The death of Leonard Nimoy saddened millions of Trekkies around the world (including me). But it wasn't just Trekkies who mourned. In the past month, it has become clear that Mr. Spock — the character Nimoy brought to life — had become a cultural icon extending far beyond the Trek universe.
The president of the United States even paused to admit that he "loved Spock." Mr. Obama saw the Vulcan as "the center of Star Trek's optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity's future."
The outpouring of affection may have stemmed from the fact that we would all like to see a bit of Mr. Spock in ourselves — his logical assessment of every situation, commitment to high ethical standards and concern for the well-being of others are exceptionally worthy traits. And, like Spock, we are often puzzled by the actions of our human friends.
One writer, Michael Peck, suggested that Nimoy's fictional character "might have been the only creature in the universe capable of saving Washington." Writing in the Politico for political insiders, Peck wondered what it would be like if we were "lucky enough" to have a President Spock.
On one level, this notion has a certain appeal. With all the attributes of a fictional icon, Spock would be vastly superior to any recent president or presidential candidate. Regardless of his policy decisions, Spock's integrity and character alone would be a welcome change from politics as usual.
But there was a disturbing undercurrent to the article. Peck wrote as if our nation needs a purely logical thinker who would make the right decisions for everyone without being influenced by politics and human emotion.
The idea of rule by a wise philosopher-king goes back at least 2,500 years to the writing of Plato. However, the self-serving interpretation of that ideal by today's political elites is not at all what Plato had in mind. Spock would never agree to lead such a self-serving elite. He would likely note that anyone willing to campaign for the presidency would be unfit to fill the role of philosopher-king. On that point, he's certainly correct.
But there's another reason Spock would never be president. He was always No. 2, and would probably recommend his friend Jim Kirk instead. That choice would horrify today's political elites. Kirk's zest for life and disdain for bureaucrats personifies everything about voters that official Washington finds so annoying.
Spock sometimes found Kirk troubling, too. They often disagreed, but each had their role to play, and Spock's was to provide advice while recognizing that Kirk was in charge. Spock also knew that by working together, the combination of his reasoning with Kirk's passion and courage formed an unbeatable team.
That's an example America's political class should follow. They are No. 2; the people are in charge. Government in America has a support role to play, not the lead.
In his article, Peck highlighted this misunderstanding by writing that "What Spock would have wished for was government that works."
Spock would have looked at the bigger picture and recognized that the goal was to have a nation that works.
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