10:3 Thin Ice

Doctor:… if your future is built on the suffering of that creature, what’s your future worth?

Current US President Donald Trump ran on the platform, “Make America Great Again.” His campaign attracted swaths of the population that felt as if the global economy had left them to behind. However, instead of blaming those with power, these voters blamed the vulnerable: people of color, immigrants, children, and refugees. In the minds of some voters, making America great again apparently meant making America white again. And instead of ushering in a new economic utopia where the heyday of industrialization reaps benefits on factor workers, coal miners, etc and other blue-collar workers, the beneficiaries have been the economic and political elite-from both parties. Republicans leaders get to try and shove their racist, poverty hating political agenda through and Democrats have the opportunity to reinvent themselves as heroes of the vulnerable and marginalized, although in reality Democrats have been all to happy to use marginalized groups for votes and then ignore them when in power. Both Republican and Democrats claim to want to create a more prosperous country, but what does this country look like and is it a country worth serving let alone fighting for?

Which lives matter?

In the episode, “Thin Ice” the Doctor berates Bill for being upset about that a child is killed.  I, for one, do believe rage has a time and place, and I view Bill’s rage as justified, it must also be acknowledged that rage instead of being an impassioned cry for justice can be used to mask hypocrisy and a thirst for power.

BILL: Save him. 
DOCTOR: I can’t. He’s gone. 
BILL: Do something and save him. 

Bill watches helplessly as a child is killed right before her eyes. The fact that the death is bloodless one does nothing to eliminate the fact that the child’s life is snuffed out.  Bill begs the Doctor to do something and is angry when he nonchalantly responds that he is unable too. If I am not mistaken, every companion, at least in Nuwho has expressed some sort of disgust and shock at the amount of lives lost during the Doctor’s journeys. They often serve as the Doctor’s conscious, reminding him that the people and/or creates slaughtered often had hopes, dreams, etc. In other words, the companions, at least at the start of their adventures with the Doctor, serve to remind him that those killed shouldn’t just be another number added to a long list of those killed. I empathize with Bill in this scene. I believe that her outrage at the child’s death and the Doctor’s seemingly uncaring attitude is genuine. I do think that the Doctor dismisses her anger all to quickly. However, the Doctor also provides numerous thought provoking arguments when he tries to counter Bill’s rage. His arguments can be applied to those who are relatively privileged and hold a measure of power.

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Understandably, a good portion of Americans find themselves angry and powerless in the face of the Trump administration. As a result, many people, particularly those who may have been politically indifferent now find themselves politically engaged. I am not trying to knock those people or their new-found activism. I am however positing a question that I think needs to be taken seriously: is this new-found activism based on a passion for justice or simply on a fear that the current administration’s policies will negatively impact their lives and their families? In other words, will this sense of rage continue whenever President Trump is no longer in office?

Let’s be honest, it is human nature means to care predominately about issues that directly impact our lives. Moreover, there are so many cases of injustice that it would be impossible for any one individual to adequately deal with them all. It is ok to hold some causes dearer to the heart then others. But the reality is, that many issues are intersectional-meaning they do not just stand alone. And my fear is that the focus only on events that impact our own personal lives means that the marginalized who are often screwed over regardless of who is in power are overlooked. For example, the women’s march in which women of all races, ethnicity, etc participated is great. But where were the white women when black and brown lives were protesting the deaths of unarmed and mentally ill people at the hands of the state? Where were the protests against the Obama administration’s increased use of drone strikes, which murdered numerous innocent civilians? Yes, some argue that the Trump administration presents a much direr existential threat than previous administrations. I am not here to debate whether or not that is true. But I argue that his administration didn’t simply come out of thin air. His election was the result of numerous political, social, and economic factors conflating. In other words, ignoring the plight of others because their pain does not directly impact us-eventually comes back to bite us in the ass. Injustice builds upon injustice.  It is easy to look at the suffering of others and believe, “that will never happen to me.” History demonstrates again and again that such an attitude is fool hardy. The distinction between oppression that directly impacts us and oppression that does not, is a useless and arbitrary one.

DOCTOR: You know what happens if I don’t move on? More people die. There are kids living rough near here. They may well be next on the menu. Do you want to help me? Do you want to stand here stamping your foot? Because let me tell you something. I’m two thousand years old, and I have never had the time for the luxury of outrage. 

Like I said before, I believe outrage has a vital place in social justice movements. I especially believe that those who are part of groups that have historically been the victims of state oppression deserve to have their outrage acknowledged. Far too often, their outrage is suppressed in the name of “peace.” But it is important to acknowledge that outrage, especially on the part of those with privilege, can serve as a way to avoid taking concrete action and making difficult decisions. Outrage that doesn’t lead to action is useless. I mean, many Americans are outraged at the horrific treatment Native Americans underwent during European colonialism and the beginnings of the American empire, yet these very same people ignore or downplay the continued suffering of native Americans. Or, many Americans condemn the slave trade and express anger that many of America’s founding fathers supported such a horrific system yet they show a shocking apathy towards state sanctioned murder of people of color at the hands of police.

A worthy future?

DOCTOR:… What makes you so sure that your life is worth more than those people out there on the ice? Is it the money? The accident of birth that puts you inside the big, fancy house? 
SUTCLIFFE: I help move this country forward. I move this Empire forward. 

There is no denying that Trump and the current Republican Party express a blatant disregard for the well being of those who do not look like them or have their vast resources. In this context it is easy to want to view the established Democratic Party as saviors. But rhetoric needs to be matched by actions. The Republican Party has made it clear that they do not value the lives of immigrants, children, or the poor. They are willing to hold hostage or completely cut the already inadequate American safety net. Democrats have capitalized on this by giving the appearance of standing up for justice. No, they claim, they won’t give up on DACA recipients. They will fight for healthcare for children. Yet their actions have been less than stellar. I would argue that the Republican Party represents the Sutecliffe that the Doctor and Billy see-openly arrogant and racist. While the Democrats represent the popular image of Sutecliffe and the one he holds of himself: charming, advocating progress, etc. But the empire that both parties endorse is one that views certain lives as expendable. The current Republican Party-especially the far-right branch openly admit their disdain for people of color, women, LGBTQ, people from “shithole countries” (aka non-western ones). While the Democrats are subtler: they will stand up for DACA recipients until it no longer benefits them. They will listen to Black Lives Matter advocates, at least until the election season is over.

I think it’s time that Americans-regardless of their political leanings really consider the type of country they want to be a part of. What values should we hold dear? How do we define progress? Because right now, the United sates views the suffering and deaths of the “nobodies” as a necessary price to pay for progress.  And the result is a country not worth boasting about, much less fighting for.

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Season 10:2 SMILE

GOODTHING: No, it’s not a joke. Mum is dead. Mum is dead. And Hopeful, she’s dead too. And her friend Sunshine, she’s dead. And Eliza. And quite a few other people are dead.
KEZZIA: Why are you saying this? You can’t say things like that, grinning like an idiot.

I sat down with my new therapist. The topic of the conversation: emotional avoidance and emotional regulation. Apparently emotional avoidance makes emotional regulation difficult, if not impossible.

Therapist: In order to control your negative emotions, you need to face and process them. You can’t just ignore them and focus on the good emotions.

Me: Why not?

Therapist: That’s just not how humans generally work. You can’t just push down your negative emotions and hope they disappear. They won’t. Paradoxically, if you want to be able to control your emotions, you have to be able to deal with them.

I have no problem expressing anger. In fact, if I shut down my other emotions (such as sadness, nervousness, fear, etc) long enough, the emotions eventually convert into anger. This anger, even if it is directed outwardly (for example, at the current American political landscape), often gets redirected inwardly. So even if an outside source makes me angry, I am more likely to want to harm myself than anyone else. This inability to deal with emotions combined with my tendency to want to harm myself is what drove me to therapy in the first place.

In September 2017, I found myself at the top of an eight-story mall parking garage. I was looking down trying to decide whether I wanted to jump or not. I had been on a downward slide for months.  The triggering event however, was literally a five second clip from a documentary in which a former CIA director justified killing children in order to wipe out a terrorist target. The way the former director talked about it, and the nonchalant look on the faces of my professors and peers sent me over the edge. I was in class with people who either directed or responded to situations that often directly or indirectly result in the deaths of innocent people. Some of the younger students were hoping to find themselves in such a position one day. But instead of getting angry at the documentary, at my classmates or at my professors, I turned that anger inward. I told myself, “fuck a world where this happens” but my actions said, “fuck me for not being able to do anything about it.” Clearly, I didn’t jump. An eight story building is pretty high. My therapist pointed out that if I had jumped, chances are I would be dead. But for some reason I didn’t jump. I decided to try and get help one more time. What stopped me? I’m not sure, a mixture of fear that I would survive the jump and be gravely injured, a fear that it would hurt if I died, and a bit of a naïve hope that maybe I could make a positive difference in the issues I care about if I only stayed alive long enough to do so.

For the past few weeks, my therapist has been trying to discuss the importance of me being able to process my emotions in the moment without shutting them down. In fact, the reason I am blogging again is because I admitted that this blog was the only healthy outlet for expressing my emotions. So of course, I do find it a bit funny that the first episode I am writing about now that I am back to blogging is one about emotions. In this episode, humans programmed the vardies to make sure that humans were always happy. But the problem is, that despite how much we try to delude ourselves into believing otherwise, life hurts. We feel pain, grief, depression, jealousy, anger. We hurt ourselves and we hurt other people. We live in a world where those in power have no qualms about benefiting the rich, neglecting the poor, and droning children. Relationships suffer and end. People die.

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DOCTOR: No one had ever died here before this lady. The Vardies, they’d never heard of grief before. This place is all about hope and the future, and happiness. No one ever thought about the opposite. The Vardies didn’t know what to do with it. They identified grief as the enemy of happiness and everyone who was experiencing grief as a problem, as
BILL: Compost.

My inability to face my emotions, far from making me happy or giving me strength, has created a cycle of destruction that is difficult to break free from. I am acting like my own damn internal Vardy. Any emotion that I perceive to be a sign of weakness or that is uncomfortable (except in my case, for anger), I try to eliminate or at least ignore. The problem is, that trying to narrow my range of emotions to those that I think are acceptable is slowing destroying me.  Even as I write this blog post, there is a resistance within myself; trying to prevent me from fully experiencing and acknowledging the emotions that writing this stirs within me.

Emotions hurt. They can be unpleasant. Acknowledging them means dealing with the underlying issues that give rise to them and that in and of itself is a difficult process. I don’t want to deal with my chronic feelings of loneliness and emptiness. I don’t want to deal with how growing up in an emotionally abusive home impacts me. I don’t want to acknowledge how my research, which I love so much, also inspires feelings of helplessness and sorrow.  I don’t want to acknowledge that I’m scared about the future. I am scared that everything I’ve worked so hard for will be destroyed. I’m scared that more people will die because of the policies of politicians drunk on power.

DOCTOR: Once, long ago, a fisherman caught a magic haddock. The haddock offered the fisherman three wishes in return for its life. The fisherman said, “I’d like my son to come home from the war, and a hundred pieces of gold.” The problem is magic haddock, like robots, don’t think like people. The fisherman’s son came home from the war in a coffin and the King sent a hundred gold pieces in recognition of his heroic death. The fisherman had one wish left. What do you think he wished for? Some people say he should have wished for an infinite series of wishes, but if your city proves anything, it is that granting all your wishes is not a good idea.

I wish I didn’t feel as deeply as I do. I wish I could handpick which emotions I get to experience and discard the other ones. But I can’t. whether I like it or not, part of being a healthy human is being able to experience a range of human emotions and properly process them. Those who are unable too are often diagnosed with serious mental illnesses.  I don’t know what the answer is or how to get better. I do know that there isn’t a magic haddock who can grant my wish of limiting or even eliminating my emotions. That’s probably a good thing.

Mercy For A Time Like This

DOCTOR: You want justice, you deserve justice, but this isn’t the way. We can put him on trial 
GUNSLINGER: When he starts killing your people, you can use your justice

Saffie Rose Roussos, was a beautiful 8 year old girl. The head teacher of the primary school she attended described her as, “a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word. She was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly. Saffie was quiet and unassuming with a creative flair.” She was attending an Ariana Grande on May 29th when she was killed by a suicide bomber. She was a victim of a terrorist attack.

Nawar al Awlaki, 8 years old. She is the daughter of notorious Anwar al-Awlaki, a supporter and recruiter for al Qaeda. But Nawar? At 8 years old, was she a terrorist? The photo reproduced throughout the media in the wake of the botched January 2017 Special Forces raid shows a beautiful girl with a red bow in her hair and a wide smile I wonder, what were her favorite games? Did she like to draw? What hopes did she have for the future? She was shot in the neck at close range and probably left to bleed to death for over two hours. Was she killed by US Special Forces? Or by the militants the US was after? Who knows? Either way, she died in a terrorist attack.

Olivia Campbell was 15 years old. After the Manchester attack, Olivia Campbell’s mother went on social media and talked to the news media begging for information on her daughter. Sobs wrecked her body as she begged for her daughter to return home to her. Unfortunately, Olivia was killed. Olivia Campbell loved singing. Her voice has been silenced.

Asma Fahad Ali al Ameri died at the young age of 3 months years in the January 2017 raid by US Special Forces. 3 months old.  At 3 months old babies are just beginning to recognize people, including parents. At 3 months old they start to actively searching for their parents when they are in the room, they wave their arms excitedly at the sight of their parents. They begin reaching for and swatting at toys.  At this age they love touching and feeling different material. This explains why babies often prefer the wrapping paper or box that a gift is in, rather than the gift itself! I wonder if little Asma was scared by the sounds of screams and bullets? I wonder if Asma started to cry? Was Asma wrapped in the arms of her parents when she died?

 Georgina Bethany Callander was 18 years old. She loved Ariana Grande as the press’s most widely shared photograph of her attests to. In the picture from 2015, Callander is standing next to Ariana Grande beaming with happiness. Before the concert, she sent a tweet to Grande expressing how excited she was to see her idol once again.

Tariq Aziz was 16 years old when he was killed in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan in 2011. Days before his death he attended an anti-drone rally. His uncle described him as, “just a normal boy who loved football.” He had lost a cousin in an earlier drone strike and was interested in helping document the aftermath of strikes.

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In the after math of the Manchester attack, many of us are left wondering, “What type of person kills innocent children?” The media and popular response to that is predictable: a monster, someone without a conscious, a murder, a subhuman. The terrorist who committed such a horrific act, as well as those who helped him or inspired him are rightly viewed with disdain. Yet, what about those who kill innocent children in the name of winning the “War on Terror?” How do we describe men and women who join the military, go to war, and kill children? The conversation immediately shifts. Those killed in war by western military forces are dismissed as collateral. Their deaths are described as unintentional. But, people argue “unlike evil terrorists, our service members don’t intentionally target civilians and children.” Well except when they think a children is threatening them with a grenade or some sort of improvised bomb. The fact that the children are fighting an occupying force isn’t considered when it is our forces doing the occupying. Or if they are living with suspected or confirmed militants then their deaths are also justified.  When it comes to children in other nations who are killed by western bombs or soldiers, their lives are unimportant. Try finding the names of children killed during the “War on Terror” by coalition forces: it can be difficult. And even if one can find names, very little information is available. The deaths instead are reduced to numbers. Individual lives as well as the hopes and dreams they embedded are erased.

The deaths of innocents, particularly of children, justifiably sends people into a rage and in the quest for justice, people often advocate for violence. In the wake of the Manchester attack, there are renewed calls for deportations and the banning of Muslim immigrants or those from Muslim majority countries. There are of course calls for renewed military actions. There is a demand for more drone strikes, which yes will kill terrorists, but will inevitably kill civilians. More dead children. Only in this case, we consider those deaths justified. For those left behind, those deaths are the result of state sanctioned terrorism.  In our quest to stop terrorism, we simply commit more actions of terror that eventually comes back and kills our own children.

DOCTOR: We can end this right now. We could save everyone right now. 
AMY: This is not how we roll, and you know it. What happened to you, Doctor? When did killing someone become an option? 
DOCTOR: Jex has to answer for his crimes. 
AMY: And what then? Are you going to hunt down everyone who’s made a gun or a bullet or a bomb? 

“A Town Called Mercy,” is one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes.  Yes I’ve written about it before and I wouldn’t be surprised if I write about it again. The episode manages to touch on the understandable yet toxic desire to confuse violence with justice. Jex committed horrific actions in the name of saving millions. He tortured people in the attempt to create human weapons. He succeeded, but at a terrible cost.  Jex is responsible for numerous deaths and for putting a town of innocent people, including children in danger.  Why not stop put a stop to all the death and suffering by allowing the gunslinger to kill Jex? Or better yet, why not just kill Jex oneself (or allow the townspeople to do so) Moreover, Jex deserves it, right?

That notion of confusing violence with justice undergirds both war and terrorism. Those who are calling out for more bombs and military action in the Middle East echo the sentiments of ISIS and al Qaeda, who often justify their own acts of terror by listing the many people, including children, killed as a result of both direct and indirect action by western governments and armed forces. One act of injustice, fuels even more acts. Later on, after the Doctor regains his cool, he recognizes that killing Jex or allowing him to die, won’t do much to atone for those killed before. When 18 year old Walter threatens to kill the Doctor in order to get to Jex, the Doctor states:

DOCTOR: …how all this started. Jex turned someone into a weapon. Now that same story’s going to make you a killer, too. Don’t you see? Violence doesn’t end violence, it extends it, and I don’t think you want to do this. I don’t think you want to become that man. 

The “War on Terror” isn’t stopping terrorism. It is fueling more death and destruction while encouraging more people to turn themselves into human weapons. We aren’t stopping terrorism by becoming terrorists ourselves. I’m not saying that we simply forget about what happened. In this case, I am not calling for cheap mercy-a mercy that popular Christianity and pop culture has bastardized. Cheap mercy and cheap forgiveness often become a way of silencing the oppressed that is in and of itself its own form of violence. But the type of mercy I am calling for is a comprehensive one. A mercy that acknowledges the role our own governments have played in sponsoring, supporting, and fostering terrorism. In the “War on Terror”, except for the children and many adults caught in the cross hairs, there are no “good people.” Our service members aren’t heroic saviors while the terrorists are horrible subhuman beasts. The terrorists aren’t heroic martyrs fighting in the name of Allah, and western service members aren’t unthinking uncaring imperialists. The reality is that war and terrorism are the result of a long slew of injustices committed-both by those with incredible power-(nation states and their agents) and those with less power (non-state terrorist groups)  but who still have a commitment towards doing whatever they believe is necessary to achieve what they believe is worth dying and killing for.

I am calling for a whole new way of thinking and responding to terrorism. A response that isn’t primarily reliant on violence. This isn’t easy. I know. On an individual level, I struggle with preferring nonviolent actions and yet believing that the oppressed have the right to fight back. I struggle with acknowledging that oppressors, especially state oppressors react to various tactics, including violence. But I also recognize that violence has the tendency to quickly spin out of control.  But I firmly believe, that those with more power, are ultimately more responsible for any violence that ensues. As a Christian, I struggle with wanting to believe that a better way of living and of seeking justice exists and with the reality of a broken and hurting world. I know there are no easy answers. But I am pleading, begging, for a recognition that terrorism will not end if nation-states continue to terrorize others in the name of fighting terrorism. We aren’t going to protect our own children, by killing children in the Middle East.

We think that by fighting back with more bombs, more weapons, more raids that we are honoring the victims of those killed by terrorist attacks in the west. But in reality all we are doing is terrorizing and killing children in other nations. We are asking for the lives of our children to be honored, while disregarding the lives of children in Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. In the face of the Manchester attack we have a choice: are we going to keep repeating the cycle of war and terrorism or are we going to stop it? Bombing terrorist groups to bits isn’t working. So what are we going to do? Act like terrorists in order to kill terrorists or will we finally say enough is enough?

DOCTOR: But they coming back, don’t you see? Every time I negotiate, I try to understand. Well, not today. No. Today, I honour the victims first. His, the Master’s, the Dalek’s, all the people who died because of my mercy! 
AMY: You see, this is what happens when you travel alone for too long. Well, listen to me, Doctor. We can’t be like him. We have to be better than him. 

 

Season 10:1 The Pilot: Looking for Hope?

I’ve been a fan of NuWho for the past three or four years. As a result, I know that crying is part of being a fan of the show. As someone who hates crying or showing weakness of any kind-Doctor Who provides one of the few safe spaces where I feel as if it is ok to cry. (This is one reason why I rarely watch Doctor Who with other people). I’ve gotten to the point where I can somewhat prepare myself for the times when I am pretty sure I will cry: when the Doctor regenerates, when a companion leaves, and perhaps during the last episode or so of the season/series. Of course, whether an episode causes one to cry or not is not just about the intention or skill of the writer. Just as important are the life circumstances of the viewer.

Perhaps this is just me, and perhaps I should know better, but I typically don’t expect the first episode of a new season to be a tear jerker. Especially when the new season involves the introduction of a new company. Typically the episode focuses on the wonder and excitement of traveling on the TARDIS and being exposed to different time periods and planets. Of course this episode had plenty of that but right off the bat Bill is exposed to the heartbreak, loss, and loneliness that one experiences and/or is exposed to when traveling with the Doctor. And the viewer, well at least me, is confronted with reminders about those experiences in the real world. Only, there isn’t a Doctor to guide me through those difficult moments as a result, I found that in my daily life, I feel more like Heather, than I do Bill.

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I travel a lot-not to different planets (yet!) but to different countries, states, cities. I travel mainly for internships and for school. Now don’t get me wrong, I love traveling and I am glad I have the opportunity to go to different places. But if the visit lasts more than a week, I find myself getting restless.  This restlessness rarely has to do with the city itself, or with the people around me, but it has to do with me and after years of going through the same cycle every time I go somewhere new for an extended period of time I’ve had to be honest with myself: I’m profoundly unhappy and I hate life. Or more specifically, I hate my life. I hate who I am and all the characteristics, thoughts, weaknesses, strengths that make me me. I hate how self-absorbed I am(as I wrote a blog post that is basically all about me), I hate how I look, I hate how I can never seem to make myself happy. I travel a lot because I enjoy traveling but also because for a while at least-I am able to escape myself by immersing myself in a new location. But soon enough, I have to deal with myself. I mean, you can’t exactly escape who you are.

BILL: You okay? 
HEATHER: Yeah, I’m fine.
BILL: Sorry, can I ask? What’s that in your eye?
HEATHER: It’s just a defect in the iris.
BILL: Looks like a star. 
HEATHER: Well, it’s a defect.
BILL: At least it’s a defect that looks like a star. 
HEATHER: I’m getting it fixed.

Everything about me feels like a defect that needs to be dealt with before I can be happy or until I can love myself or be loved by other people. All I do is want to run away, in the hopes that if I run far enough or often enough that somehow I can magically learn to like myself. But I’m not an idiot. I know that’s not how life works.

In this episode, we don’t really get to learn much about Heather-her background, her past, or exactly why she wants to so desperately leave that she is in a sense willing to die-(at the very least she gives up her humanity). All we know is her desperate loneliness and her brief connection with Bill. And although the episode doesn’t touch on this except for briefly, the alien lifeform, whatever it was, was also desperately lonely.

DOCTOR: Maybe it saw something it needed. What was she like, your friend? What did she want? What did she need?
HEATHER [memory]: Everywhere I go, I just want to leave.
BILL: I think she wanted to leave.
DOCTOR: You see? 
NARDOLE: The puddle found a passenger.
DOCTOR: A left-behind droplet of a liquid spaceship. A single tear drop, alone in a strange world. Then, one day, it finds someone who wants to fly away. Not just a passenger. More than a passenger, it found a pilot, so it ate her.

I don’t know what the super intelligence alien space oil is supposed to signify. And the great thing about TV shows is that sometimes the character(s) can signify different things to different people, at different time points. And sometimes what we need the character(s) to signify might not necessarily make sense, especially to other people. But call me morbid, call me morose but for me the intelligent space oil, represents death. At the very least, it represents a form of death, since Heather gives up her humanity for what? For adventure? For thrills? To see the universe” Or for something more? At what point, does life become unbearable? At what point is the potential of what life holds-a new crush, a new love, not enough? At what point does the so called, “it gets better”-whatever that “it” is that everyone consistently talks about, that I’ve been constantly told about, come too late, if at all?

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The reason, at least for me, that Heather and Bill’s story, as of right now (who knows what will happen in future episodes. It is Moffat after all) is so sad is because it was so short. Heather, was already gone or on her way to leaving at least, when they first meet. Whatever possibilities that could have been were shut down and destroyed right from the beginning. Moffat, of course does leave room for hope.

DOCTOR: It’s a big universe, but maybe one day we’ll find her.

And knowing how Doctor Who works, they could very well one day find her. But in the real world…is hope something that tangibly exists or is it something we tell ourselves to just get through life? And what of those who no longer have hope? Heather, lost her hope-at least her hope that in her human life form that things would get better and that things could be different. Unfortunately, we don’t-(I mean I certainly don’t, but perhaps there are some space aliens amongst my readership?)  have the option to basically be consumed by intelligent space oil (though that might be a good thing?) and travel the universe. But yet, by closing off hope, we also close ourselves off to very real possibilities. In “The Pilot,” Heather was basically doomed from the moment we saw her. Yet, there seems to exist the possibility that she is continuing to live albeit in a different form. Hope still finds a way to exist, though in a different form then what is expected.  In the real world, it is often said that hope is only truly gone at the moment of death (and of course, for those who believe in an afterlife, or in a resurrection that occurs after death, hope can continue. Though even then, the hope takes on a different form. In death the hope of continuing a normal life no longer exists. Obviously for the person who died, but also for the people left behind).

So I guess, at the end of this episode, I’m ultimately left wondering what is hope? What does it look like? Can I even recognize it? What does it entail? Do I still have it? Do I even want it?

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

To be honest, the 2016 Christmas episode, The Return of Doctor Mysterio isn’t the most theologically, philosophically, or politically deep episode. Understandable, since it aired on a Christmas day, a day that many want to be light hearted and fun though the reality is much more complicated. Part of the delay in writing about the episode has been because I had no idea what to say-especially in light of what is going on in the United States and internationally. Those who have been following my blog know that I am an advocate for social justice and I have been critical of unjust policies put forth by both the Republican and Democrat parties. Injustice has no bipartisan affiliation.  I believe that both parties exist to serve their own interests and often those interests come at the expense of the marginalized and the oppressed. But within the past week, Trump has demonstrated that unlike past presidents of both political persuasions that he is determined to push through unjust policies in a speedy and unprecedented manner. All presidents have used executive powers, for better or for worse, but Trump has demonstrated that he will use his powers to discriminate against undocumented immigrants, refugees, and green card holders.

President Barak Obama deported more undocumented immigrants, then any other president before him, and Trump is intent on beating Obama’s record. The War on Terror, since it’s initiation by George Bush has had a disproportionate effect on Muslims, or those who are perceived to be Muslims, and Trump is intent on escalating the War on Terror and has no qualms about discriminating against all Muslims. Past presidents, including Bush and Obama have at least given lip service to the notion that the US is not at war with Islam per say but with jihadist terrorism. For Trump, no such distinction exists. One week into his presidency, and Trump is determined to break the mold, and to do so in a negative way. The last few years have already been difficult for those who fleeing Bush’s and Obama’s bombs, for those oppressed not only by jihadists terrorist groups but by western allies, for black, brown, and native bodies who are not only killed by law enforcement officials but also find that their deaths and their lives are discarded and forgotten. The next four years promise to be worse.

For some of us, this is a continuation and escalation of the work we have been doing. For others, we might feel like Grant. We were busy going about our lives, before an unexpected disruption caused our lives to change. In Grant’s he was sick young child  eagerly awaiting Christmas before the Doctor shows up. For some of us we were going to work, going to school, taking care of kids, hanging out with friends.  And then we realized, that the status quo was no longer an option. Grant’s superpowers meant that he could no longer go back to being a normal kid, for some of us, particularly in the United States’ Trump’s election and more so his executive orders, has meant that we can no longer look the other way towards injustice. Under Obama, we could pretend that things weren’t so bad, because it wasn’t effecting us. It was just effecting people over there-in Yemen, Iraq, Syria. But Trump, for better or worse is forcing us out of our complacency.  And while being forced out of complacency is a good thing, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Especially for those of us suffering with injustice. In order to be effective in the next few years, we are going to have to take care of ourselves and others. And the Doctor provides some helpful tips on how to do so.

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  • Recognize when you are being stretched too thin. Grant was busy trying to save people, keep a job, and work on his personal life. In the episode it was humorous to watch Grant run back and forth between his superhero alter ego and his regular normal self. His powers and his desire to help others was consuming his life. In real life, activism presents similar dangers. And the stakes are incredibly high. People’s lives are on the line-hundreds of thousands of people are expected to die if the Affordable Health Care Act is repealed and not replaced with a comprehensive alternative, thousands of people fleeing war torn countries in the Middle east, which in many cases are being bombed by the US are being denied refuge. People who have risked their lives to help the US army, and are thus in mortal danger are being abandoned. Black, brown, and native lives continue to be slaughtered at the hands of police and Trump’s response seems to be to further militarize and empower the police. These are all significant issues and some impact us or our loved ones. But the reality is, if we don’t take care of our bodies, our minds, an dour souls, we will be useless.

DOCTOR:. When everyone thinks that the Earth is being attacked from space, what then?
NARDOLE: Mass panic…

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  • Don’t give into fear mongering. For the past 15 years or so, the War on Terror has basically been a long comprehensive lesson on fear mongering. Trump’s policies on deporting millions of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and blocking refugees and asylum seekers from predominately Muslim majority countries did not arise out of thin air. His policies are viable precisely because he is feeding on the fear that many Americans (and let’s be real western countries in general) have about the “other.” Undocumented Mexicans are portrayed as criminals who are bumming their way in the United States. They aren’t husbands, wives, and children, fleeing a country wrecked by drug wars-drug wars that the US helps fuel by both its demand for drugs and the “war on drugs.” Muslims, Arabs, and people who are perceived to be Muslim or Arabs, are portrayed as terrorists and westerners as their hapless victims. Although the majority of people killed by terrorists are Muslim and from Muslim majority countries. And even though, scant attention is paid to the ways in which American foreign policy has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

DOCTOR: New York isn’t a capital city. It’s a shop window. When the world is in danger, come hide with us. Harmony Shoal will open its doors to the terrified leaders of the world. 
SIM [on monitor]: And they will come running. 
DOCTOR: A few hours later, every politician and commander-in-chief will have a zip in their head. An alien sitting inside their skull. In one day of terror, the executive authority of Planet Earth will pass to Harmony Shoal.

  • Fight against hatred. In The Return of Doctor Mysterio the Doctor and Grant are fighting against aliens that are attempting to take control of the bodies of influential governmental leaders. In the real world, it isn’t aliens that we need to be concerned about but hate, greed, racism, combined with massive amounts of political power. Trump’s policies, ISIS’ reign of terror, Hitler’s “final solution,” and numerous other examples of genocide, political oppression and marginalization, are often rationalized on the basis of hatred disguised in the language of national security. Horrific events, whether the end of World War I and the decimation of Germany, 9/11, more recent terrorist attacks such as the Paris attacks in 2016, the Orlando night club shooting, etc  or coups such as what occurred in Turkey in 2016, are often used by those in power to create policies that target the reigning regime’s enemies, real or perceived. For Hitler, his enemies were the Jews, the mentally or physically disabled, the LGBT community, etc. For groups like ISIS, anyone who disagrees with their narrow interpretation of Islam are enemies to be vanquished. For those orchestrating the War on Terror, it is Islam and refugees who pose a threat. For Erdoğan in Turkey it is anyone who dares stand up to his increasingly authoritarian policies.

GRANT: Are you sure he’s going to be all right? 
NARDOLE: Hmm. He’s the Doctor. He’s very brave and he’s very silly and I think, for a time, he’s going to be very sad. But I promise, in the end, he’ll be all right. I’ll make sure of it.

  • Everything will be all right-but we need to be there for one another. I’m not going to sugar coat it, life, for many people was already hard and it will only get harder. If the past week is any indication, dark days, and darker nights are ahead of us. But there are thousands of people in the United States, and millions outside of it, who have decided that enough is enough. The world has enough hate, the world has enough discrimination, the world has enough violence, and now it is time to step up and put a stop to it.  They have joined hands with those who have spent years and decades advocating for a better world. Whether you have been advocating for justice for years or you have recently decided to become an activist, recognize that you are not alone. The recognition that we are part of something larger is going to be essential for our survival, especially for those of us who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. It is essential that we help one another and encourage one another, especially in the face of inevitable setbacks and resistance. We will be ok. We can do this. We will do this. We are brave.

The Husbands of River Song And the Road to Emmaus

In The Husbands of River Song, River has no idea that the Time Lord she loves and holds dear has regenerated. As a result she kept expecting the Doctor to look and behave a specific way. This of course leads to some amusing instances. For example, when the Doctor gets to pretend that he does not know that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside and he gets to give what he thinks is the proper reaction to being confronted with this fact.

And of course, it’s always amusing to see the Doctor’s reaction when River opens up a hidden cabinet of whiskey or when she explains that pressing a particular button would evacuate the waste on deck seven. Not to mention the sarcastic comment she makes as he watches River make out with Ramone.

DOCTOR: Urgh! Doesn’t it get dull after a while? As an activity, it’s not hugely varied, is it? 
RIVER: I’m so sorry. This is my husband, Ramone. 
DOCTOR: Another one? Are you going to kill him, too? 

In addition to making snog comments and witnessing how River acts  when she’s not aware of the Doctor’s presence, the Doctor also gets to learn not only how River feels about him (which I am sure he knew all along) but also how she believes the Doctor views her.

FLEMMING: You’re the woman he loves.
RIVER: No, I’m not.
FLEMMING: She’s lying.                                                                                                                                 RIVER: The Doctor does not and has never loved me. I’m not lying.
CYBORG: Confirmed. The life form is not lying.
FLEMMING: Impossible. This is a trick.
RIVER: No, it isn’t.
pizap-com14740729946411  And one of the funniest and poignant scenes is when the River finally realizes that the Doctor is standing right beside her:

RIVER: When you love the Doctor, it’s like loving the stars themselves. You don’t expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me! 
DOCTOR: Hello, sweetie. 
RIVER: You are so doing those roots. 
DOCTOR: What, the roots of the sunset

Watching River and the 12th Doctor interact, especially when River doesn’t realize she’s with the Doctor is pretty funny and amusing. For the most part. Then there are the scenes mentioned above. Where River essentially says that she doesn’t think the Doctor loves her. When she discovers that the Doctor is standing next to her and he starts lightly teasing her about her comments about the sunset and stars, she tries to play off her statements that she was just talking to keep them alive. But what we the audience knows, what River knows, and what the Doctor knows is that there is an sliver of truth in her statements. The Doctor isn’t particularly known for being apt at giving and receiving love. While one could argue that perhaps he shows love in a different way, it’s hard to argue with the fact that he can be incredibly selfish. And while he cares deeply about those he travels with, he is also known to use them; sometimes for a noble great purpose, sometimes just because he can be self-centered and selfish. He does care about River Song. But it is easy to see why she would have felt as if he didn’t love her back.  But I can imagine how it must have felt to be convinced that the Doctor was not by her side, only to look over and discover he was there all along. It’s not a conventional declaration of love, because well the Doctor doesn’t do that, but it does demonstrate that he does care for her and that he is there for her.

The thing is, when we get to know and love people, our familiarity can blind us. When we meet someone new, especially a potential friend, romantic partner, or even business partner or colleague, we are paying attention to every little detail. We might have preconceived notions of a person, it’s hard not to. But if we want to get to know a person we try not to hold on too tightly to those preconceived notions. But when we know someone or more accurately when we think we know all there is to know about a person, we stop trying to learn about them.

Christians, at least Christians in America, seem to think that we know all there is about Jesus and God. I know I fall into that trap. Maybe even more so since I got an M.Div., which to be honest, I have been mainly using to annoy evangelicals who pretend they are interested in having a conversation but really just want to convert me to their way of thinking. But there is this sense of, “I don’t need to learn anything else. I have a degree.” Or for Christians who don’t have an M.Div. it’s, “I go to church every Sunday.” Or “I read the Bible every day.” Sometimes these assumptions don’t cause too much harm. We go about our day, holding onto our ideas about Jesus and God and make it through life. Sometime however, what we think about God can cause harm. Because when we go around saying, “well this is God. Or this is Jesus” then we need to think about what or whom we are excluding. When we paint Jesus as a beautiful, blonde hair white man, what are we saying about women and people of color? When we envision Jesus as sinless and flawless and God as a punishing judge, how then do we view those in the prison system or even those who society projects as being dangerous and lawless (ie black men and women, Native Americans)? When we act as if Jesus is/was American and God is on our side, then what are we saying about the young kids, and the men and women who are being slaughtered by American bombs and guns? When we present God as police officer, judge, juror, and executioner, then how do we react when a police officer slaughters a young black boy, a mentally ill person, or an unarmed man or woman? Our ideas about God can have life and death consequences. Our ideas about God can expose how we view the “other,” whoever that “other” may be. Our ideas about God in fact prevent us from knowing God.

The Bible is filled with stories where the disciples are unable at least at first to recognize Jesus. One of the most popular is found in Luke 24:13-35. This story is often referred to as, “The Road to Emmaus.” Two disciples are asked by a strange man what they were discussing. And they talk about Jesus and the miracles that he did and they talk about the hope they had, that seemed to be dashed when Jesus was crucified:

“He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.” (The Message,  24:19-24)

The man responds, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.” (The Message, 24: 25-27)

But it isn’t until the two disciples are about to eat and break bed with the strange man that they recognize that it was Jesus and like a ghost, he vanishes.

Like the disciples, we can be “so thick headed! So slow hearted.” We have these ideas about Jesus and God that we hold on so tightly that we allow them to blind us. Like the disciples, like River Song, we don’t recognize the person standing right next to us. Who is Jesus? Jesus is Tyre King, the young boy shot and killed by police for carrying a BB gun. A young boy that so many are condemning. But then again when we view Jesus and God as   police officers guarding the gates of heaven, keeping certain people out, then it is not surprising that we believe the words of police officers and will do anything to justify the death of someone who we consider to be unworthy of love and life.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the children and women and men being killed in the Middle East because of the United States “War on Terror.” But when we view Jesus and God as synonymous with the American soldier and the military, then of course we don’t give a second thought to the people being forced to live through a 9/11 experience every day.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Palestinian child being shot dead by an Israeli soldier. No, this isn’t an anti-Semitic claim. Christianity has blamed Judaism for the death of Jesus and has used it as an excuse to bully, kill, and discriminate against Jewish people. And although some Christians stood up against Hitler, far too many were all too happy to go along with his “final solution.” But recognizing the horrors of the holocaust and how Christians have discriminated against and killed Jewish people, does not mean that one needs to blindly accept what the Israeli government does. Many Christians are using faith to blindly support the Israeli government because they believe that is what God wants and demands. But do we really want to believe in a God that is ok with shooting children in the head? Do we really want to believe in a God that endorses collective punishment? In the Bible, we have stories about a God that endorsed slaughtering people and taking over land. That was how one community/nation understood God a long time ago, and they weren’t the only ones. Ancient Babylonians, Persians,  etc also believed that their gods were telling them to take over land. Do we still want to hold onto that idea of God today?

Our preconceptions about people can blind us to who they are-even if they are standing right in front of us. To be fair, River didn’t know the Doctor had regenerated and most of us won’t have to deal with people who frequently change their body and face. Yet preconceived notions can be just as disorienting and blinding. We see that in the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus and we see that today when preconceived notions about God and Jesus get people killed.  And it is difficult having to do the hard work of periodically re-evaluating what we think we know about other people, about God, about ourselves. Bu it’s worth it if it saves lives. And it’s not something we do alone. There’s a lot about God I don’t know and won’t pretend to know. But there’s one idea I hold on tightly too: that God is with us as we navigate this complicated, unpredictable, beautiful, messy, tragic, life.

DOCTOR: Mmm. What do you think of the towers?
RIVER: I love them.
DOCTOR: Then why are you ignoring them?
RIVER: They’re ignoring me. But then you can’t expect a monolith to love you back.
DOCTOR: No, you can’t.

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Hell Bent: Facing the Consequences

OHILA: You have gone too far. You have broken every code you ever lived by.
DOCTOR: After all this time, after everything I’ve done, don’t you think the universe owes me this?
OHILA: Owes you what? All you’re doing is giving her hope.
DOCTOR: Since when is hope a bad thing?
OHILA: Hope is a terrible thing on the scaffold.

When Clara died, the Doctor suffered. The pain he felt was excruciating. So he does whatever he can in order to bring Clara back. But there are consequences to his actions. There are always consequences. What happened to the Doctor and Clara in Face the Raven, wasn’t fair. Especially after everything the Doctor and Clara had done for Gallifrey and the Time Lords. Although the High Council never intended Clara to die-it happened. It was an unintended consequence. But the Doctor wasn’t going to let Clara stay dead. Not if he had the power or the access to technology to do anything about it. And damn it, Gallifrey and the High Council owed it to him and to Clara. Clara and the Doctor rescued them numerous times and the Doctor was going to make sure that he got what he was owed.

The problem with this sense of entitlement is that it obscures the role that the Doctor’s and Clara’s played in Clara’s death, and it downplays the negative consequences that could have resulted from the Doctor’s actions. The reality is that Clara died not just because of the situation that the High Council placed her in, but the Doctor’s and Clara’s carelessness, combined with Clara’s compassion, also contributed to her death. Clara and the Doctor always assumed that death could never touch them. The Doctor always saves Clara and there are very little consequences, at least for them. They became sloppy and reckless.  And Clara of course, was going to head to her death with dignity. She wasn’t going to allow the Doctor to use her death as a means to go on a murderous rampage. But the Doctor (and Moffat) were not going to let Clara stay dead.  But there are consequences to the Doctor’s decision. Maybe in the scheme of things not as drastic or destructive as they could have been. The Doctor’s memory of their relationship is wiped out and while Clara is still technically dead, at the end of the episode she and Me/Ashildr are ostensibly traveling throughout the universe before she supposedly heads back to Gallifrey to be plucked back into her time stream. For Doctor Who, this is as close to a happy ending as the show sometimes get. In real life, the consequences for acting out a sense of entitlement and a disregard for the potential destruction that arise from said actions, can reverberate for years. And unlike in Doctor Who, going back in time, or plucking people out of their time streams before death snatches them away, is impossible.

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Fifteen years ago, four planes were hijacked by terrorists. Two hit the twin towers in NYC, one hit the Pentagon, and one crashed in a field in PA after the passengers managed to wrestle control away the hijackers. In total, nearly 3,000 people were murdered and thousands of other people continue to experience mental and physical anguish from losing loved ones, surviving the carnage, or even just being near ground zero and breathing in the toxic fumes.

After the attacks, people were hurting and angry. People wanted revenge. We wanted to get back at those who planned such horrific violence. We demanded to know who would do this to us. Even those who did not lose anyone, had a desire for revenge and war.  But if we are honest with ourselves, looking back at the collective grief and national mourning the country experienced as we grappled with the aftermath of the attack, we revealed our sense of entitlement.  We were angry not just that so many lives were lost in a horrific action, but that it was American lives that were killed. Innocent American civilians were slaughtered. And we couldn’t bring them back so we wanted to do the next best thing: get revenge.

But what we failed to realize then, and what many continue to realize now, is that the 9/11 attacks did not occur in a vacuum. 19 people didn’t randomly wake up one day and think, “I think I’m going to just attack and massacre thousands of people today.” The 9/11 attacks were responses to the horrific foreign policy designs that the government made in the previous decades, in the name of the American people. 9/11 resulted from policies that armed and trained the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The mujahedeen used the language of jihad and militancy to defend their actions. Those ideas didn’t die just because we stopped supporting this faction.

Moreover, the US government’s  involvement in the Middle East, from our blind support of Israel at the expense of Palestinians,   to the sanctions that killed half a million Iraqi children,  helped foster a sense of hatred and resentment against America. While the US government’s foreign policy decisions do not justify or excuse the deaths of innocent American civilians, they do provide some historical and political context for the attacks.

In Hell Bent, the Doctor banished the president of Gallifrey and broke some rules but, the consequences appear to be pretty limited. His relationship with Clara has ended and his memories of her have disappeared. But in the real world, revenge and anger have deadly consequences. In a desire “to make things right,” and “defeat terrorism,” the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and have used military force in Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, etc. The consequences have been catastrophic. At the very least, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been slaughtered, and millions more have been terrorized. While the US hasn’t suffered another major terrorist attack on such a large scale, our wars and bad decisions have led to the rise of even more brutal terrorist groups such as ISIS  that have killed thousands of innocent civilians. But because those deaths weren’t American, their lives are automatically deemed less valuable.

In this season of Doctor Who, the mythological “Hybrid” was a source of worry and fear for the Doctor and for those on Gallifrey.

ASHILDR: What if the Hybrid wasn’t one person, but two?
DOCTOR: Two?
ASHILDR: A dangerous combination of a passionate and powerful Time Lord and a young woman so very similar to him.

ASHILDR [on scanner]: Companions who are willing to push each other to extremes

The Hybrid that caused so much fear, wasn’t an offspring from the Daleks and the Time Lords, but it was the Doctor and Clara. They were the ones who apparently posed such a great threat to Gallifrey.

DOCTOR : She’s my friend. She’s just my friend.
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We waged wars and military operations throughout the world in the name of terrorism and to stop those that planned and executed the 9/11 attacks. But in the fifteen years since, has the US government gotten any closer to stopping terrorist groups from thriving? Have we truly saved lives? Some say that because al-Qaeda or other terrorists groups haven’t pulled off such a massive attack in the US that this proves that the US government’s military operations have been successful. But thinking about the broken and wounded military veterans and the children and civilians in the Middle East blown to bits, one has to ask, at what price have we achieved this illusion of security? We wanted to hunt down and eliminate terrorists, but in doing so, we ourselves became terrorists. I’m not asking us to forget what happened or to stop mourning. I am asking us to reflect on how our nation’s desire for revenge ensured that millions of people in the Middle East experienced a version of 9/11 over and over again.