Written by andsoitgoes for smirkingchimp.com
Decades ago, courtesy of our astronauts who boldly went where no man had gone before, I saw a photograph of Earth for the first time. The sight of our planet, in all of its magnificent splendor, dangling out there in space, filled me with reverent awe. Yet…at the same time…it was pretty horrifying. I mean, how does it just float there? What if it falls or something? It looks so freaking vulnerable…just hanging there like a sitting duck. Suppose some wayward asteroid decides to play some outer space Bocce with it? Seriously, it makes me very nervous to actually think about Earth. It’s sort of just easier to live here and go about my business and not dwell on the whole improbable thing too much. But, still…that picture haunts me. This miniscule orb that we’re all inhabiting – blue with those stunning land masses and white, puffy clouds…surrounded by all that space – all those stars – all those planets – it’s a very striking, beautiful image. And at the same time…it always makes me dizzy. Give me a minute. I’ve got to put my head between my knees… Okay…better now…
So, anyway, the other day I was channel surfing when I came across another showing of The Day the Earth Stood Still – the newer version with Keanu Reeves. I’ve seen it before, and I’ve seen the original film with Michael Rennie a whole bunch of times as well. Anyway, it got me to thinking about those kinds of movies like War of the Worlds and Independence Day – and how the plot revolves around life as we know it being imperiled – and not just our puny country, but the whole globe – everyone. In a couple of the films it was because another species wanted our natural resources and were trying to wipe us out in order to steal them. But in The Day the Earth Stood Still – they were going to whip our sorry collective ass because we were just too violent and awful to continue living.
As my thoughts tend to wander from one topic to another, or more often than not, are really a jumble of various ideas and information layered one on top of another – these thoughts about earth and alien movies coincided with some news I was reading. Things like President Obama’s recent Wall Street Journal editorial where he wrote about deregulating business and industry some more. Or how he’s loaded his administration with more corporate insiders. I also read about how they were cutting the police department in half in Camden, New Jersey as well as slashing about 300 employees from the public sector in order to reduce their budget deficit. And about the civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Pakistan and points east. And about the lack of interest in stemming the proliferation of assault weapons after the recent Arizona shootings. And then I’m constantly reading all these opinion pieces by esteemed thinkers and economists on how progressives should apply more pressure to Democratic politicians to force them to do the right things not only for the struggling masses, but also as a way to avert our impending national economic disaster.
All of this is so difficult. I mean, nobody in power is listening to me or Paul Krugman or Joan Walsh – and no one was listening to Keith Olbermann either – at least no one who could right this sorry ship of state. The fact is, we have millions of people in this country who consistently vote against their best interests. We have politicians on both the Left and the Right who are willing to sell out the public interest for some campaign lucre. And we have a corporate sector that will ignore their long term interests for a short term payday. And, big business is so deeply entrenched in our government, it’s like an atomic wedgie. And so, for so many of us that feel hopeless and despairing, this is what got me to thinking about alien invasion as a viable solution to what ails us.
Maybe what this country needs is a good Martian attack, just like in the movies. But not for the cliché reason that we’ve all been cinematically indoctrinated with – that we’re all one people really and this will unify us against a common enemy because of our collective fear of total annihilation…blah, blah, blah. No, you see, I think of it like this – a Martian invasion and threat has the potential to become the great equalizer. No one would be more privileged than anyone else. No one’s money or political position would protect them. We’d all be in the same boat, bailing water at breakneck speed.
And it might just straighten everyone the hell out if we were all facing Gort and Klaatu mano-a-alien. Pull this crazy train we’re on together – economically, politically, and socially – out of its unjust trajectory and level the whole field. Jamie Dimon from JPMorgan Chase wouldn’t be ripping everyone off. Obama wouldn’t have time nor inclination to decide to be BFF with big business. The NRA and their puny business model would be no match for death rays. Citizens United would be only a distant memory as would the Republican activist Supreme Court. John Roberts could run but not hide from real monsters.
Maybe these pompous blowhards in the media, politics and in the corporate offices who keep telling us we need to undergo some old-fashioned “austerity” measures while they live it up in their privileged world, would stop taking themselves so seriously and thinking somehow that they’re immortal. Or that their greed or reelection or ratings actually mean anything of substance or protect them against forces larger than themselves. Maybe they’d realize how fragile we all are, how temporary this life is. How worth protecting this planet is. And in the space that we inhabit, how very small we actually are.
Maybe Dick Cheney would see the error of his ways – but more likely than not he and his ilk would be trembling in fear in some basement somewhere. But maybe as a whole, people, including the media stenographers and their friends the political super-class, as well as the gardener and teacher and dentist would be more like Rick in Casablanca – sacrificing the needs of one for the betterment of all.
Maybe the United States would begin to see there’s no real point in being the big, bad, bully on the block – forcefully bending the will of other nations – both economically and militarily to do our bidding – because it would all be so meaningless, when someone far bigger and stronger than we are were threatening us with intergalactic ray guns and huge robots that could eat us alive. Maybe the United States ruling-class would finally learn some humility.
Maybe we’d see that we’re often chasing after things that have no meaning at all and that all the puffery and trappings of power and importance and pseudo-seriousness in the world doesn’t change that fact. Maybe if really forced to confront it, the idea of any kind of environmental destruction as the price inherent in larger corporate profits would finally get through our thick skulls as being stupid and self-defeating. What good will all that money do you if the planet dies?
Maybe like in Signs, when Mel Gibson’s wife says to him, “Tell Graham, to see. Tell him to see” – we’d understand that she meant much more – or should have meant it. That if this country’s leaders and its people would just actually see – that this is all transitory, maybe they wouldn’t behave as callously, avariciously and violently as they do. That the corruption and backroom deals and manipulations and deceits and political strategies won’t protect them – then maybe people would reevaluate their priorities. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to actually just do the right thing. Or take the principled stand or fight for the morally and socially just causes. Maybe telling the truth wouldn’t be optional or based on political calculation anymore.
And when it was over, and hopefully we won without destroying the world with atomic weapons (which given our proclivity for utter destruction is a distinct probability), everyone would be truly equal. There wouldn’t be any stock market left. No Rodeo Drive. No TSA to root around in our pants. No credit cards or student loans. Oh, sure, I can see it now, eventually, the robber barons and all the rest will start up again. Or else, it’ll turn into a society like in Mad Max. I guess that’s likely if not possible. But, on the bright side, it would take a while to attain our former levels of greed and injustice. And in the meantime, maybe we could restart the unions, and make them stronger. We could regulate corporations again and protect the environment – treat it with respect instead of like a cash cow. Everyone would have a fair shot economically and socially. It could reanimate that great old fossil – the American dream. And people might remember the lessons of the past, and for bloody once, maybe we wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes. Because we’d remember for a long time what greed and political corruption had wrought. At the very least, a Martian invasion would buy us some time to set things to rights.
I wish those in power could see – could understand – could grasp – that money, power, social status or political insulation doesn’t ultimately protect you from the inevitable – whether it’s God’s judgment or death or my favorite Martian – there’s a reckoning somewhere down the line.
Klaatu barada nikto.