It seems more evident today than ever before in my life that people with opposing viewpoints, specifically political, have zero common ground on which to open a meaningful dialogue. The extreme polarized nature of today’s discourse creates a division so insurmountable that conflicting viewpoints are sufficient justification for declaring those who don’t agree with you enemies, traitors, evil, or just plain stupid.
I won’t even attempt to dissect the root of political divide, because that would be a fools errand and ultimately taint my message. That message, if I may finally get to the point, is that if anything could ever bridge the divide between people it might be uniting over fandoms. For the sake of my argument here I will use a very specific, very personal example that involves myself and a long-time friend who have found unexpected common ground over the greatest show ever, Doctor Who.
I’ve always admired many of The Doctor’s values. His compassion for all life, his intolerance of suffering, his sense of justice, and so on. But I have generally considered these qualities to be specific to my point of view, politically and ethically speaking. But the older I get the more I realize this just isn’t the case. These values worth admiring are held by people who do not agree with my general point of view. In fact, I find that most people share these values, even if in the real world it appears otherwise.
While it is absolutely an idealistic notion, I have come to believe that perhaps the only bridge that could ever be erected between people who so greatly, and fervently disagree with each other, may be in the shared cherishing of fandoms. Of course when it comes down to it people will bicker and argue over real life matters until they’re blue in the face. But why is it that people who can disagree so strongly in real life find shared comfort and value in fantasy? I guess the reasons is because it IS fantasy. Perhaps we all share the same goal, but differ on the road to take to get there. But fandoms, specifically of the SciFi variety, tend to show quite clearly that people idealize the same virtues in the end.
This phenomenon fascinates me specifically because of the relationship between myself and a long-time friend. To put it mildly, we occupy the complete opposite sides of the political spectrum. And yet, I know there to be common ground somewhere beneath the outer layers of frustration we feel for each others opinions. But about a year ago my friend started watching Doctor Who (he’s all caught up now), and since then we have had an great time discussing and bonding over the Time Lord’s adventures in the TARDIS. I think he’s wrong in his political inclinations, but we both agree Doctor Who is just the best thing ever!
Believe me, I have no delusions that our shared love of Doctor Who could ever get us to agree politically, but something has to be said for the strange, almost magical way our differences vanish when the subject turns to The Doctor. We’re both fiercely passionate fans of the show, as passionate as we are “enemies” in the political arena. Actually, it’s quite frustrating. If we can agree on loving a stupid TV show, why can’t we find common ground where it actually matters?
Science fiction has always had a strong tendency to examine moral and ethical differences. It’s one of the main reasons I love the genre so much. In fact, I often find that I have little in common with people who don’t like SciFi. Perhaps because to me NOT liking SciFi implies a diminished capacity for challenging one’s own opinions. To be a SciFi fan is to welcome critical thinking about a variety of fiercely held real-world social and ethical principles. It’s actually one of the only places where such examination takes place on a regular basis. One but only re-watch Star Trek original series episode where two men from the same planet are enemies because one is black on the right side, and the other is black on the left side. Never before had the absurdity of racism been made so clear as in that episode!
I’m not sure what I was trying to accomplish by letting all these words fall out of my head, but after a particularly strange recent dialogue that went from sarcastic political frustration, to completely shared giddy love for Doctor Who, I couldn’t help but become a bit idealistic in my wish for a better world. And really, isn’t that how The Doctor lives? Knowing people will rarely, if ever, get along, but still hoping everyone will eventually figure it out?