Facebook Arguing, Unfriending Over Politics Accomplishes Nothing

blue-red-facebookSo you log onto Facebook to post a photo of the dog you just got or the new car you just bought. You post it and hope some of your friends will “like” it. Unfortunately, your news feed is too clogged up with statues of a naked Donald Trump.

Or you just got accepted to the college of your dreams and post your accomplishment. But it gets buried by your relative who has posted their 187th meme saying Hillary Clinton should be in prison. You think, “I’ve seen enough of this crap!” and go up to the corner and click that “unfriend” button. Problem solved. But is it?

Facebook has always been an incubator for heated political discussions that can and often do lead to intense arguments with fierce typing and capital letters, followed by unfriending sprees. But the contentious 2016 presidential election has brought those battles to new levels.

There’s a reason for that. When there’s more chickens in the hen house, more feathers get flustered. According to The Hill, nearly one-half of American Facebook users have engaged in conversation regarding the election so far this year. That’s 100 million people with 4 billion likes, comments, posts and shares.

Now, politics is a topic that is often discouraged at parties or around the dinner table—yet it happens anyway. It’s the same with Facebook. Politics belongs on the social networking site just as much as the pictures of the delicious dinner your cousin made while you eat Stoeffer’s for the third night in a row.

The difference is you rarely have the impulse to comment on your cousin’s photo and say “STOP POSTING STUFF ABOUT BEANS! IT’S CHILDISH AND STUPID. NOBODY LIKES BEANS!”

See how ridiculous that sounds? It’s just as ridiculous if you replace the word “beans” with “Trump” or “Clinton.” Yes, I said politics has a place on Facebook, but it must come with some level of civility, peace and understanding. Most of the site’s users are adults, but sometimes you’d never be able to tell with the demeaning comments people make about candidates and sometimes about their own friends—simply because they have a different opinion.

Most of us wouldn’t tear our friends to shreds and call them a “libtard” or a “Repooplican” if we were talking to them in person — hopefully, anyway — but for some reason we think it’s different when a keyboard and screen are in front of us. But it shouldn’t be.

We are going to be acquainted with people who have a wide range of political views. There’s no getting around that. And it is indeed acceptable, and I dare say even necessary, that we engage in some of each other’s posts and statuses. Not to fling insults or burn bridges, but to keep the conversation going. It is not that difficult to disagree with a friend or relative and keep the peace. We are capable of presenting credible information, keeping a calm tone and trying to see from another’s perspective without turning it into an internet brawl. And if you can’t, you can always just simply keep scrolling.

But isn’t it just easier to unfriend that person so you wouldn’t have to see all of these posts? It seems to be a popular option. BuzzFeed even published a manual last December that laid out step-by-step instructions on “how to delete your Facebook friends who like Donald Trump.” Some don’t even bother trying to be secretive about it. They’ll just post something along the lines of “if you’re voting for so-and-so, just unfriend me right now.”

While that may help prevent seeing your uncle’s political rants until the next holiday get-together, I firmly believe it does all of us a great disservice. One of the true benefits of this unconventional election is that it has gotten many people to talk about it. While we complain about how polarized our politics have become, Facebook actually makes it even worse because it has given us the ability to simply do away with the politics we don’t believe in.

The company was recently criticized for its curators weeding out trending articles about issues popular with conservatives, allegations that remain sketchy at best. But so what? We don’t need Facebook’s techie guys to play around with the content we see. By unfriending those we disagree with and un-liking pages that promote candidates we don’t like, we’re already able to tailor the news we get and the posts we see. That leaves us a one-sided viewpoint of all the statistics, messages and stories we see through one of the most popular websites in the world.

I don’t see that as doing us any favors. That’s not being open-minded. That’s not being constructive. We like to shake our fists at our government because they seem to disagree on everything. And on a lot of things, they do. But our lawmakers don’t get to click “unfriend” and remove their political opponents from the floor. They’re forced to talk, exchange ideas and find middle ground. And even if they don’t right away, they can try again. So, why can’t we set ourselves to the same standards?

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

It’s All About Who Puts On the Best Show

180064_600Regarding the 2016 presidential campaign, President Obama said in May that “this is not entertainment.” But during the Republican primary, I heard the crowded field of candidates often called a “clown car.” I heard Hillary Clinton called a “witch” and Bernie Sanders a “Bozo.” And when Donald Trump announced he was running, The Associated Press said a series of GOP leaders were worried he would turn the contest into “a circus.”

Wrong, Mr. President. This is entertainment. Not the office of the president, of course. The leader of the free world must be an intelligent, responsible and reliable individual. But to get to be the president, it’s ultimately not the best policy ideas, best vice presidential picks or the best plans to fight poverty and hunger that gets one there. It’s all about who puts on the best show.

Thankfully, we’re past one of the most important shows of the whole election — two weeks of both parties’ national conventions — which initial purpose is to pick a nominee. But now it’s all about placing the nominees on a pedestal and bringing out dozens upon dozens of people to give speech after speech that glorifies these candidates to the point where’d you’d think they were descended from the heavens. They bring out mothers to say their candidate cares about children, then a general to say their candidate will keep us safe. They bring out a non-Caucasian individual to say their candidate represents minorities and then a farmer to vouch for their appreciation for rural families and business owners. It’s hard to imagine that you could find so many good things to say about someone over a four-day period. And they bring all of these people out on a stage that more resembles the America’s Got Talent finale with all the flashy lights, big screens and colorful sparklers.

Now the conventions are long over, but the show must go on. Trump and Clinton continue to criss-cross the country, putting on their “performances” for voters. And as both have been in the public eye for decades, they are both expert showmen.

Clinton is often criticized as being a career politician and out of step with common Americans. To counteract that, she will conduct certain activities or visit certain places to show her humility. But then she goes too far. What’s supposed to appear as relating to everyday people is perceived as silly pandering to voters that fools little people.  Even Saturday Night Live picked up on this and produced a well-received skit during the New York primary campaign of her impersonator saying how she’s a big fan of just about everything New Yorkers could possibly love, from hotdogs to the Yankees. During that contest, Clinton also boarded a subway in New York City and rode it through a few stops, shaking hands and smiling at other riders—after she swiped her metro card five times before it was accepted. Right, I’m sure Clinton takes the subway all the time.

That “connectivity” with the common man is a political maneuver that goes back to the 1820s, but has long been exhausted. Clinton claims she was broke when she left the White House in 2001 and wants us to think she regularly rides subways. But a lot of us in the audience simply don’t fall for that act. Everyday people live paycheck to paycheck. They don’t pocket $250,000 from a single speech and don’t wear a $7,000 jacket. The Clintons earned $10.6 million in income in 2015. After many Americans hear that number, it takes a lot of theatrics to convince them that you “feel their pain” and will fight against “those at the top.”

Now, Obama successfully painted Mitt Romney as a rich man who catered to the rich in 2012. The problem Clinton has is her opponent is Donald Trump. It’s no secret that the guy is overwhelmingly wealthy. And just in case you didn’t know, he has assured us all many times, saying something like “I’m really rich” or “I’ve made a lot of money, folks.”

Trump not only puts on a show, but he likes being the star. From hosting The Apprentice to his rock star entrance at the convention using a smoke machine, Trump doesn’t like to yield the spotlight to anyone, sometimes even his running mate. When he lost primaries, he screamed that the system was rigged against him. When other news overshadowed him, he held a press conference. He loves to talk about himself and loves to stomp all over those who disagree with him.

But Trump’s performance mostly consists of a list of talking points with little substance. He constantly twists answers to questions regarding policy to shifts them back into a subject that fires up his base, then finishes it with “make America great again.”

He may be running for president of the United States, but his spectacle more likely resembles the middle school race for class president, where a candidate promises to put a soda machine in the cafeteria —a promise that cannot possibly be delivered but it gets enough people to vote for him. His calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, among other things, are meant to electrify a good portion of his fan base, but are nearly impossible—and in some cases unconstitutional—tasks for a president. They’re just lines from a script to get the crowd on their feet applauding or laughing—depending on your political affiliation.

Yes, we have quite the collection of seasoned actors running for our highest office. Whoever does the right things, says the right things, and out-performs the other will be our next president. So, grab some popcorn, put your feet up and relax, ladies and gentlemen. The show is just beginning.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

John Oliver Is Right—We Need Newspapers


John Oliver is seen on his HBO show ‘Last Week Tonight’

I don’t know anything about John Oliver. I’ve barely watched any minute of The Daily Show and can never get straight what show Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyers are host of.

But John Oliver captured the attention of many last week—including myself—during his spiel on his HBO Show Last Week Tonight regarding newspapers and how much good journalism still depends on them in order to function. No one has to be told that print media, and newspapers specifically, are on their way out. Many people like to tell me that when they find out what field I’m in. Trust me, I know it looks bleak.

I told myself that I didn’t ever want to work for one for that very reason. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get away from them. And John Oliver was able to tell me why.

Oliver told us that too often other media take the work of newspapers and rebrand it into their own, saying “The media is a food chain that would fall apart without newspapers.” Well, he’s right. I’m glad I’m not the only one who notices just how much online and television news cite the work of newspapers in their reporting. Just turn on a network and see how long it is before you hear something along the lines of “The New York Times is reporting that…” or “According to The Washington Post…” These citations are used religiously in everyday reporting, in presidential debates and in framing a question during an interview.

Now, that’s not saying television doesn’t do their own reporting. Of course they do. And I watch quite a bit of it. But too much of the time it feels like entertainment and advertising to me. I mean, goodness, NBC’s The Today Show puts on a concert series. It’s sad that I can watch Justin Bieber just by turning on a major network morning news program. And then you could make a drinking game out of how many times anchors put the name of their network into their sentences. “This is a Fox News Alert.” “You can watch it all right here on CNN.” Then add in the network’s logo on the microphones, on the side of the screen probably on top of a digital clock and then God knows how many swirling around on the graphics used in the studio backdrop.

As annoying as all of that is, it all comes with the industry, I guess. But what has defined the role of newspapers since their inception, as Oliver points out, is their ability to dig deeper, ask the tougher questions and constantly remind us why the freedom of the press is included in the First Amendment.

Newspapers have led the way of keeping the fourth estate a living, breathing organ of American democracy. From The Washington Post uncovering the Watergate scandal, to The Boston Globe exposing sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, to the 22-year-old girl working at a small publication in State College, Pennsylvania who made the whole nation learn the name “Jerry Sandusky,” newspapers have taught us time and again that it’s the reporting that is important, not ratings or the number of subscriptions.

Not until I was a journalism student in college did I fully recognize the responsibility that comes with being a journalist. Like many universities, my school had a newspaper, a television station and radio station. But the newspaper was the only one that had an independent status—meaning we could criticize the administration without fear of losing funding. I absolutely adored my college but never hesitated to harshly question administrators’ actions or put stories on the front page that gave the school a negative image if I thought it was something the students and community needed to know about. And the several editors I worked under made sure we had someone cover student government meetings. Since student attendance was extremely limited, we knew it was up to us to make sure we knew what was going on at these meetings and to report on what a good portion of students’ tuition was being spent on.

It’s no different in the real world. Newspapers, especially local ones, keep lawmakers in check. But with the decline of newspapers and reporters alike, along with a bigger sacrifice of government watchdog stories in exchange for the panda that was born at the zoo to get clicks, we are going down a very dark and dangerous path.

Without newspapers, who is going to investigate and report on wrongdoing in governments from the federal level to the local one? We’re leaving more and more holes for politicians to hide in. In his monologue, Oliver cited The Wire creator and former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, who said, “the next 10 or 15 years in this country are going to be a Halcyon era for state and local political corruption.. one of the great times to be a corrupt politician, you know I really envy them. I really do.”

Oliver then says “he’s right. Because not having reporters at government meetings is like a teacher leaving her room of seventh graders to supervise themselves.” You don’t have to be an adult to know that would never end well.

And while you may not give a hoot what goes down at city hall every living minute, just ask yourself this. How would you feel if those involved in Watergate were never investigated and prosecuted? How would you feel if Jerry Sandusky was never looked into and continued to molest children? How would you feel if you never found out the person you voted for was using the campaign money you gave them to pay for their vacation to Tahiti?

If we continue down the road we’re going, we’ll reach a point where we’ll have nothing but puppies and rainbows stories that are produced by media that are controlled solely by corporations and millionaires while corruption from the small town legislature to the halls of Washington remains hidden. And that will be a lifetime subscription.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Legislators in Albany Need to Earn Their Raise


Members of the New York Senate pass legislative bills in June in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Albany.

I bet many people would like to decide when they get a raise and by how much. I know I would.

Which is why New York legislators, who have the power to do so, are very reluctant to try because they are keenly aware that voting to raise their own salary won’t be taken lightly by the people and will likely put their government jobs in jeopardy.

But now they have found a solution. The New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial & Executive Compensation, a so-called independent panel, will decide if the state’s 203 senators and assemblymen will see a pay raise of 47 percent — from an annual $79,500 to $116,900 starting next year. The purpose of using the commission is to deter the notion that the legislators themselves brought the idea to the table—even though its seven members are all appointed — three by the governor, one by the Assembly speaker, one by the Senate majority leader and two by the state’s chief judge.

Now, let’s make no mistake. The Legislature hasn’t seen a pay raise since 1998. That’s a very long time for anyone to go without one. Many members from both chambers have emotionally expressed that their base pay is not sufficient to meet the standard of living of today, particularly those who reside in the downstate area.

But it doesn’t look like any lawmakers have been starving. Let’s not forget that most Albany lawmakers make more than just their $79,500 base pay—which is already the third highest salary for state legislators nationwide. Most benefit from add-ons, like chairing a committee, which can bring in another $9,000 to $40,000. And the Legislature is only part time. Many legislators earn outside income by working at law firms in their districts or through other means. Six senators earned at least $100,000 in outside income in 2015, according to recent filings. Sen. Michael Nozzolio, from Seneca County in the Finger Lakes, earned between $150,000 to $250,000 in outside income last year—then got his $79,500 from the Legislature. There are many more of our representatives with similar circumstances. Sorry, but I think it’s easy to say you won’t find too many New York citizens who have any sympathy for these sob stories.

There are other arguments our leaders are making for a significant raise. Some say a higher salary could attract a larger amount of candidates to run for office. While that may be true, it’d be more preferable that people run because they want to be a public servant, not simply because it pays really well. Too many New Yorkers already believe many legislators use their positions for personal gain and after the exposed corruption we’ve seen just in the last year, the last thing we need is more money in politics and fresh faces to learn the awful tricks of the trade that have landed many of our public servants in public prisons.

Another argument, and perhaps the most laughable one, is that a higher salary will keep lawmakers coming back to serve more terms. Former Assembly employee and commission member Roman Hedges, who has championed the 47 percent raise proposal, said “I’d like the legislators to be well enough rewarded that they’ll stick around.” I’m not sure what Mr. Hedges is worrying about. I certainly don’t see our representatives fleeing from our Capitol in flocks. In 2014, Politico reported that the average tenure in Albany is more than a decade. Sen. Hugh Farley of the Capital Region, just retired after 40 years as a legislator. Joseph R. Lentol has been an assemblyman from the Bronx for 44 years. A lack of long-term politicians in Albany is certainly not a real problem—and truthfully there are probably many people who wouldn’t mind seeing them go anyway.

It’s interesting that Mr. Hedges uses the word “reward” regarding the Legislature, because that word is the foundation for the argument for why they shouldn’t get a raise. The very definition of a reward is repaying a good deed with a good deed. And unfortunately, the Legislature has shown us no reason why it should be rewarded.

After dozens of state officials have either resigned from office or have been placed behind bars on corruption charges, our leaders in Albany sat on their hands and did nothing. After both chamber leaders Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were arrested, convicted and sentenced to federal prison just weeks apart from each other, our leaders still insist it’s not a problem. When it seems like every month that a new state official or state program is being investigated and accused of corrupt activity, ethics reform is continuously brushed aside.

They told us ethics reform was going to be a part of the state budget. It wasn’t. They promised some measures would be passed by the end of the session. They came out with one modest and watered down plan regarding only one contributor to corruption — pension forfeiture for crooked politicians—and even that still has many obstacles and several years to go before it could even go into effect. And after that, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had the gall to say the most recent legislative session was “probably the most successful session in modern history.”

Our Legislature has repeatedly failed to even remotely address arguably the most significant ailment in New York in our lifetime. And now they want a raise?

Raises have to be earned. They aren’t handed out to someone simply because they do their job. And our Legislature has a hard enough time showing us it can even do that.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

New York Needs Firm Stance on Nuclear Power


Please read these two quotes carefully.

“I understand that there are jobs. I believe we could build other plants that could create the jobs. But that’s an issue, a discussion for another day.”

“It will devastate the lives of the more than 600 employees and their families.”

Sound pretty different, don’t they? As polarized as they may be, they are actually spoken by the same person—Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And they are both about the same thing—nuclear power plants in New York state. However, where they differentiate is location. The first quote refers to the Indian Point nuclear facility in the Westchester County town of Buchanan and the second to James A. Fitzpatrick facility near Oswego.

The governor has long expressed his implied intentions to close Indian Point, which lies only a few dozen miles from downtown Manhattan. He and several environmental groups have cited everything from fires, leaks and even earthquakes as a justification to shut down the facility, saying even a small mishap could put millions of surrounding lives at risk.

Indian Point has experienced several problems just in the last year. As recently as the end of June, its second unit had to be shut down to repair a leaking pipe, which prompted an angry response from Cuomo. “This is yet another sign that the aging and wearing away of important components at the facility are having a direct and unacceptable impact on safety, and is further proof that the plant is not a reliable generation resource,” he said in a statement.

Interestingly, his reactions are very different when it comes to the plant’s sister facility on the shores of Lake Ontario, north of Syracuse. Entergy, the company which owns both Indian Point and James A. Fitzpatrick, announced in November the latter would be closing sometime in late 2016 or early 2017. This prompted outraged statements from Cuomo, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and all pledged their efforts to keep the plant open.

So, why the difference? Up front, it’s all about economics. The closure of Fitzpatrick will result in 600 workers newly jobless in an already job-starved region of the state. As of June, Oswego County’s unemployment rate stands at 5.7 percent, the third highest in the state. The loss of the plant’s $74 million annual payroll and $17.3 million a year in property tax payments will also leave a giant hole in the Oswego area’s economy, and cause a loss of $500 million statewide. Indeed, it’s the deteriorating fiscal status of the region that is partly responsible for Entergy’s decision to close the facility, including the industry’s national market conditions.

But is that a good enough argument to keep the plant open? There’s hardly an argument Cuomo uses to close Indian Point that couldn’t be used to close the other. Old age, environmental threats and proximity to populous areas seem to be the centerfold of ammunition against Indian Point.

Fitzpatrick, which began operations in 1975, is part of a coalition of aging nuclear plants along Lake Ontario. Its neighboring facility, Nine Mile Point, is actually the second oldest running nuclear plant in the country. The third oldest is less than 60 miles away, in Wayne County outside of Rochester. Each has seen its share of precautionary reactor shutdowns in recent years. Although, The Daily Beast ranked FitzPatrick no. 48 out of 65 nationwide on its 2011 list of most vulnerable nuclear plants. Indian Point was ranked no. 1.

As far as population goes, the Oswego area is obviously not the population size of New York City. But there are actually three nuclear facilities within six miles of the Oswego city’s borders. In fact, Oswego has the most nuclear plants that are as close to a municipality as any other city in the country. Needless to say, that accounts for some risk for the nearly one million people that live within a 50-mile radius.

Recent events have shown Fitzpatrick also has its vulnerabilities. At the end of June, the plant leaked 30 gallons of oil into Lake Ontario through a discharge drain. Though a small amount, the frightening thing was that plant operators didn’t know of the leak until the Coast Guard reported it. Though an incident like this pales to those that occasionally occur at Indian Point, it makes one wonder why there’s so much effort being put into closing one plant and keeping another open.

And as of last week, the future of nuclear power in New York couldn’t be more confusing. The state Public Service Commission approved its plan to make clean and renewable energy responsible for generating 50 percent of New York’s electricity by 2030. Environmentalists rejoice. But here’s the catch. That plan includes a massive subsidy for upstate nuclear plants.

Although it produces no emissions, nuclear is not included in the clean energy club due to the risks that come with it. Instead, it’s viewed as a “bridge power source.” The state can’t produce enough solar panels and wind farms right away to to replace nuclear power. After all, nuclear power accounts for one third of the state’s power and Indian Point generates 25 percent of the entire New York City area.

But as we see in Oswego, plants are struggling to stay open, and they may not make it to 2030 So the state will pour millions of dollars into keeping nuclear plants running, investing an estimated $965 million just in the first two years, and possibly $7.6 billion after 12. Essentially, the state is planning to pump millions of dollars into and give CPR to a struggling industry that the state wants to eliminate just down the road. That’s like buying a new transmission, new brakes and new tires for your crappy car, then sending it to the junk yard right afterward and buying another car.

Nuclear power is here in New York. Do we keep it or kill it? Or keep it and kill it slowly? Do we kill jobs or burn taxpayers’ money? Either way, the outcome looks like a meltdown for all of us.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Let ‘Star Trek’ Teach Us a Political Lesson—Again

Film-Star Trek Beyond

Zoe Saldana, left, as Uhura and John Cho as Sulu appear in a scene from “Star Trek Beyond.”

It’s not often that we look to science fiction to look for solutions to serious problems in the real world. But Star Trek is an exception.

As the franchise’s 13th feature film is hitting theaters, we as a nation are experiencing some turbulent times. Terrorism attacks are rocking our cities both here and abroad, peaceful protests sometimes erupt into violence, racial tensions have escalated to new levels and controversial changes to our social structure have left both our government and people deeply divided. Interestingly, the world wasn’t all too dissimilar when Star Trek debuted as a low-budget, low-expectations television show 50 years ago.

Where Star Trek stands alone in the science fiction universe is its portrait of a Utopian future. But what the show taught us is that a better future is only made possible by what we do in the present. The show used its characters and episode plots against a backdrop of outer space to address the political issues of the day, from the threat of nuclear war to racism to the role of women.

Yes, it was in 1966 during the peak of Cold War tensions when a Russian character became a vital member of a star ship crew. As African American segregation had just been made illegal but was still prominent, a black woman was seen on television in a position of authority and treated as an equal by her peers. In a time where Asians were scarcely on television, an Asian was the ship’s helmsman and called the best pilot in the fleet. Their roles were certainly not created by accident.

Star Trek showed a racially divided American audience that diversity was not something that needed to be feared or avoided. Indeed, it declared it a strength, that tapping into those of different races, ethnicities and faiths is healthy for our humanity. Because the franchise was set 300 years in the future, war, poverty, disease and hatred have been long eliminated from Earth. So when the crew of the USS Enterprise intercepted a scenario where they found a race on some other planet suffering from oppression or tyranny, they were incredibly puzzled by it.

Incidentally, it also made the audience realize how ridiculous our own human hatred, stereotyping, and intolerance really are, and how they hinder our path to perfecting ourselves.

Just 50 years later, we can look back and see some of the things Star Trek envisioned for the future but were subject to harsh criticism at the time. For instance, the original un-aired pilot for the show had a female as the ship’s second in command. The network thought audiences would feel uncomfortable with a woman in that powerful a position so they requested she be replaced when the new pilot was produced. A woman in too powerful a position—think about how silly that sounds now. Despite a lot of hate mail, Nichelle Nichols, who played the black communications officer Uhura, remained a leading role in the franchise. Her presence even inspired that of Martin Luther King Jr., who urged Nichols to remain on the show after she revealed she planned to leave after the first season. The show is known for the first televised interracial kiss—something the producers worried would upset many people. The episode, which was one of the last ones before the show was canceled, caused ratings to nosedive and was censored across many parts of the South when it aired. Now, in an age where interracial couples are seen all over in real life and in the media, it’s easy for us to look back and wonder what the fuss was all about.

Just as older fans flipped the channel from news filled with race riots and Vietnam to see a multicultural crew saving the galaxy in 1966, we can turn off the heated presidential election, police shootings and religious warfare and go to the theater downtown to see the same characters do the same thing in 2016. And while we’re not in the 60s anymore, a lot of the issues paralleled in Star Trek decades ago are still prevalent, and some new ones have come to the table.

While political commentary was absent from the two movies of the series’ reboot, Star Trek Beyond is boldly going where no part of the franchise has gone before. A few weeks ago, John Cho, the actor who plays Hikaru Sulu in the new movies, confirmed the script has his character as coming out as gay, paying homage to George Takei, who played Sulu for 25 years and has been a champion among the LGBT community since he came out in 2005.

Takei said he and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had discussed gay characters in the franchise before, but they have never been included. It adds another bridge to Roddenberry’s longtime vision of a diverse and inclusive future. There are those who will disagree with that historic change, just as there were to strong female characters and black actors back then. But I have no doubt that in another 50 years, people will look back again at Star Trek and wonder why a gay Sulu was an issue at all.

The decision gives Star Trek a chance to return to what it was and to reinvent itself at the same time. Yes, the fierce ship battles, classic Captain Kirk fights and lens flares of the reboot films are all very impressive compared to cardboard sets of the 60s. But what lies beneath the surface is what has kept Star Trek alive for 50 years. Star Trek Beyond screenwriter Simon Pegg said it best in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s about the benefits of working together and putting aside our differences and our intolerances and our prejudices and actually understanding that the only way forward, really, is unity, not separatism.”

That unity keeps Star Trek relevant because unity is timeless. We’re constantly on a path of evolution where our differences define us, not divide us, where disagreement prompts discussion, not violence, and where who we love matters not, but how much we love does. Now, that is the final frontier.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88