Sunday night I and millions of other fans were supposed to see the season three premiere of The Last Ship. We’d waited ten months for this show and everyone was happily looking forward to a little break from reality. Sadly, because a man in Florida chose to take the lives of forty nine others, the show had to be delayed. Situations in the premiere were eerily similar to the real life tragedy that struck so many in Orlando. However, upon the announcement that fans would need to wait at least another week for their show, a minority of them had a curious response. They got angry.
I know some people were angry because I’m heavily involved with this fandom; I manage a twitter channel with a significant following and write reviews for the show. After the fifth or sixth private message expressing outrage over the delay, I realized that something was afoot. These individuals talked of letting the terrorists win, that they’d never watch again, and called the network some not so repeatable names. I could understand disappointment, even resigned frustration. But such anger? It took me awhile to follow some of the comment strings and pick away at what lay beneath the surface.
I know that this fandom is not insensitive. From our interactions I can say that those who follow the show and who are active on social media are some of the most loyal, caring people you could ever hope to meet. As a rule, they don’t exhibit racism, sexism, or homophobia and are as pro-America as you can be. Yet a few comments posted that night seemed downright heartless. Despite outward appearances, I discovered that the issue was not over the uncertainty of being told to wait until TNT decides to restart the season. Instead, the anger seemed to be a symptom of a much bigger issue: they felt utterly powerless.
One of the themes on The Last Ship is that freedom is not free; it requires sacrifice. All the characters wanted to return to their loved ones once they understood that the world had suffered great loss from a virus. In spite of these desires, the crew of the U.S.S. Nathan James soldiered on, knowing that if they ignored their selfish desires, they might discover a cure and save the world. Week after week this theme was an affirmation to many viewers that ideals like honor, country above self, and justice still exist in a world that often seems very bleak.
I think that the news coverage on the Orlando tragedy ignited fear and hopelessness for many people. Elected officials started finger pointing and name calling, inflammatory issues of gun control and racial profiling pitted friend against friend, and everyone was caught in a tornado of rage. Would a stricter interpretation of the Second Amendment have prevented the shooting? Should the FBI have been more proactive in investigating their quarry? Could neighbors and coworkers have done more to warn local police about this man?
While I don’t have answers to those questions, I do know that tragedy strikes fear into everyone. Fear is a natural response but it is the action you take despite your fear that is most important. I liken our fight against terrorism to an abusive relationship: one person will always try to hurt the other and cannot be reasoned with. They blame the weaker person for the abuse. The other person does all they can to say the right things and carefully avoid the wrong moves, all the while taking on the blame for their injuries. They start to believe that if they can just be good enough, they won’t get hit again. But the hits keep coming, and the injuries escalate until someone dies or gets out. I postulate that our national sense of vulnerability is due to a cultural crossroads: we have to come together and decide what we are going to do to stop the abuse.
So let’s discuss gun control and background checks. Let’s discuss how we identify and follow suspected criminals. Let’s discuss all of the ideas we have about the best ways to protect ourselves and our families, but let’s do it together. Domestic or foreign, if the terrorists can divide us, then they’ve won. Remember what Benjamin Franklin said when the other delegates worried that signing the Declaration of Independence would get them killed, “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Those words were as true about America in 1776 as they are in 2016. If we want to be free we can no longer be subject to the whims and insanity of terrorists. Let’s mourn our loss and then let’s finish this.
I hope that next week we’ll get to see the long awaited premiere. I hope that we can watch the nightclub scene in the first episode and find strength in how the crew of the Nathan James handle the situation. Above all, I hope we find unity after this tragedy so that lives were not lost in vain and our future is one free of threats to our American life