Monday, November 01, 2004

Thank You, Vice-President Gore, for the Internet

This weekend I "discovered" Wil Wheaton Dot Net. I realize that this "discovery" won't earn me any awards for being an internet pioneer (although, if pressed, I would be happy to indulge myself in justifying to you precisely why I am indeed an internet pioneer). Wil Wheaton Dot Net (WWDN) is clearly a draw for ordinary liberal folks, geeks and of course, internet pioneers like myself.

What drew me to WWDN was a piece in Salon called "Time to Hit the Barricades" where Salon asks, "What if the U.S. president, who wasn't exactly elected in 2000, wins in 2004... We asked blue-leaning cartoonists, comedians, bloggers and activists to pause in their last-minute pre-election machinations to ponder what they'll do if the U.S. turns just a few pinky shades to the red next Tuesday. Their responses ranged from predicting civil war, to plotting to take Congress in 2006 and even pledging to give up on the "reality-based community" altogether and live in the absurd...

One told us he'd cry."

And the one who told Salon that he would cry was Ensign Wesley Crusher himself, Wil Wheaton, to whom I was immediately and irrevocably endeared.

Wheaton's full response was:

For four years, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have lied to the American people about everything from the cost of Medicare "reform" to their ever-changing justifications for invading Iraq. Throughout this campaign, they have tried to terrorize us into giving them four more years to mislead the country and further enrage the world.

A Bush victory would mean much, much more than just the defeat of John Kerry. It would endanger the values that the vast majority of Americans -- the majority of Americans who voted for Al Gore or Ralph Nader in 2000 -- hold dear. It would be a victory for terror. So if George W. Bush wins, I will sit down, and I will cry. I will cry for my children, who will most certainly face a military draft, and I will cry for my country, because I believe that America can, and must, do better than George W. Bush.

Wheaton posts a "warning" to first time visitors to his site in which he beats his cruelest detractors to the punch by tearing down his celebrity self and revealing a thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive geek who by now is impossible to dislike.

I was never a Star Trek fanatic, but I did watch it back in the day, and while I reveled in the efficient resolve of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, like many men of my generation, Ensign Wesley Crusher made my skin crawl.

When I was in 5th grade, I started reading science fiction and I devoured most of Heinlein's works. Once I became an adult, I considered most of Heinlein to be "Science Fiction Adventures for Boys!" in a very 1950s sense where an ordinary clean-cut boy gets swept up into glorious fascist adventures in the interest of god and country (see Have Space Suit, Will Travel, 1958). As a young adult these stories became inextricably linked in my mind to sickeningly wholesome things from my youth like The Boy Scouts, paper routes, Grit Magazine, Lutherans and saving beef tallow for the war effort. (Yes, a particular member of my family, was saving rendered animal fat for the war effort well into the 1990s).

Ensign Wesley Crusher turned Star Trek into "Science Fiction for Boys" for me and, using my vernacular of the era, ruined it by making it "gay."

Both Ensign Wesley Crusher and I have come a long way, I guess. Instead of seeing the young "queer" Ensign in his Federation unitard, now I see a sweet parent my age who sounds like the kind of guy I'd enjoy spending time with. (Wil - if you are ever in the Boston/Cape Cod area and would enjoy a gin & tonic, stop by with the wife and kids - my wife, daughter and I would love to have you as a guest in our home.)

Which brings me to my thanks to Vice-President Al Gore, erstwhile inventor of the internet. We all know that Mr. Gore never claimed to have "invented the internet," that this meme was in fact an "invention" of the right in a [successful] attempt to humiliate and discredit him, but somebody should get the credit for inventing the net, and since I think Vincent Cerf is dead it probably should be Al. He has suffered a great deal because of this meme.

In the absence of the internet, mass communication required celebrity, money or power. Piercing the media was required to pass a message along to an audience.

The truly amazing thing about the internet is how it allows someone like Wil Wheaton to share something like, "I just farted" directly with as many people in the world as the message will attract.

The internet in all of its fantastic near-zero-cost-to-communicate glory has brought this former Boy Scout together for a moment with the former Boy in Space, and indeed, in the grand scheme of things, an emotional bond between two distant people, however fleeting, should be what life is all about.

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