“Your choice is simple. Join us and live in peace or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.” Does this quote sound familiar? Was it George W. Bush talking to terrorists? Nope, its a quote from the 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. Don’t exactly remember it? Well here’s a plot synopsis.
An alien lands on earth with an indestructible spaceship and a robot of enormous power. He has an important message for the world and to prove he is a bona-fide alien ambassador, he stops electricity around the globe for half an hour (hence the name of the movie). But what of the message you ask? That was the quote above, you’re with us or against us, join us in peace or die. The alien, Klaatu, was a member of a galactic civilization that was so advanced they had given control of their defense to an army of super powerful robots who immediately annihilated anyone who committed aggression. Those robots were now concerned that earth had developed nuclear weapons and would soon have the potential to use them against the galactic civilization.
Klaatu, and the silent but deadly Gort, did not care how many of each other we killed or how we governed ourselves (or not), they were intent on insuring that we did not possess the potential to harm their civilization. If we could not offer them iron clad proof of our harmlessness they were prepared to destroy us to preserve their peace.
Yesterday I was watching a retrospective of sorts about Hollywood’s treatment of space aliens throughout the years. The show featured commentary by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Lucas have both spoken out, although not as vociferously as some, against the Bush policy towards terrorist states and against the war in Iraq in particular. However, both of them had nothing but good things to say about Klaatu’s message to the world.
In what ways are the message of Klaatu and Bush different? A technologically advanced civilization is concerned about the growing technological sophistication of another civilization as it relates to the second civilization’s potential to inflict harm on the first. The more advanced civilization issues a warning, “Renounce violence, give up your quest for weapons of mass destruction and join us in peace and prosperity or face utter destruction.” Sounds like the same message to me.
Those who support Klaatu but disagree with George cannot argue that Bush is a hypocrite because he demands terrorists and others end their violence but is willing to use violence to accomplish his means because Klaatu, the benevolent space alien bearing a message of peace and harmony, is certainly ready to use violence to insure earth is removed as a threat.
So what is the difference? I believe the only difference is who is delivering the message and to whom it is addressed. When a space alien delivers the message of peace or death to Americans it is good. When an American President delivers the same message to terrorists and thugs, the message is bad. The only conclusion I can draw is that those who hail Klaatu and hate George believe America is so tainted by her past crimes (whatever they think those are: slavery? reckless misuse of the environment? electing Republicans? who knows?) that no pronouncement it makes can ever be right again and that her only choice is to ask thugs and murderers for forgiveness. In short, they hate America and are ashamed to be Americans.