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Pop Politics 

Utah's thriving geek culture seems at odds with its conservative political one.

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You see it all the time: Utah is the nerdiest state in America. We like Star Trek and Star Wars more, per capita, than anywhere else in the country, according to a couple of not-terribly-scientific studies. Anecdotally, though, I find it to be true. Love of Star Trek and Star Wars cuts across just about every division of opinion we have in Utah, from religious to political. And it's not just those two franchises, but comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings and many other nerdy criteria. Right out of the gate, Salt Lake Comic Con had the highest attendance of a first-time geek convention ever. There's a thirst for these sorts of stories here that is unrivaled.

But then you look to other data that indicates that Utah is one of the most politically conservative states in the country. Some might not see a contradiction there, but I see a cognitive dissonance so massive that I really can't understand it.

Star Trek offers viewers an optimistic view of how the world could look once we've unchained ourselves from the destruction of capitalism, and everyone works toward the aims of humanity. The world has united, and education is a way of life. Is there anyone on Star Trek—from artists and journalists to Starfleet officers—who doesn't have a solid background in science and engineering? Every character has been well-schooled in many disciplines. Yet Utah lags behind in education funding, and even the mere mention of a candidate whose platform would set us on a path toward Starfleet virtue is met with suspicion and cries of "socialism."

The Star Wars saga's Episode I opens with a parable about the corrupting influence of money in politics. We watch as vague and obscure political maneuverings in an inept political body lead to the destruction of the local religion and dominate the galaxy in a darkness so total that it takes a new generation, rooted in the spirit of goodness, to fix it.

And yet every election cycle, Utah sends the same lawmakers to the state and federal level where they work hard to give away our rights to the "Trade Federation." According to The Salt Lake Tribune, one in five bills introduced at the state level smack of conflict of interest. Sending these cronies to do the people's business is akin to knowing that Senator Palpatine is a Sith Lord, yet still sending him to represent the people in the Senate. And our federal delegation consists entirely of Sith Lords. How do we love Star Wars so much, but learn nothing from it?

Doctor Who is another popular franchise that gives us a hero who loves humanity so much that his weapon is a screwdriver, and he's given two hearts rather than one. He's a superhero who fixes things and abhors guns almost as much as Batman does. But don't mention gun control inside the state for fear of an open-carry nut going to the dark side.

Every day, the world of geekdom brings more and more tolerance to the world, from increased diversity and better representation of minorities, to life lessons that add up to a modern mythology that is as humane as it is fun. How are the lessons of these franchises not making their way into the worldviews of the voters of Utah? Is there no overlap in the Venn diagram between likely voters and nerds?

Maybe we, as Utahns, can take a deeper look at the positive messages in popular culture. And if you're in Utah, and you consume this nerdery but don't vote, ask yourself what your favorite hero would do. Would Luke Skywalker let a Sith Lord represent him in the Senate? Would Captain Picard (or even Kirk) allow anyone in their charge to go without education? Or health care? Would The Doctor vote for a bully?

The answer is no. So, for the sake of your state and your country and your world, do something about it.

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