One of my earliest memories - and we are talking prior to age five - is watching The Man Trap episode of Star Trek and being terrified in a way that only a child can be that nasty sucker salt monster was going to get Bones. I even had vivid nightmares about it for a couple nights. One could argue my parents had poor taste in what they let a toddler watch, but I disagree.
By age four, I was already invested in the concepts of a better world as seen on Star Trek.
As a child growing up in the 1970's on or near army bases there was a limit to how much pop culture I share with other people my age. If AAFES didn't pick it up for overseas broadcast - I didn't see it. Just as cable television was erupting all over the US I went to Belgium. My parents had little patience for the local French and Flemish channels - we didn't get BBC - but we had a VCR and an enterprising neighbour who copied tapes and had a rental library.
But back to the beginning. Kirk and Spock and the whole crew wore uniforms. My dad wore a uniform. They flew on a starship. My dad flew in a helecopter. My parents had grown up in the segregated south but had chosen a military life. I was taught all people were green. This was clearly the same way it worked in Star Trek - and some people were literally green. Or blue.
Women had jobs in Star Trek. I saw women who worked or were soldiers all the time. Lt. Uhura was an officer. I understood about officers - that she was "black" was of no interest to me at age 4 - she was pretty and when Kirk kissed her I felt weird in my stomach - like I do when I kiss my wife to this day. Lt. Sulu was also an officer. My dad's flight instructor had been in an internment camp for being Japanese - I understood about that too. But mostly I was interested in why I had the same weird feeling in my stomach when he was all crazy and sweaty with an foil that I did when I thought about Lt. Uhura.
Mr. Spock was different. I felt different, even then. But if he could be dignified about being different then I could be too. The hand gesture he made woke my pintle yid - my Jewish soul. He exemplified all the scholarship and tradition of a heritage I didn't even know was mine at the time - and made me long for it.
Chekov was a Russian! In the future none of us would be enemies and we could work together to go into the stars. I liked the stars. Since we lived in a trailer park with fairly little light polution - I saw them regularly. Not to mention my family camped and boated - stars on the water was something I saw at three days old.
The crew of the USS Enterprise went out and met people and helped them. This is what the US supposedly did too, even when it sent my dad away to fight in a war in a place called Biet Nam. I was very happy when he came back, just like I was certain the Star Trek people's families were happy to see them when their five year mission was over too.
It was just a part of my life, like M*A*S*H or Mr. Rogers, my television friend. So when it continued as I grew, I watched. I read. I dreamed. I wept when Spock sacrificed himself - and again when he was reborn. I paid attention in school because that is how you get to the Academy. Which academy I was planning on attending wasn't so firmly set in my mind - because I loved Star Trek I read voraciously any science fiction I could get my hands on.
At the American Embassy in Brussels there was a small lending library founded by some nerd long since reassigned - but I read every single book. Asimov. Heinlein. Zelazny. Herbert. Ellison. Bradbury.LeGuin. They only shaped what was already planted.
There are sounds that make my heart leap - and one of them is that opening fanfare. Those words make me cry. When I realised that yes, I could attend Westpoint - but it was no Starfleet I resigned my place. My math skills were not strong enough for the stars - and they did not follow the Prime Directive. (Trust me, I was not allowed to apply to the Air Force Academy, dad wanted an Army ringknocker)
Now they are all getting older, and my last con was something on the order of 199hrmthshtgish where I did get to thank James Doohan before he became truly ill and passed away. Our space exploits have ended. We no longer dream as Neil Degrasse Tyson points out. And yet...
I learned to be a better person. I learned to see hope. I learned to dream. I learned to explore and take risks. I learned education has value. I learned altruism has value. I believe we can live a more balanced lifestyle on the planet with less poverty and illness for all. I learned who I am and where I come from - all because I was scared for Bones as a little child.
What a wonderful gift I have been given at the start. Now of course there is twitter and the internet and I can "talk" to Bill Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and George Takei at will - but I don't think I could explain all the things they mean individually and in concert to me and my life.
Without the ideas of Gene Roddenberry, the writers and correspondence that shaped his vision, the actors and the series and the movies and even now reboots - it may be the white American vision of what the future is like, but I bought into it and I feel it truly made my life richer as a result.
Watch out for that woman, Bones. She is NOT what she seems.