DeFlip Side #172: No Lives Matter

DeFlip Side #172: No Lives Matter.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

I saw the Ghostbusters reboot earlier this week, and the news is good. The film honors the spirit and the aesthetic of the original, and it made me laugh from start to finish. Unfortunately, this silly movie has tapped into a very unfunny undercurrent in the fan community.

A very vocal segment of fans has protested this film ever since it was announced, not because it’s a reboot of a property they hold somehow sacrosanct, but because it’s a reboot that features an all-female cast. And that they cannot abide. Many of them lobbed an extra volley of hateful, racist tweets at cast member Leslie Jones because she has the additional audacity of being black.

It’s just the latest hue and cry from a contingent of hate-filled, rabidly self-entitled fanboys who see themselves as the beleaguered last line of defense against an army of social justice warriors who are co-opting Science Fiction to include radical things like diversity and equality, and provide a more representative picture that goes beyond the white male norm that has defined the genre for more than a century.

Now understand that I use the term “fanboy” very deliberately, because the wellspring of this anger comes from white guys who feel threatened that the genre is evolving beyond their narrow worldview. Their fear and hatred has manifested in a big way online through the #gamergate movement, where misogynistic trolls have threatened to rape and murder female journalists who’ve had the nerve to question some of the male-centered tropes in video games. Similar hatred has divided the literary community as well, where a right-wing contingent of self-proclaimed #SadPuppies and #RabidPuppies have repeatedly gamed and derailed the Hugo Awards in an effort to keep the genre safe for the white male ideal.

Unfortunately, this fan schism is symbolic of the discord that has spread to every facet of our public discourse–the growing divide between the right and left, us and them, friend and foe, where entrenched opposition has become the norm. We no longer identify as who we are, but as who we are NOT, often complete with kicky little hashtags. Are you a #DumpTrump or a #NeverHillary?

I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, emphatically in the #DumpTrump camp. But my disdain for Trump has very little to do with his current bid for the presidency. As a journalist working in New York, I’ve long been forced to chronicle and endure Trump’s exploits, and I long ago came to the conclusion that he’s a reprehensible, self-aggrandizing pig. His style of politicking is just an extension of that. So it doesn’t surprise me that he mocks handicapped reporters, jokes about shooting people in the face on Fifth Avenue or retweets neo-Nazi hate-speech and then feigns ignorance. He’s in thrall to his massive and massively fragile ego, and his thoughts and actions never extend beyond its immediate needs.

What does surprise me is the number of rank-and-file working class Republicans who have become avid Trump supporters, as if this silver-spooned, elitist mogul gives a crap about–or can even comprehend–their problems or concerns. He’s oblivious to the everyday struggles that most of us face, and incapable of speaking substantively about them. That’s why Trump clings to meaningless platitudes like “Make America Great Again” and “Build the Wall.” And it’s why he’s primarily campaigned on fear of the other.

Americans have plenty of fear. Our rampant fear of one another has led to blood in the streets. The recent, calculated murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge are a testament to that. I have family members who are cops, and I’m behind them when they say they are sickened and discouraged and downright angry at a media and political establishment that they feel paints them as perpetrators, and has turned them into targets. At the same time, I can understand the frustration in the African American community when yet another unarmed black man dies at the hands of the police.

But instead of trying to come together and figure out what the hell is going on, instead of attempting to end this mayhem, we choose to deepen the divide, nurturing our grudges and hunkering down behind hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter. Well I have news for you.

No lives matter.

Not in a cosmic sense, they don’t. Humanity is an insignificant blip of sentience, on an insignificant planet, in an insignificant galaxy that is just one among trillions of other galaxies traveling through a void of cold, black emptiness.

As Carl Sagan put it so eloquently upon seeing images of the Earth from space:

“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.” –Carl Sagan

I’ll take it a step further. Not only is the Earth a very small stage. It’s ultimately a meaningless one. And no matter how good or bad our performance, no matter how grand or petty our aspirations, no matter how trivial or monumental our achievements, the entirety of human existence will ultimately come to naught. Whether we last another 400 years or another 400,000, we will die out, and every last vestige of our existence will eventually dissipate back into an uncaring universe that goes blithely on.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the dire state of our democracy. But our democracy has all but perished. Democracy demands discourse, and discourse demands entertaining points of view that don’t necessarily jive with our own. And this is something we’re all failing to do. Conservatives frequently get labeled as close-minded bigots, but here’s a question for my fellow Progressives: when was the last time you actually spoke to a conservative and tried to see their side of things? Or is it just easier to disdain them as rednecks and hillbillies, pompously dismissing their ideas with an oh-so-pithy #Murica hashtag?

I’m not saying that we need to meet racists and hate-mongers half way. Screw them. And I don’t hold out much hope for entrenched ideologues. But maybe, if we understood each other better, our interactions might become a little less toxic, and maybe those divisions would start to disappear. One thing is sure: if we refuse to establish common ground, the discord will continue, the violence will increase, and more lives will be lost.

But as I’ve said, ultimately, no lives matter.

The only significance our lives have is whatever significance we attach to them. And we can spend that time in unity and understanding and working toward a greater good, or we can spend that time wallowing in fear and hatred, distrusting and murdering each other. The universe will keep expanding either way.