Make America Great Again: Let’s Get Dirty

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A disenfranchised population. An exhausted, disgruntled workforce. Great, yawning chasms that separate the populace’s beliefs and expectations and, in turn, exacerbate division, frustration, anger,  breathing new life into the death of hope.

America today? Yeah. But also the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” almost a decade ago.

I’m sure others have already tackled this comparison, but since we’ve been re-watching “Battlestar Galactica” for the past couple of weeks, the parallels to what’s going on right now leapt out anew, shining in eye-catching colors made more vivid by time.

Running from 2004 to 2009,  “Battlestar” presented myriad similar concepts which rang true, but the episode of “Dirty Hands” proved to be even more alarmingly prescient than usual. And on the eve of a potentially historic election, the issues faced there are eerily similar to the ones we’re facing today and which will come to at least a partial conclusion—of some kind–next Tuesday.

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By the “Dirty Hands” episode of “Battlestar,” the fleet has been on the run from the Cylons (robots which human beings created and which subsequently turned on them, something that many believe is probably actually going to happen in real life one day) for a couple of years, give or take, piloting through space in search of the mythical “Earth” planet.

A conversation between the Chief of Galactica’s crew of ships and the President reveals the state of affairs of the overworked and long-ignored:

Chief: You realize that most of the workers on that ship have not had a day off since the original attack on our colonies? It’s like slave labor.
Adama: Don’t be absurd.
Chief: The men and women aboard that ship are stuck there.
They can’t leave, they can’t transfer. They have no control over their lives. And the work is hard.
President: We know that. Do they think they’re having a picnic on the algae processing plant or munitions or waste-processing? The fleet is filled with ships with people working under horrific conditions, and nobody’s having a good time.

It’s always the same thing, isn’t it? “The fleet is filled with ships with people working under horrific conditions, and nobody’s having a good time.” Except the President, as she’s stating this, is sitting in a compact yet luxurious office, wearing a nice outfit, and is not only rested and well-fed, but recently had her entire immune system rebooted by the DNA of a hybrid human-Cylon infant which put her cancer in remission.

The same with Adama, who received the best emergency healthcare possible to bring him back from the brink of death after being shot by a sleeper Cylon agent and regularly has cocktails with the President or enjoys lounging comfortably in his private quarters. Adama, whose immediate response to the Chief was, “Don’t be absurd.”

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Yeah, it’s nothing new that those who are “on top” making the “tough” decisions and “running” things get paid better, get better healthcare, get better consideration all around because they’re the ones who are “holding it all together.” They can’t walk around half-starved or dirty or live in squalor because that lack of quality of life doesn’t enhance brain power or the decision-making process very well.

But…the problem lies with an automatic response of, “Don’t be absurd,” to broaching the subject of real problems and real situations. Key among offenders today are the GOP and their followers who must have “Don’t be absurd,” as a ready-made motto to be carved into their tombstones. People are only poor because they don’t try hard enough. There’s no global warming. The 1% pay plenty of taxes. Prisons aren’t a business; they’re just full to bursting because there’s a lot of bad people out there—mostly black and Hispanics. There is NOT a permanent underclass and unreachable upper class. Don’t worry—Donald Trump is a joke; he won’t get the nomination.

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And don’t get me wrong; there’s plenty of “ignoring” going on on the other side, like the fact that during the continuing “fight” against terrorism, in the midst of Bin Laden’s capture and demise, drones bombing and killing women and children from an antiseptic distance, our own form of terrorism has been steadily growing and increasing in power—that of the fascist, militaristic police force across the United States.

It’s kinda like the psychiatrist who makes a living trying to fix everyone else’s problems while his or her family languishes at home, emotionally abandoned and neglected. It would be nice if that was all that was happening with our folks back at home, instead of wholesale murder, but this is where we stand.

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Scarier still from “Dirty Hands” is the phenomenon of Gaius Baltar’s almost inconceivable rise in popularity, paralleling now, of course, Donald Trump’s insane roller coaster ride to the Republican nomination.

Gaius, known philanderer and womanizer, self-motivated ex-President,  Cylon sympathizer, and traitor to the last of humanity, finally gets arrested and jailed, only to pen a book entitled, “My Triumphs, My Mistakes,” which begins to circulate throughout the fleet and to pierce the consciousness of the oppressed and disenfranchised with bold chapters like “The Emerging Aristocracy and the Emerging Underclass.”

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Yeah, this is not a new issue in the world, and definitely not in the U.S. But it’s definitely come to a boiling volcanic head in more recent American history.

Leave it to a charming bon vivant like Gaius to trespass over the most egregious of ethical borders on an everyday basis and yet somehow manage to lasso the minds and imaginations of a desperate populace that feels overlooked, forgotten, and taken for granted.

Although I wouldn’t call Donald Trump charming, his straightforward, “I’m not one of them” delivery mirrors the condescending platitudes and high-handed delusions of grandeur of Dr. Baltar in the most deeply disturbing of ways. The only difference between them: Gaius is an out-and-out genius.

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In the end, the President and even Admiral Adama come to see the benefit of listening to the people and eventually take measures to address issues of dead-end, even dangerous jobs, and classism. Basically everyone needed to get their hands dirty once in a while, not just one constant, never-changing segment of society.

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That’s where the episode and the show deviate from real life, though, because we aren’t there yet, and there’s a lot of work to do.  But one last potentially and hopefully prophetic situation: the fact that President of the 12 colonies is a woman. I’m not 100% fond of President Laura Roslin. But nobody’s perfect.

And between our choices, as they stand today outside of “Battlestar” and in the real world, the alternative is more or less unthinkable.

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