To Be Takei
I am not proud of this, but when I see political activists on television or on the streets protesting, my first thought is to oppose them.
My thought is, “This country gave you leisure time, plenty of food, and the freedom to protest. So why don’t you spend this time appreciating all of the great things about America instead of tearing it down?”
I doubt I’m alone in dismissing most protesters as ungrateful malcontents.
It’s rare to discover a political activist who is so positive and likable that even people like me can’t dismiss him. George Takei is such an activist.
On the face of it, no one has more legitimate grievances with the United States than George Takei.
He was born in California in 1937. He spent his formative years living with his family in Japanese-American internment camps. And then he watched as his father had to start from scratch working as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant because few white businesses would hire Japanese immigrants after the war.
As a young actor in the 1960s, Takei had to take whatever offensive stereotype roles were available for an Asian-American. His first job was as a voiceover actor in a “Godzilla” movie.
Takei hit the career jackpot when he landed the role of Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek.”
Despite his success, he didn’t feel like he could be himself. Takei lived as a closeted gay man for 35 years. He hid what he perceived to be the career-killing truth behind lies and fake girlfriends.
Takei and his husband, Brad, have one of the longest and most stable relationships in Hollywood – but it was a secret to almost everyone.
When Takei finally admitted he is gay in 2005, America didn’t turn its back on him – we embraced him. He quickly went from an anonymous has-been to the hardest working elderly Asian-American in showbiz. He appeared on “Heroes”, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, and “The Apprentice.”
And he became America’s most witty and lovable gay activist.
When NBA player Tim Hardaway announced that he doesn’t want gay people in team locker rooms, George Takei responded on Jimmy Kimmel with a tongue in cheek video in which he explains how much he loves gigantic, sweaty NBA players.
When a ludicrous law that banned anyone in state schools from saying the word “gay” passed the Tennessee Senate, Takei responded with droll humor rather than anger. He made a video that urged Tennessee teachers and schoolchildren to follow the law and say “Takei” as a substitute for gay. And then he made a small fortune selling “It’s OK to be Takei” t-shirts.
George Takei has every reason to be bitter at the United States for the way it has treated him, his family, and his people. But he isn’t. He is happy, successful, and upbeat. Everyone who watches “To Be Takei” will come away liking him.
My gut feeling is to feel disdain for political activists. But when George Takei takes sides on an issue, I’m inclined to listen.