism, harkening back to the days when humanity huddled around bonfires planning the incineration of our adversaries.
Yet political parties do not embody monoliths of thought and action. They possess neither the uniformity of thought nor the consistency of action to resemble the Borg-like collective. They possess gradients of perspective with as many opinions as there are souls to express them.
Parties do not transgress against society. Individuals do. Individuals hide behind party affiliation to mask their ideological narrow-mindedness, to escape accountability for the damage they wreak on society. Gerrymandering, political attack ads, closed-door caucusing, voter suppression and other tools used to widen the partisan divide deserve no safe haven in a free and democratic society.
We have been sequestered to polar-opposite camps by party strategists more interested in winning than governing, more beholden to lobbyists than constituents. It is incumbent on our common humanity that we separate our justifiable anger from faceless affiliations.
Any effort to remove the curse of party affiliation from judgment of character brings the charge of false equivalency. Yet, false equivalency assumes two unequal things being falsely equated. Parties are not individual things. They represent ideological baskets into which we put our best ideas and hopes for the future. Having collapsed to their base, parties are no longer big enough to hold our ideas.
In one episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Captain Jean-Luc Picard is captured and assimilated by the Borg. “Resistance is futile,” the Borg said. Jean-Luc is eventually rescued from the Borg and returned to humanity, saved by his friends and crewmates who saw in him the humanity worth saving.
The story of the Borg exists only in the minds of great storytellers who invent fictional characters to tap our basic fears. Even Trekkies realize this.
The story of our partisan divide is equally compelling. Master storytellers use fear and anger to tap our tribal instincts and draw us into competing camps to do battle with sinister forces — with you and me. They begin their stories with “Democrats” and “Republicans.”
Let us hope society is saved from the lure of political tribalism. Let us hope that resistance is not futile and we regain our individual identity.