There. Are. Four. Lights.

This has been a hard month for people who believed in the better angels of our American democratic nature.

Donald Trump is a conundrum. He’s shattering existing rules and assumed mores for the presidency, setting up an administration that will argue that “getting things done” is more important than “doing things right.” There will be a bias-to-action that will look more like an authoritarian goverment than standard western democracy, but with Trump’s narcissism mixing in to an opportunistic far right movement willing to abrogate the Constitution in ways that scare libertarians of all sort.

Things aren’t going to be “normal.” They will bend and twist as the popularity of this government rises and falls, as Trump’s rally sizes rise and fall. We will be lied to like never before. We will be gaslighted. Those who are not in line will be made to get in line.

“This is not normal” has become a rallying cry of the anti-Trump movement. The problem is, none of us really agree on “normal.” What are we supposed to roll back to? The Obama Administration? Clinton? Reagan? The Continental Congress?

I’ve been looking less to “normal” and more to Jean-Luc Picard. To Chain Of Command.

To summarize for you non-Trekkers: Picard is captured by the Cardassians, a race known for their love of order through coercion, and interrogated brutally by a Gul Madred. Madred, at one point, gestures to the track lights over his head and says there are five lights. There are clearly only four, but if Picard is willing to admit there are five, he will be treated mercifully. Picard responds that there are four lights. And the torture continues.

Picard is essentially asked to go along with the lie the Cardassians are selling him — that he has valuable information to give up, that his value to Starfleet is gone, that his only hope is to fall in line with the Cardassians. He won’t buy their lie.

There are four lights.

Everything we’ve fought for in the web is at stake — net neutrality, civil liberties, empathy — and the most disadvantaged and most “other” in our society are facing discrimination and hate like we haven’t seen. We, those in the majority, will be asked to go along. We’ll be told that this is what’s best for society, that truth is irrelevant, that the mores and creeds that are core to what we are should be overlooked. There are five lights. Just believe us. Make America Great Again.

And we will waver. Anything to make the pain go away. We’re not collaborators, you see. We just want to raise our families and live in peace.

At the end of the episode, Picard admits that at the last moment, before he’s freed by his captors, he could not tell if there were four or five.

In the worst case scenario, we will be asking that question every day in the coming years.

Remember: There. Are. Four. Lights.

Don’t buy the lie. Do your research, read your history. Seek what is true. And fight for the future.

Author: Dylan Wilbanks

Dylan Wilbanks is a web roustabout, raconteur, and curmudgeon currently practicing as a user experience designer in Seattle. He’s spent nearly 20 years designing, building, and perfecting online experiences, and every once in a while does a good job. Occasionally, he speaks at conferences like SXSW and Webvisions. He created one of the first Twitter accounts used in higher education, but that was an accident, and he's really sorry about it. With Kyle Weems, he co-hosts Squirrel And Moose, a podcast about designing and building the web, when they remember to talk about it. He likes nectarines. You can read his tweets at @dylanw and learn more at