Live Long and Prosper

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President Obama “loved Spock”!

Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy.  Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time.  And of course, Leonard was Spock.  Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.

I loved Spock.

—from “Statement by the President on the Passing of Leonard Nimoy

Well, Mr. President, I did, too. Spock is my all-time favorite character from television, past and present. Sure, I had a crush on Captain Kirk, but I wanted to be Mr. Spock.

I was an unabashed Trekkie. I wrote fan mail to Star Trek through my local TV station and received blueprints of the USS Enterprise and photos of the cast in return. The only models I ever built as a boy were models of the Enterprise and the Klingon warship. I loved Star Trek, especially Mr. Spock, “cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed.”

I hadn’t really thought about why Mr. Spock, of all the Star Trek characters, was my favorite until Leonard Nimoy’s death this past week. The bridge of the Enterprise was an interplanetary UN, the United Federation of Planets, represented by a Russian, Mr. Chekov; an Asian, Mr. Sulu; an African-American, Lieutenant Uhura; a Scot, Scotty; but Mr. Spock was the only non-Human on the bridge, having a Human mother and a Vulcan father. He was the ‘other’—the alien—on the bridge, and, as a young gay boy, I felt like the ‘other’ in my school and hometown in North Carolina.

Even further, I felt internally conflicted, as Mr. Spock was with his Human and Vulcan natures. Knowing that I was gay—alien—at a very early age, I was constantly on guard, just as Mr. Spock carefully guarded his human emotions. In Episode 24, he tells Leila Kalomi, “I am what I am, Leila. And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.” He gave me hope that I, too, could learn to accept myself as I was and live in my own purgatory of otherness.

With Mr. Nimoy’s death, I’ve learned that I am not alone in my identification with Mr. Spock. An NPR story, “Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock Taught Us Acceptance Is Highly Logical,” captures how I felt:

As a young black man and science-fiction fan, I strongly identified with Spock’s struggles to fit in with his human co-workers as I struggled to fit in at mostly white schools and workplaces. And I wouldn’t be surprised if other fans struggling to fit into their communities for different reasons felt the same bond.

Yes, as a young gay boy and a huge Star Trek fan, I, too, strongly identified with Spock’s struggles to fit in, and I thank you, Mr. Spock and Mr. Nimoy, for helping me in my struggle. I say a prayer of thankfulness for the life of Leonard Nimoy, and, for Mr. Spock, “Live long and prosper.”

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