Horus Heresy: Choosing a Legion

Horus Heresy
Like many long time Warhammer 40K players, I’ve been enjoying the Horus Heresy books that Forge World is publishing and I’m glad 30K is now supported as an era of play. I have Salamanders and Word Bearers forces for 40K but I’d like to do something different for the Heresy era. I picked up the Battle of Calth game some months ago primarily for the minis (though the game was actually good too, as it turned out). Now I’m pondering what legion to choose for my 30K army.

For the last couple of years, I had been planning to do the Alpha Legion. I like their backstory and iconography, and their Rites of War gives them some cool options. I may go ahead with that but I’m doing my due diligence and looking at other options. These are the other legions I’m considering:

Imperial Fists: A surprise to me actually, but there is a big point in their favor. I really like the look and feel of the breacher squads and the Imperial Fists have a special rule called Resolve of Stone that makes breacher squads sing. The yellow armor isn’t my favorite but I think it could be reasonable if muted. Other Imperial Fist rules are also solid and they have a special knight troop type that are proto Black Templars. I’ve never had much interest in the Fists before but they have become a contender.

Iron Warriors: This legions makes a hell of a gun line with their two unique troop types, the Siege Tyrants and Iron Havocs. 30K Iron Warriors are also completely immune to morale tests caused by shooting, which is killer. And of course you can have giant robot bodyguards in the shape of the Iron Circle. So yeah, super appealing to me and I love the idea of a legion of siege masters. There are only a couple of downsides. First, the Iron Circle models are hellaciously expensive. Second, I have never liked the color scheme of the Iron Warriors. At all. The black and yellow stripes do not do it for me. Now I could just make up a chapter of the legion with a different look, so that could be worked around.

Raven Guard: I like the Raven Guard for many of the same reasons I like the Alpha Legion. They are sneaky and great at infiltrating. They have brutal snipers. They also have access to some unique equipment like the Darkwing pattern Storm Eagle Gunship. The Mor Deythan Strike Squad and Dark Fury Assault Squad models are also badass. Their advantage over the Alpha Legion is that I think they’d be easier to paint. And yes, friends, I’m likely to outsource a lot of the painting, but it’d be nice if it was a paint scheme I could handle for some units and the Alpha Legion teal is tricky. The downside of the Raven Guard is primarily cost. That Darkwing Storm Eagle alone is over $200 and I’m but a humble RPG publisher.

So that’s what I’m looking at. I really need to decide what legion is mine before I start assembling the plastic minis. How I build even basic troops will be colored by that choice.

What to choose? Loyalist or traitor? The galaxy hangs in the balance!

Donald Trump Has Already Lost This Election

All over the country people are losing their goddamn minds because Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. I’m seeing a lot of reactions that take his election as a fait accompli and for the next six months you’re going to see a metric ton of bullshit from the media, the idiot pundits, and all your racist relatives. They are all going to try to convince you that this is a horse race and that we could very well be heading into a future in which you’d have to say “President Trump” with a straight face. The media has to tell you this because they need this to be a story that sells and makes their “news” profitable. The Republicans need to believe this because they can’t very well admit that they have royally fucked themselves already. I’m here to tell you that Donald Trump has already lost this election and when I’m proved right in November, Trump is going to owe me 1 billion dollars. Because hey, if he can make shit up every day, so can I.

Now let me be clear about a couple of things. First of all, you need to fucking show up in November and vote. Untold harm has been done to America because the reasonable people stayed home during the midterm elections and let the Tea Party lunatics take over congress and too many state houses. You want to see your future if you don’t vote? Look at Kansas under Sam “The Disaster” Brownback, Florida under Rick “The Reptile” Scott, or Wisconsin under Scott “My Asshole Face Needs Punching” Walker. These are despicable people who have fucked their states into ruin and they got into power because too many people didn’t bother to vote.

Second, either Clinton or Sanders could defeat Trump. I (vastly) prefer Bernie and caucused for him here in Washington State (aside: caucuses are stupid and anti-democratic and we should stop having them). And yes, I see you quiver about the Bernie or Bust people but let’s get real. When election day comes and people are facing the choice of anyone or Donald Trump, the vast majority of them are going to vote against Trump. They may rage and holler now as the primaries are still a going concern, but it’s going to be a different story in six months.

Now I could list out the many faults of Donald Trump but I don’t have to. You know he’s desperately unqualified and his candidacy is a joke. “But Chris,” I hear you say, “he won all those primaries and no matter how many stupid, racist things come out of his mouth, he kept winning.” Yes, that’s true, he did win those primaries. But do you know who Donald Trump won over? The Republican base. And what is the Republican base? They are the most ignorant, regressive, knuckle-draggers in the nation. They are the last gasp of white anger and neo-Confederate dreams of a return to the “good old days.” And they are less than a quarter of the population.

The Republican base is not the majority. Remember that. They like to pretend they are but it’s a lie and that’s why Donald Trump has already lost. He has the support of the extreme right wing and the Republican diehards. Either Bernie or Hillary will clean his clock in a general election.

So please, don’t lose your head. Show up in November and Trump will be drubbed worse than Romney. Then we’ll all laugh and Trump will legally owe me 1 billion dollars.

Hole in the Scene: A Remembrance of John Stabb

Government Issue at T.T. the Bear's Place in Cambridge, MA, 1986

Government Issue at T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge, MA, 1986.

Word spread fast among the punk community this weekend: legendary Government Issue frontman John Stabb had died after a battle with stomach cancer. I know this means nothing to most of my readers, who are gamers not punks, but let me try to explain why it meant something to me.

I seriously got into punk rock and started going to shows in 1985, when I was 15 years old. I had a lot to learn and dove right into it. I devoured fanzines and scoured the record stores of Boston and Cambridge for records I had read about. I started with class of ’77 English stuff like The Clash and The Damned, then moved on explore everything from The Avengers and The Weirdos to Crass and Conflict to the Big Boys and The Dicks. And, of course, I soon discovered DC hardcore. Washington had a relatively small scene with a huge and outsized influence on the punk scene worldwide. Minor Threat and the Bad Brains were soon on my turntable, along with the classic document of early DC hardcore, the compilation Flex Your Head. It was there I first heard Government Issue. Shortly thereafter I got an LP called Four Old Seven Inches, which collected up early Dischord Records EPs that were already impossible to find. This is how I heard the first Government Issue record, 1981’s Legless Bull, as well as EPs by Teen Idles, State of Alert, and Youth Brigade (DC, not CA).

If there was one thing that became abundantly clear to me it was that punk bands did not tend to stick around very long. They burned bright and then broke up. This seemed particularly true of DC bands. I consider it a minor miracle that I actually saw Marginal Man and remain bitter that Embrace broke up mere weeks before they were supposed to play Boston with Dag Nasty. What made it worse from my perspective was that 1983 was an amazing year for hardcore, and while so very close to it (seriously, what is two years in the scope of things?) I had missed it. “Oh, you wanted to see Articles of Faith, Minor Threat, and Negative Approach? Sorry, kid!”

Imagine my delight to discover that Government Issue was still active, releasing records, and touring. I quickly gobbled up their LPs Boycott Stabb, Joyride, and The Fun Just Never Ends. By the time they came and played at T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge, MA in the summer of ’86, I was primed and ready. GI did not disappoint, playing a ripping and lengthy set to a frenzied crowd. John Stabb was the maestro of this chaos. He cracked wise and didn’t seem to take himself seriously, but his performance was intense. I loved it.

The crowd singing along with Stabb at T.T. the Bear's in 1987.

The crowd singing along with Stabb at T.T. the Bear’s in 1987.

A year later GI was back at T.T.’s and I was there on the stage, camera at the ready. This was another stellar show. After a long set and an encore, the crowd was still hollering for more. Stabb was hyped, ready to go, but drummer Pete Moffett was exhausted. He was practically pleading with John to end the set. Stabb managed to rally him and they played another 3 or 4 songs.

A month or so later I moved to New York City to go to college. The place I had gotten the film from the show developed gave me doubles for free, so I mailed a few pics from the show to Al Quint, who did the Suburban Voice fanzine (and now does the Sonic Overload internet radio show). In my brief note I suggested that one of the photos might make a good cover shot. A few months later Al sent me a copy of the latest issue and there was my photo.

My 1987 photo of John Stabb on the cover of Suburban Voice fanzine.

My 1987 photo of John Stabb on the cover of Suburban Voice fanzine.

Government Issue continued to record and tour, and they did something most bands can’t manage over a nine year career: remain vital. There was a progression from record to record, but they maintained their edge. Their 1987 record You is pretty far from Legless Bull but it is one of my favorites. It’s melodic and catchy, experimental in places but still punk rock. Same for Crash, their final record. I saw GI several more times in this era at CBGB and the Pyramid Club. They were always great, except that last time at the Pyramid when it felt like there was tension in the band. And indeed, not long after GI broke up.

Government Issue at CBGB in '87 or '88.

Government Issue at CBGB in ’87 or ’88.

Five or six years ago John and I became friends on Facebook. We were never friends in real life (though he did tell me he always liked that Suburban Voice cover shot), but it was good to keep up with him through social media. I saw his posts around the holidays about being ill. Then he revealed that he’d been diagnosed with stomach cancer. There was a huge outpouring of support from the punk scene, with benefit comps and a GoFundMe campaign to aid with his medical expenses. We all hoped he could beat it, but cancer is a fucker. In just a few months John had gone from being sick to being dead.

A few years ago I backed a Kickstarter for a documentary about the DC punk scene called Salad Days. John Stabb and other members of GI appear in it, of course, because you can’t rightly tell that story without them. In 2014 there were two nights of shows at the Black Cat in DC to celebrate the film (which I recommend if you haven’t seen it) and Government Issue re-united to play one of them. As a backer I was able to nab tickets to the shows and planned to fly to DC to attend. Unfortunately, I was simply too broke to afford to do so and I had to sell my tickets. I was sad about it then. Now that I realize this was my last chance to see John Stabb perform, I regret missing these shows even more.

Punk rock continues on, as it did when D. Boon and Joe Strummer and Poly Styrene passed away. John Stabb will be hard to replace though. What I loved about him is that he was a glorious weirdo in the best way. To him punk rock was being yourself and doing what you wanted to do. In the scene there were always fashions and trends that came and went. I think he saw that there was a certain conformity in the scene’s non-conformity. Get your leather jacket, get your studs, get the right punk haircut. Stabb didn’t give a shit about any of that. “There’s a hole in the scene,” he sang, “where the brain used to be.”

There’s another hole now, John. We will miss you.

Stabb at T.T. the Bear's, 1987.

Stabb at T.T. the Bear’s, 1986.

[I took all the pictures in this post and I have a bunch more from that era I really need to get scanned.]

How to Get Me to Your Con

There are more game conventions and events than any one person or company could possibly attend each year. There are some that are must-gos for Green Ronin, like GenCon and GAMA Trade Show. Other than those bedrock shows, the cons I attend vary from year to year. I’ve never gone into how these decisions are made and a recent Facebook thread made it clear to me that people have some misconceptions. Let me clarify a few things.

First, I love to travel. Game industry wages being what they are, I don’t have the money for many actual vacations. Conventions then provide a great way to see more of the world. I can do a one day show in London like Dragonmeet and then have a few days to enjoy the city. My best overseas trip (a week in Finland) was thanks to the amazing Ropecon. So traveling for me? Not a hardship.

So what does it take to get me to your convention? Three things:
1) A plane ticket.
2) A hotel room.
3) A date that works with my schedule. I do have to spend time at home writing and running the company, so I can’t do everything, as much as I’d like to.

The following aren’t required but they are big plusses:
1) An interesting location, particularly if its overseas.
2) One or more locals to show me around. Always better than a guidebook.
3) Good food, particularly local cuisine I can’t get every day in Seattle.

And that’s it really. I don’t have speakers fees. I don’t demand you pick all the cashews out of the nut assortment or that you remove all the red M&Ms from the candy dish. My most outrageous demands would be a chance to play some games and trips to nearby museums or historical sites.

In short, if you’d like me to come to your con, ask me! Nicole will usually come with me if possible, so really you get two Ronins for the price of one.

And Poland, China, Australia, Japan, and the Czech Republic? Call me. 🙂

Nothing But…Star Wars (and Spoilers)

My wife is likely wiser than I am. Her attitude about The Force Awakens is that it’s a pretty soap bubble and she doesn’t want to poke it. And that is a totally fair way to approach. I, of course, have been thinking about it so I thought I’d jot down some observations.

Spoilers follow.

First, the good things.

It’s better than prequels. This may seem like a low bar. Indeed I’ve joked elsewhere that Abrams merely needed to step over it. Still though, it is worth acknowledging that The Force Awakens was much better than any of the wretched and best forgotten prequels.

The new cast is excellent. This is probably the biggest win for the new movies. Rey, Finn, and Poe are good characters and very well-cast. The torch being passed to them seems in good hands.

It feels like Star Wars. This is something that could easily have gone wrong but it didn’t.

The welcome return of humor. And I don’t mean fart and poop jokes. Force Awakens had nice touches of humor that felt right at home with the original trilogy.

No fucking Tatooine. One of the things that bugged the shit out of me about the prequels was how it returned to Tatooine again and again. This was supposed to be a backwater planet that Luke could grow up on in obscurity, not the center of many important events of recent history. Now I’ll grant you that Jakku is an awful lot like Tatooine, but at least it’s a different planet with its own implied events. Star Wars has a whole galaxy to play with, so I hope this trend of creating new worlds continues.

Now on to the not so good things.

Finn needs more backstory. If the film is to be believed, Finn was a happy cog in the First Order machine until he experienced the brutality of battle. Then he instantly flips sides and becomes a renegade. And if the blood of his dead friend was that horrifying to him, it surely does’t stop him from killing often and with enthusiasm for the rest of the film. I like the character, but I wish the movie spent a little more time building up his defection.

Gwendoline Christie was wasted. I remember when she was cast, but I didn’t realize she was Captain Phasma while watching the movie. Phasma was a nothing of a character with little to do. I understand she’s in the sequels, so hopefully they do something better with her.

The politics are muddy. I guess Abrams and crew were gun-shy of spending too much time explaining galactic politics after the prequels, but I would have appreciated a better explanation of the relationship between the Republic and the Resistance. It was more like, “OK, these are the new Empire and Rebellion respectively, and go!”

The map to Luke is a weird macguffin. Who made the map? It’d have to be Luke, right, because no one else knows where he went. But he’s not buried treasure, he’s a living Jedi master. Is his plan to just wait on a rock until someone shows up? Weird. Also, the heroes are totally cavalier about what they have in their possession. They tell everyone they run across, “Oh, we have a map to Luke Skywalker!”

Space is meaningless. Abrams has had this problem before, in the Star Trek movies. Basically, the very concept of space seems to be an inconvenience to him. Distance doesn’t matter. You can get anywhere in the galaxy in like 5 minutes. And yet there is apparently an entire sector of space no one knows anything about.

Smart characters acting dumb. It doesn’t even occur to famed smuggler Han Solo to disguise or conceal the droid the entire First Order is looking for? Veteran General Leia Organa doesn’t even try to evacuate her base when the planet it’s on may be blown up imminently?

Ren’s hero worship makes little sense. OK, so Kylo Ren idolizes Darth Vader. He even has Vader’s mask as a keepsake. But surely, being the son of Han and Leia, he knows the final chapter of Vader’s story, right? The one where he kills the Emperor, redeems himself, and becomes a happy force ghost. If his great idol ultimately turned away from the Dark Side, how does Ren square that with his adulation?

AFDS. Look, it’s Star Wars. I expect a certain amount of callbacks to the original trilogy. There will be Jedi mind tricks and someone will have a bad feeling about this, but seriously, another fucking Death Star? This was the point of The Force Awakens in which my eye rolling began in earnest. There are other epic threats they could have imagined. One of my friends called the use of the third Death Star mythic. I call it lazy, and the implication of this repetition is…

The original trilogy means nothing now. The Force Awakens very consciously reestablishes the status quo from the beginning of A New Hope. There’s a new Empire and new Rebellion, a new Obi-wan and a new Dark Vader. This means that the events of the original trilogy were essentially pointless. The defeat of the empire was a hollow victory.

So overall, I give The Force Awakens a B-. Maybe it’s the palette cleanser people need after the prequels to set the stage for newer, more exciting movies. I hope that’s the case. I think the new cast could do a lot if they get the scripts they deserve. What Star Wars desperately needs now is some original ideas. It’s hard to remember how different Star Wars was when it debuted in 1977 but it pushed the envelope in so many ways. I hope the new caretakers of Star Wars do not content themselves with telling the same stories over and over again. There’s a galaxy of possibilities out there.

Katherine’s African Adventure

Several people have asked about sending Kate birthday or Christmas-inspired money to put towards her trip to Africa in March 2016. She will be spending a month working at two different animal rescue organizations; the first is working with urban animals in Capetown, South Africa and the second is working with wild animals outside of Harare, Zimbabwe. In addition to the travel itself she has also had to arrange for travel insurance (including medical evacuation coverage) and undergo a series of unexpectedly expensive travel immunizations (including a $900 round of rabies preventative that we’re unclear about insurance coverage on) so gifts of money towards her trip this holiday season are deeply appreciated!

So, friends and family, here’s your chance.

We thought about setting up a GoFundMe or a FundMyTravel account for her but decided to go with just putting up a PayPal donation button. We hope you find it simple to use. Feel free to contact Nicole if you run into any problems, though! And THANKS from The Kate.

I Was a Teenage Homophobe

I am not shy about expressing my progressive politics. I am a feminist and an atheist, a supporter of LBGT and civil rights. I laugh out loud when I hear corporate friendly, drone happy Obama called a radical leftist. I was also a full blown homophobe when I was I was a teenager.

I grew up in Massachusetts in the 1970s. While the Bay State is known for being a Democratic stronghold, I can tell you that it was also home to plenty of racism and bigotry. When I was a kid, homophobia was the norm. Fag was a dire grade school insult. There were rumors about people in the community being gay, but I never met someone who was out. As far as I could tell, gay people were weirdos and degenerates. That’s what everyone said. It was known, Khaleesi!

In one hilarious incident, my aunt got me a Village People album for Xmas when I was 10. She worked at this department store called Lechmere and she had gone to their record department and asked what the kids listened to these days. I was polite about it but secretly appalled. This was disco bullshit and we liked rock and roll! It did lead to a serious (and in retrospect, hilarious) conversation in which we debated whether the Village People were gay or not. After due consideration, our jury of 10 year olds decided that no, that couldn’t possibly be true. If I may continue the GoT theme, we knew nothing, Jon Snow. And apparently, neither did the US Navy, because I remember very clearly seeing a TV special in which the Village People performed “In the Navy” on a ship to a crowd of sailors. No, really.

So how did my opinions change? Well, it started at a party at a friend’s house my freshman year of high school. It was one of those parties that went late because we were having what we considered to be “deep” conversations. Somehow the topic of gay people came up, and I spouted that classic hetero dude opinion, “Lesbians are OK but gay guys I can’t deal with.” And for the first time, someone challenged me on that bullshit! My friend Lisa, who was a couple of years older than me, put me on the spot. “If two people want to be together,” she asked, “what business is it of yours?” And that gave me serious pause.

I went home and thought about it. I never really had before, just accepted the common attitude. When I worked it over in my mind, I had to conclude that Lisa was right. Other people’s sexual orientation was none of my goddamn business. If people love each other and want to be together, isn’t that the most important thing? That was a big breakthrough for me. Then, of course, I moved to New York City for college and became friends with actual, out gay people. And hey, they were just people whose tastes were a little different than my own. This was NYC in the 80s, with ACT UP on the rise, so my education proceeded swiftly.

My step-daughter Kate grew up in a society whose attitudes were already changing. She had multiple friends in high school who were openly gay. This was inconceivable in the 1980s. For Kate though, she grew up with LBGT people in the community. I think she views homophobia as a relic of a bygone age. And I hope that’s true in another generation or two. Today’s Supreme Court decision was certainly a major move in the right direction. I’m glad all my friends now have the chance to legally marry if they want to in all 50 states.

If this decision has made you angry, if you can’t believe the nerve of these uppity queers, allow me to follow Lisa’s lead and call you on your bullshit. Who someone chooses to love is none of your business. I encourage you to chew that over.

The Deserters: A Hidden History of WWII by Charles Glass

This is a terrific book on topic rarely covered in WW2 histories. It uses the stories of three men–two American and one British–as a lens to examine desertion and a host of related topics: battle fatigue, military justice, battlefield psychology, and leadership. It also highlights how truly terrible the American system was for combat infantrymen and their replacements. Basically, the Americans put the burden of the fighting on a relatively small number of divisions. Whereas other counties (and America in other wars) would rotate units off the front line to recuperate and incorporate replacements, the US army had a system that put replacement soldiers into a general pool and then assigned them to units on an ad hoc basis while the units were still in combat. Instead of going into battle with a group of men they knew and had trained with, the replacements were dumped into units where they knew no one. Many were killed within days of arriving, sometimes before their new officers even learned their names. It is no surprise that veterans reached a breaking point after too many consecutive days in combat, and that replacements deserted after being cast adrift with no support network. If you are interested in WW2 at all, I totally recommend The Deserters.

Star Wars: The Feels Awaken

The other day when the new Star Wars trailer hit, I almost said some snarky things on social media but held back. First, I didn’t want to shit on anyone’s enthusiasm. Second, my stance on Star Wars can’t be summed up in 140 characters. Hence this bit of blogging. For clarity’s sake, let me point out that I generally avoid trailers because I prefer to go into movies knowing as little about them as possible. I like the experience to wash over me. I thus skipped the trailer, though of course I have not been able to avoid the chatter and the stills.

I remember quite clearly when the first trailer for Star Wars, Episode I came out. I was working at Wizards of the Coast and basically all of R&D stopped working, gathered around computer screens, and watched it. And people were jazzed about it. “I felt like I was 8 years old again,” was a common refrain. It seemed like the old Star Wars was going to come back. For my part, I was cautiously enthusiastic. I hoped the prequels would be good. The original movies had been an important part of my childhood. I saw Star Wars in the theater 13 times in 1977. (In retrospect, I wish I had spent 1977 seeing The Clash, The Damned, The Avengers, the The Saints, and other first gen punk bands, but I was 8 years old so that was pretty unlikely.)

You, of course, know how this story goes. They made some nice trailers but the prequels were fucking awful. Just absolute dreck that killed most of my enthusiasm for Star Wars. The positive feelings I retained were solely due to BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic video game, which was terrific and felt way more Star Wars than any of the new movies. Ironically, it was during this period that I got to work on Star Wars miniatures at Wizards of the Coast and visit Skywalker Ranch on two occasions. The second time was to read the script of Episode 2 while it was in production (I hoped to make a Star Wars space combat minis game but that never happened). The script was a mess and I actually asked the Lucas licensing people about a major story point that made no goddamn sense. They were sure George would “fix it.” He didn’t.

Anyway, those three movies were like kicks in the face and I know I was not alone in feeling that way. So after that, I’m going to take a lot more convincing. As a rational person, there is one thing that would change my mind: evidence. My basic plan is to avoid all the hype and just wait until the new movie comes out. No two minute trailer can undo those prequels. If reviews are actually good, I will go see it. If it’s the prequels all over again, I will not.

The one positive thing I can say at this juncture is that I’m happy that two of my friends (Cecil Castellucci and Chuck Wendig) are getting to write Star Wars novels. Cecil has been a huge fan as long as I’ve know her (we met in 1987 at college) and I know getting to write a Princess Leia novel is a dream come true for her. So kudos, writer pals! I hope your stories are 100% awesome and 0% Jar Jar.

Our Future is not Star Trek

It’s been almost 50 years since Star Trek debuted on television and in that time we’ve seen many great advances in technology. The sad news of Leonard Nimoy’s death today spread at a speed unimaginable in 1966 thanks to the internet. Our cell phones are essentially tricorders, able to call up the sum of human knowledge and use satellites to pinpoint our exact locations on Earth. We put people on the moon and just recently a robot on Mars. We don’t have transporters yet (damn!) but in many ways we are living the future imagined by science fiction in the 1960s.

Star Trek, however, was not just about technology and gadgets. It also promoted a humanist philosophy and used the exploration of space as a metaphor for the exploration of ideas. Certainly we’ve seen some strides in the betterment of our society. Something that was shocking when Star Trek did it–the first interracial kiss on TV–is now routine. We’ve seen the advancement of civil rights across a broad spectrum. For a while there it seemed that what MLK said was true: the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

I hope that’s true. I really do, but having lived through the last 35 years of American politics, I have my doubts. Science and the scientific method itself are under attack. America tortures in the name of freedom. Voter ID laws–created in response to the made up problem of in person voter fraud–are undoing the hard won battles of the Civil Rights era. Seemingly uncontroversial ideas (like all human beings deserve a place to live, food to eat, and at least basic health care) are being replaced with Randian “I’ve got mine, screw you” sociopathy. Instead of working towards a society where money is less important, money is now the only measure of success. If some rich asshole can get just a little richer by screwing over workers, poisoning the environment, bribing politicians, and not paying his fair share of taxes, his profit-seeking at all costs is viewed not just as laudable but morally correct. And while all that money is flowing upwards to Wall Street and multi-national corporations, engorging the 1% to unprecedented levels, we are told that America “can’t’ afford” health care and education for everyone, never mind upgrading our crumbling infrastructure. Endless wars though? Well, there’s always money for those.

All this is a vision of the future all right, but not Star Trek’s. We are not arcing towards justice but dystopia. So as you read about Leonard Nimoy on your tricorder today, try using that empathy you are feeling as a lens to see the world. How would you feel if you loved someone very much and wanted to marry, but it was against the law in your state? How would you feel if a group of people who had never had a hungry day in their lives decided to cut off the food assistance that let you feed your family? How would you feel if the police routinely stopped and harassed you because of your skin color?

America is re-dedicating itself to a cruelty that we should have left behind. That is not the way forward. We should aspire to something greater and it starts with empathy. If we can take that step, maybe we can one day make it to justice.