Recently I’ve been imagining a spaceman named Reth-Nar looking down on us in more confusion than usual. On January 20, in Washington, D.C., he sees all eyes focused on an earthling topped with an unusual flowing golden mane. (Yes, it’s visible from space.) Then, the next day, he notes large rivers of humanity flowing through Earth cities whilst wearing pink headgear.
Mystified, Reth-Nar boots up his Earth Decoder Module 3000 and tries to puzzle it all out. He learns that the lion-maned man is the new U.S. sachem. The rivers of people in the cities the next day are protesting his election and the things he stands for.
These events don’t completely baffle him. He’s seen humans follow unusual leaders before, and he’s seen marches, too, over such notions as women’s suffrage, civil rights, Vietnam, abolishing slavery, and unlocking the Bastille. (Reth-Nar is roughly 7,000 Earth-years-old.) But he couldn’t quite grok the scope of these protests. Problems with the new leader’s policies make sense for U.S. residents, but these demonstrations aren’t limited to the U.S. There are marches in London, Paris, Berlin, Belfast, Cape Town, Aukland, Nairobi, etc. and etc. More than 600 cities in all. There are even 30 protestors in Antarctica. (Reth-Nar particularly enjoys the “Penguins for Peace” sign.)
The spaceman spends a little extra time studying the march here because, hey, everybody loves Santa Barbara. Also, because Earth Day, one of his favorite holidays in the whole cosmos, was spawned by a giant oil spill right here back in 1969 Earth years. (You spill 200,000 gallons of crude into our blue waters, you can bet they’re visible from space.) The recent procession here was a large one for a small city — 6,000 people streaming peacefully down State Street to the beach. Reth-Nar gets a long-distance kick from our signs, especially the simple, abject one that reads: “I AM VERY UPSET.” How human.
As for the placard that says “Even Melania Looked Sad!” he makes a note to do some more homework.
He’s also struck by the irony of a woman shouting Democratic encouragement right in front of the Reagan Ranch Center. And he notes another very human remark from a guy to a girl just as the march is beginning: “Okay, let’s go get a margarita.”
Despite his almost Vulcan brain, Reth-Nar has developed a soft spot for humanity over the eons he’s been monitoring his Galactic Snoop Scope, so that last comment strikes a chord in him. It’s a chord that echoes back over the many movements he’s seen rise up and then wither. The efforts that actually bring about change, he reflects, are the ones that grind on despite all the forces working against them. The ones that succeed by sheer, stubborn persistence.
Which causes Reth-Nar a slight jab of rue, noting that the recent marches took place for the most part in cities, which are also the places where the opponents of the lemon-topped one are massed. The Earthling expression “preaching to the choir” crosses his alien brain. He wonders, wouldn’t the protestors make more headway winning over those outside their own realm?
We’ll see, he nods sagely. We’ll see if the promised daily phone calls to leaders actually take place. We’ll see if the people of Santa Barbara fight hard to stop the strange Earthling notion of removing oil from the delicate waters offshore by the thing called “fracking,” and if they’ll fight to stop the corn-silk chieftain from allowing more leases for drilling there.
We’ll see if there will be an organized opposition group, sort of a Chai Tea Party, he ponders, chuckling at his own wit. He hopes so, and not just for selfless reasons.
At this point Reth-Nar takes a moment to glance around at his own planet, basically a cinder floating in space after millennia of wars and pestilence, strip-mining, and strip malls. Unfortunately, the fleet his people are building for the Earth invasion isn’t ready yet.
He shrugs, turns his scope, and starts scanning the universe for a better, greener option, just in case it’s too late for this one.