George Takei Disses the Tea Party and Talks About Life as a LGBT Advocate
Follow this man to happiness and civics lessons.
courtesy of George Takei
The sun never used to set on the British Empire, but have you seen those people lately? Golem from Lord of the Rings looks like James Brown compared to the rest of his countrymen.
Yesterday, we celebrated taking those snooty jerks down a peg in 1776 by recreating our battles via fireworks in the sky, and by remembering the struggle for equal representation through eating hot dogs packaged in quantities different from those of their buns. We also bought cars because you just know the environment has some prissy English accent.
And so we should have known better than to think the sun would never set on George Takei Week. In the current print edition of New Times, we ran a wide-ranging interview with Takei but there was so much he had to say that we've been gifting you with excerpts from that conversation all week. Alas, with today's final installment, if you want to know more about George Takei, you're going to have to interview him yourself because we're tapped out.
To close things out, George guides us through some of American history's darkest moments, including the forgotten bigoted origins of one of the Supreme Court's most liberal justices. He also talks about the challenges facing an LGBT advocate in the Facebook era.
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When Takei was a boy, he and his family were imprisoned in the interment camps in California, set up to contain Japanese-Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"A core pillar of our justice system is due process," he told us. "You have a right to know what you're being accused of and to defend yourself."
President Roosevelt signed off on the orders to create the camps but Takei does not hold any lingering resentment towards the man. He does not feel any animosity when he sees that face on the dime.
"Yes, Roosevelt signed the order," Takei said, "but he's fallible. He's a person. Democracy is dependent on people being actively engaged in the process.
"Let me tell you a story of another human being. In California, we had an attorney general who took his oath on the Constitution so he knew about what it stood for. But he also saw that in 1941 [after Pearl Harbor], the best way to get elected as Governor of California was to promise to get rid of 'the Japs' as we Japanese-Americans were called. We had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor and this man knew that. And he knew the Constitution.
"This man would later become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was Earl Warren."
Earl Warren's Supreme Court used the weight of the judicial branch to overturn racial segregation in education, to provide counsel to defendants who couldn't afford it and to protect the privacy of American citizens. It was one of the most progressive courts in American history and its efforts are tough to reconcile with those by its leader to champion the internment camps.
"He, too, was a fallible human being," Takei said. "The great protector of constitutional rights had run on the most egregious violation of that Constitution. That's American democracy. It's made of people. The Founding Fathers were great people who articulated the vision of our country but they also kept slaves."
Takei reminded us that the Constitution begins, "We the People..." (We'd thought it was, "This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house..." but we also get most of our civics lessons from film and television stars.)
"We the good ones need to be actively engaged," he continued. "It's outrageous that we have these Tea Party people -- people who don't understand the Constitution -- steering the discussion. But democracy is people. And sometimes people make terrible mistakes. That's why we need to know about the internment, about slavery, Jim Crow. About how when this country was founded, women hardly had rights."
This is why Takei is committed to staying engaged with the causes that are important to him. Some of the most important to him are LGBT rights.
"The trouble with supporting things is that then you get bombarded by so many other people," he said. "But Married and Counting, a film I narrated [about a same-sex couple traveling the country to try to get married in any state that will let them], that's good to do."
He also spoke of Bridegroom, a documentary project that really connected with him.
"It's by this guy, Shane, who had this beautiful relationship with this gorgeous guy, Tom. Tom was posing for photos on top of their roof and he fell from five stories up and died," Takei said. "He came from a very rigid family that didn't approve of their relationship. When his mother came to their home, she took the things that belonged to Tom with her. Shane let her do that.
"And when he went to the funeral, he was threatened with death. They're gun owners. And when Tom was buried, they made sure that Shane couldn't be buried nearby."
The way Takei describes it, Tom's parents bought the plots on either side of their son's "pre-need, as they say" for their own use, to keep Tom and Shane apart even in death.
"Shane did a YouTube thing that went viral," Takei recalled. "Then this documentary was made about the story and I wanted to help him out. So I supported his IndieGoGo campaign and we went to the opening. But when you do that, here comes the other thing about social media. Everyone now wants help."
Because Takei has 4.2 million fans on Facebook and because he is able to muster support for the causes he promotes, he hears a lot of heartbreaking stories like Tom and Shane's.
"They're all wonderful, important things," he told us. "But Facebook now has this other policy, something about the algorithm, that says if I don't get enough likes and shares on the posts, they count it against me. And if I want to have everything I put on there posted, I would have to pay for it. There are these costs. So there might be someone who needs help financially because they're dying of cancer and you want to help them out, of course. But where do you make the decision to draw the line? It's very difficult. I get at least a dozen a day of these appeals. Over a week or so, it becomes hundreds."
But Takei wants to stress that he is grateful for his fans' support and tries to give as much back to them as he can.
"When I go to conventions like Supercon, I'm reminded that we -- meaning Star Trek -- are now 47-years-old since we went on the air. In 2016, we'll be 50 and celebrating our golden anniversary. This phenomenon was not created by Gene Roddenberry. He created that world but the phenomenon was created by the fans and their undying devotion to the show. I go to the conventions because we owe them this same loyalty."
That's it for George Takei. If there's something else you want to know about the man, you should head over to the Florida Supercon and ask him yourself.
George Takei will appear at the Florida Supercon held at the Miami Airport Convention Center from July 4 through 7. For tickets and schedules, visit FloridaSupercon.com.
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