Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise asked Admiral Dougherty this question when the Admiral- Picard’s superior officer- was confronted about his plans to relocate a race of 600 people from their homeworld so that they could mine the planet (more specifically, the planet’s rings) of a natural resource that extended their lifespan indefinitely (and had the promise to revolutionize the Federation’s medical field). The operation would make their planet uninhabitable, it would drastically impact the culture and lives of the impacted race, and it was in direct violation of the Federation’s Prime Directive.
You know, a classic Star Trek story line. Certainly, Star Trek: Insurrection is not the franchise at its finest, but even a lackluster movie can have a profound moment of clarity, especially when it is supremely acted by Sir Patrick Stewart.
The Captain, upon realizing Dougherty’s plans, comments on how cultures have been destroyed in every other forced relocation throughout history. The Admiral replies, trying to get Picard to see why his plan isn’t so bad. “Jean-Luc,” he says, “we’re only moving six hundred people.”
Enter Picard’s best line in the film, and one of Patrick Stewart’s best lines throughout his entire career: “How many people does it take, Admiral, before it becomes wrong? Hmm? A thousand? Fifty-thousand? A million?” With each increase in quantity, Picard becomes clearly more and more angered, before finally delivering the question one more time in that forceful, calm-yet-outraged demeanor that only Stewart can provide: “How many people does it take, Admiral?”
This is a line of dialogue that has been playing through my head a lot recently.
This week, it played through my head when I read that the death toll in the United States had surpassed 180,000 and was still rapidly climbing. A death toll that would have been, could have been, should have been much lower, if the President and his government had acted quickly, had taken this virus seriously from the start, and wasn’t continuing to downplay its significance and its devastating impact while trying desperately to get re-elected at seemingly any cost.
How many people does it take, Mr. President?
Over the last few months, it has played through my head as I read about violence in our communities. Violence against the black community by those who are supposed to be protecting them and serving them. Violence against peaceful protestors so that the President can take a photo of himself holding a Bible (which he’s clearly never opened), and violence by people who felt empowered by the President’s words to brandish guns at protesters and even to shoot and kill them. Violence through repeated inaction, the failure of the system to act and react to police escalation and the gross use of inappropriate and deadly force, and the lack of a timely response in arresting those at fault because they wear a badge or because their skin was white and not black. Time and time again, people of color have been targeted and killed by police. And that’s not to say that white people haven’t also been unjustly attacked or killed, or that all police officers are inherently evil or at fault. That’s also not to say that violence by protesters is in any way acceptable. But the system is broken, and it is infiltrated by racism, whether that is systemic racism or prejudice against black people. And people are dying who didn’t need to die. And at the top of it sits a President who acts as though he’s uncaring over anything more than the property damage done by some protesters.
How many people does it take, Mr. President?
That line has played through my head so many times reading headlines about our 45th President. When he was separating families by deporting the parents and putting their kids in cages… How many people does it take, Mr. President? When he insists on calling the virus “the China Virus” and causes people to react negatively and be racist or violent towards people of Asian heritage… How many people does it take, Mr. President? When he constantly downplays the need to wear masks to prevent further spread of the virus, or has crowds of people at the RNC who aren’t wearing masks or social distancing, causing people to overreact and even attack others when they are asked to wear a mask… How many people does it take, Mr. President? When he shares misleading “facts” about the spread of the virus, or shares conspiracy theories about the virus… How many people does it take, Mr. President?
I don’t care what you think the President has done for the economy in his four years; he’s thrown that all away in 2020. The state of our economy now is a direct result of the prolonged dragging of his feet in taking necessary action to prevent the spread of this virus. Had he acted responsibly, we could have been shut down for weeks and not months. Our economy is in tatters because the president and his government took entirely too long to respond, choosing to ignore the urgent recommendations of scientists. And there have been thousands upon thousands of unnecessary deaths as a result of his lack of caring, his lack of action, his inhuman complacency to shrug and say, “It is what it is.” And that’s to say nothing of the thousands more who have “recovered” from the virus but are now dealing with lasting, debilitating effects.
And I don’t care what you think he’s done for Christianity in America. I’m a Christian, and he’s done nothing but sow dissent, poison the Scripture against non-believers, and sway many believers away from the teachings of Jesus. He’s turned the Bible into politics, while none of his actions are representative of the love and forgiveness that the Bible teaches us to spread. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus told us. Donald Trump can’t even show compassion for the American people. When a President sits in that office, he isn’t there to serve the Republicans or the Democrats. He’s there to serve all of us. And this President has cost the lives of more Americans than the combined totals of World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. This President has caused so much division between Americans, so much distrust, so much hatred.
How many people does this virus have to kill, Mr. President, before your inaction is deemed to be wrong?
How many people do the police have to kill, Mr. President, before it becomes wrong?
How many people do your actions, reactions, inactions, tweets, downplays, fearmongering, hate-spreading, lies, lies, lies… How many people do you have to hurt before it becomes wrong, Mr. President?
I always use fiction to drive home a point. And Star Trek is a great source of inspiration during these dark times we are all living in. From Picard shooting down a racist in Star Trek: Picard when she insinuated that Romulan lives were not as important as human lives- Picard says, “there were millions of lives at stake,” and reporter replies, “Romulan lives,” to which Picard says, simply, “No… lives.”- to when he told Wesley Crusher the importance of truth over all else- “The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based. And if you can’t find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth… you don’t deserve to wear that uniform.”- this show consistently gives us reminders of how to be better people. And I don’t think there has been a time that we needed reminding more than now.
We have a President right now who can’t be bothered to tell the truth, who is only interested in helping himself, no matter how many people his actions or inactions harm. He ignores facts, he ignores science, he ignores the pleading cries for help from the American people. He fans the flames of racism and violence and is pushing us against each other.
And he’s asking for you to vote for him in a couple months. He’s asking you to let him keep his position of power for four more years. Look at the devastation he’s caused in 2020 alone. We can’t afford four more years of his neglect, of his lies, of his greed, of his abuse of power.
Now is the time to set aside our selfishness. Now is the time to set aside our differences, to come together, and to think of each other. To love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Maybe you haven’t been impacted by the pandemic or the racial violence in America, but your neighbors have. If you can’t vote against Trump for yourself, do it for the people around you.
Now is the time to tell this President that his time in office is coming to an end. We are coming for him with our votes in November. He can try to dismantle the post office and prevent mail-in-voting, but our votes will still be heard. He will not be allowed to silence democracy. He will not be allowed to continue stepping on us to further his own agenda.
How many people does it take, Mr. President, to tell you that you’re fired?
As Jean-Luc Picard would say… Make it so.
If you need information on how to vote, you can follow this link:
How to Vote
Everything voters need to know. Democracy Works has all the information you need to register and vote.
This is a great resource that will tell you everything from the date and time for elections in your state to information on how to vote and what you’ll need to bring with you. If you aren’t registered to vote, the website provides links to get you registered. There are also links to see what is on your state’s ballot, to find your polling locations, to find out how to vote early or by mail or by absentee ballot, and much, much more. This is a truly great resource to make sure your voice is heard on November 3rd.
You can also visit this link to the official government website for voting information:
How to Vote | USAGov
Locate your polling place, request an absentee ballot and learn about early voting options in your state.
And I recommend also visiting your state’s website as well for any additional information.