In the eleventh episode of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, THIS SHOW IS TOO MUCH. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of terrorism and the Pulse/Orlando attack, homophobia.
There are Changelings everywhere in our country.
There is martial law.
There is terror and hatred and violence.
There is no hope.
There’s been a lot of coincidence in my life lately. I woke up on June 12 (which is yesterday for me, as I’m writing this review) to texts from a friend of mine who’d been reconsidering whether he would march in the Pride parade. He’d had a number of late nights in a row and wanted to get some extra sleep. But as I groggily checked my phone, uncertain why I had so many missed messages and emails and tweets, I saw his words. “I can’t stop crying,” he said. “I thought I wasn’t going to march but now I’m going to. I HAVE TO.”
I had no context for this message. By the time I scrolled through my Facebook page, I was numb with shock, and then I couldn’t stop the tears welling up in my eyes either. A lot of us in this community have a repetitive nightmare that one day, we’ll be next. That’s certainly the case the darker you are, if you’re not cis, if you’re disabled, and if you break from the norm in any definable way. But for many of us who are part of the LGBT or queer communities, we came from violence. We were bullied, beat up, branded, scarred, punished for something that never affected anyone else, demonized and cast out of the world by lawmakers, teachers, counselors, parents, friends, the police, EMTs, anyone and everyone who had even a modicum of power over us.
We became cynical. I’d like to think that I’m a positive, cheerful person, but the truth is that I’ve spent most of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. I expect the worst. I distrust every room I walk into. I imagine every person as the next one to assault me or make some shitty joke at my expense. I see a subway train full of passengers as an inevitability: one of them will stare too long, linger on my face, look to see if I brush up too closely too my boyfriend, and it won’t be long until I know I’m not welcome.
An eight-year-old kid gay bashed my partner in Wisconsin. He had to learn it from someone.
These people are everywhere. They look just like your friends, your family, your peers, your teachers, your lovers, your local politicians. There is an eerie relevance to the events in “Homefront,” given that it hasn’t even been two days (for me) since the news about Orlando hit me in the heart. There are other thematic issues I’ll touch on later, but I’m now realizing I can’t ignore the creeping sensation. The Changelings unintentionally mean something else to me. Who else hides in plain sight, pretending to be an everyday citizen? Who else tricks you into letting them close so you can shake hands with them right before they plunge the knife into your back? Who else wants you to lower their defenses with a nice smile and nod?
It’s easy to view the rampant homophobia and transphobia in this world as being perpetrated by our own version of Changelings. The thing is, they’re being exposed. They’ve been exposed for years (this community is resilient, if nothing else), but every new dragging I see on Twitter, every other fake politician who gets destroyed for announcing their support for the Pulse victims while simultaneously voting for legislature that creates the very environment that dooms them, every time we tell our oppressors that their shit stinks and won’t be tolerated further, the closer we get to rooting these monsters out of our world.
It’s easy to view them that way, but I wish things were that simple.
I remember when you could walk up to the departure terminals, when you didn’t have to take your shoes off, when your carry-on luggage wasn’t full of awkwardly shaped tubes all under 3 ounces, when we weren’t full of dread when we got in cabs and cars and buses and trains to head to the airport. That is a bizarre world to imagine, but I lived through the transition to the nightmare we live in now. But the changes that have become a part of the fabric of American society manifested in my life in other ways. In 2014, I was randomly chosen for extra screenings by the TSA twenty-five times. I remember the horror of being grilled on a Greyhound bus in Maricopa County in Arizona about whether I was a citizen or not. I’ve lost count of how many times people have asked why a Muslim like me is allowed to have tattoos, or how many times someone has yelled at me to go back to where I came from, or how many times I brace myself for the inevitable because I am brown and have a beard.
(And it’s not an American-only thing. Some day, you’ll have to ask me about how awful it was to travel through Europe.)
I live in a country full of overreactions. We overact to every threat, as long as it threatens the right people. We’ve given ourselves over to paranoia, to suspicion, to enacting draconian laws in the name of safety while fostering an environment that makes the country unsafe for a wide swath of its citizens. Thus, “Homefront” is deeply uncomfortable to watch because it’s a conversation my country is still having. At what cost does safety come? When is the price too high to pay? It’s an issue of power, and unfortunately, the groups we’ve given that power to frequently misuse it. Our President bombs countries with drones while decrying bigotry in our land. The NSA spies on its own citizens, and every new thing we learn about that organization shows us that they barely have our safety in mid. The TSA is ineffective, bloated, and a detriment to our society. Are we safer? Are we a better nation for it? And even if we are safe, is it justified that we bombed half the world, orphaned countless children, blew families apart, occupied land that wasn’t our own, and put our own interests before others?
Of course not.
The final image of “Homefront” did not inspire excitement. It was terrifying. I am not comforting by the sight of the military in general, and the very idea that Starfleet has officers patrolling the streets is a disturbing thing. It should be, for that matter. The glorification of this kind of violence – and make no mistake, it is violence, and the scene where Sisko tries to compel his father to take a blood test is a frightening example of that – often goes without criticism or second thought. I didn’t get that sense from “Homefront,” and even though this is a fictional show and a fictional narrative and an entirely invented scenario, it still means something.
Perhaps it is a metaphor for our own world or a dire warning for the future. Either way, it inspires no hope in me. The Changelings’ goal is unfolding right before our eyes: Earth mistrusts everyone. They are adapting to the presence of their enemy through drastic measures that will continue to separate and divide the populace. There is no easy solution here, and they know it. That’s the whole point. By hiding in plain sight, they inspire paranoia and fear. By goading the Federation into action, they force Earth to divide and suspect. They inspire terror, and they thrive on it.
It’s a scary, scary thing to think about.
I really wanted to focus on these political and social themes for the bulk of this review, but understand that I adore this episode for a million other reasons. Brock Peters is perfect as Joseph Sisko, and the surprise appearance of Nog made this story a delight. I think it was brilliant of the writers to personalize such a political disaster through the Sisko family because… well, why get lost in theory? Show us the direct ramifications of what Sisko is doing to capture the Changelings, and it’ll hit us harder. And having Benteen and Leyton demonstrate their own prejudicial paranoia works so much better than just telling us about it.
I’m blown away by this show, y’all.
The video for “Homefront” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon! There are various levels of support, from $1 up to whatever you want! You’ll get to read a private blog, extra reviews, and other such rewards.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches have been announced here.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!