The long, slow death of white America
Kosh: They are alone. They are a dying race. We should let them pass.
Sinclair: Who -- the Narn or the Centauri?
Babylon 5, “Midnight on the Firing Line”
I'm going to do one of my favorite things on here: tie the art I love to the political situation.
The above quote is from the first regular episode of what I will argue is the best science fiction show to ever be produced for television. Babylon 5 set a path which every science fiction show of note since then has followed. It had stand-alone episodes; but the majority of it was a five-year long story arc, dealing with peace and war, love and hate, fascism and freedom. The new Star Trek: Discovery gets its DNA from B5, not from the older Star Trek franchises, with its season-long story arc and its darkness.
The first four years of the series deal with two major intertwined stories: the rekindling of a long dormant war between good (represented by the Vorlons), and evil (represented by the Shadows), immeasurably ancient alien races. And, of course, "good" and "evil" are relative terms, as the series unfolds. The other storyline is about creeping fascism on Earth, as the Earth President, who assumed office upon the death of his predecessor (whom we later learn was assassinated by him with the help of the Shadows) tries to impose a dictatorial, xenophobic vision on humanity
There's a third plot, which comments on the two great epic threads: that of the Centauri and Narn. The Centauri Republic is a spent force, its glory days behind it. Londo Mollari, the main Centauri character and, indeed, the series' most tragic figure, has this light bulb joke:
Q: How many Centauri does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Just one, but in the great old days of Republic hundreds of servants would change a thousand lightbulbs at our slightest whim!
For decades, the Centauri enslaved the Narn, until the Narn threw off their shackles. Their conflict is a leitmotif in the series, and indeed the series, through them, is a meditation on colonialism, oppression, and the wounds which never heal.
The Centauri make a deal with the Shadows to reclaim past glories. Sound familiar?
I've often tweeted that we're living through a real-life Babylon 5. All great art speaks to the moment when it's needed. The series was broadcast during the 90s, the glorious, heady 90s, when it seemed that history was at an end. It's as if its creator, J. Michael Straczynki, knew better, and could tell that dark times were ahead. President Clark is far more devious and intelligent than our current Oval Office occupant, but, much like Trump, Morgan doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's often bruited that if ET were to make itself known, it would change humanity forever, make it realize that it's merely one speck in a cosmic beach. Babylon 5 posits that, instead, many humans would turn the hatred they have for each other to a new enemy, a "real" alien.
In our own time, the fear which so much of white America feels is encapsulated in this video.
People calling themselves "Christian" support a man accused of vile acts. Why? Because he speaks to their fear, their smallness. Their smallness, but also their sense of self-importance, and that he will defend that self-importance.
It's what we see with Trump. Trumpism existed before Trump. Trump merely gave it voice, allowed it to be spoken aloud. Eight years of an intelligent, erudite, exceptional black man as President almost destroyed the myths of white supremacy on which so many white Americans have suckled since the Civil Rights movement. And people hold on to their myths. Their myths give them meaning. And when someone comes along to reify those myths, they will latch onto him, even if he as a person is a scurrilous scoundrel who flouts all of their beliefs.
White America is the Centauri, living on past glories, on memories which have no utility in a modern world.
"White America" has to die for America to fulfill its potential. The idea of a country founded as a refuge for the "white race" has to meet its deserved end. It's doing so, as I indicate in the title to this piece. It's a long, slow death. But it's a death with the promise of rebirth. A rebirth into something new, something never seen before, in which the very Western constructs of race are upended, in which people of color advancing doesn't mean white Americans regressing. A country which finally lives up to its founding creed: All people are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.
It really is our only hope. White America has to pass for America to live.
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