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George Takei Talks Snowden, Japanese Internment and YouTube

Takei, left, seen here in a previous Hill visit with Rep. Henry A. Waxman, remains politically active. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Takei, left, seen here in a previous Hill visit with Rep. Henry A. Waxman, remains politically active. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Actor George Takei is in town, in part, to promote the AARP YouTube show he hosts, and he chatted with your HOH Technocrat correspondent about his personal history, political activism and his thoughts on the National Security Agency surveillance program.  

At a “Selfies with George” AARP event promoting its Takei’s Take channel, which starts its second season next month, the original Mr. Sulu stated a simple demographic fact that was nevertheless startling: “My Star Trek fans are now of AARP membership generation.”  

Regardless, Takei is still a part of the emerging tech world, as illustrated in his video on online dating.  

When asked whether he’s been following any technology policy movements in D.C., Takei talked about the the NSA’s surveillance program.  

“The discussion that’s been stimulated by Edward Snowden has been I think a very important discussion,” he said, adding that he thinks Snowden should return to the United States, instead of being “sequestered” away from the debate.  

“I think it … would have been important for him to stay here and be part of that discussion actively himself here,” he said. “Because it is an important discussion.”  

Martin Luther King Jr.  “knew that there were laws that were unjust,” understood that he had to break them in order to see change and was “willing to pay the price for breaking those laws,” Takei said. Doing that “added greater urgency to the discussion,” he said.  

Takei said he’s “on the side” of  privacy, saying it’s “not according to our Constitution” to have what he called a broad sweep inspection of privacy — but said that he’s also “torn.”  

“I mean, I think we all are,” he said. “I want to be able to fly planes knowing that I’m gonna be able to reach my destination. And at the same time, I also want my private conversation, private communications to be private.”  

Takei said another reason he’s in town is that the State Department has asked him to travel to South Korea and Japan to talk about U.S. democracy and his life.  

Takei was interned during World War II, a wave of mass incarceration of Japanese Americans.  

When he was 5 years old, “soldiers came to our home and ordered us out of our home simply because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor,” he said.  

He called it a “dark chapter” of U.S. history where the Constitution was “egregiously violated.”  

He was too young to understand it at the time, but got interested in it when he was a teenager, he said. He had many discussions with his father, which he said got “very heated” sometimes because Takei was inspired by the civil rights movement.  

“But what I got from those discussions … was my father telling me that our democracy is a people’s democracy,” he said.  “And it can as great as people can be but it’s as fallible as people are.”  

He also talked about his public “coming out.” He said it was spurred by then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of a same-sex marriage bill in 2005.  

“My blood was boiling,” he said.  

When the Stonewall riots happened in 1969, he said he “thought I could not afford to be vocal on that issue.” He was out of work because “Star Trek” was canceled, he said.