The whole thing came out of the blue. I was talking with someone I met at a gathering about tv shows and we bonded over Firefly. He started talking about Browncoats and the police state, and next thing you know he’s telling me he’s got friends at the Bundy Ranch and starts alluding to the tragic necessity of some catastrophic/revolutionary upheaval that a better world might emerge from the ashes. What followed was one of the most unpredictable and enlightening conversations I’ve ever had.
I wish I could remember more of it. We touched on so many subjects. He brought up Ron Paul, which I expected, and Che Guevara, which I did not. He held up Cuba as an example, a place where, even if people didn’t have much, and there were some problems, nobody starved and everyone got taken care of, more or less. Of course, there had been that unfortunate necessity of revolution. But good had come of it. When I mentioned places like Scandinavia, where they’d achieved a much better version of the same thing through social democracy, he thought that sounded pretty good. Given our vastly different starting places, we achieved a surprising amount of consensus. Most people are pretty reasonable if you get them one on one.
But the whole thing spun me around pretty good.
Later that night, after we’d driven home, the gf and I decided to unwind with a little tv, and I suggested we watch Firefly. Suffice to say, my new friend had put a whole new spin on the show for me, and I couldn’t watch it without seeing how the sort of person who’d load for bear and head off to defend the Bundy ranch from the agents of the Alliance, I mean the United States Government, might see it. The Browncoat/Alliance war has more than a little in common with the Civil War, though with the usual (to me) ethical polarities switched. Or to put it more accurately, I can easily see how the idealism and autonomy the Browncoats fought for would resonate with the liberty and states’ rights crowd. And the crew of Serenity are a classic wild west outlaw gang, a trope that seems to resonate with same. The world of Firefly is a libertarian world, after all, and though the general misery and exploitation are played straight, the romance of the outlaw crew just trying to make a semi-honest living in a dangerous ‘verse plays straight into the libertarian vision of standing on one’s own two feet and defending one’s freedoms with force.
It doesn’t take away from my love for the series. I don’t think anything could do that. But it does remind me how differently different people can experience the same thing. In the end I see it as a sign of hope. Though this fellow who got me to thinking about all this and I disagreed on a very great deal, I think starting off our conversation by bonding over a shared passion was one of the things that made it possible for us to have such a productive discussion. By the end he kept asking me if I thought things could change without some great upheaval, and when I kept saying yes he asked how.
Just like this, I said. Find the things you have in common, the things you can agree on, and start from there. You’ll be surprised how far it can get you.