America, In One Story

If Martians land tomorrow, and ask me to describe for them the country in which I live, I’m just going to tell them about Janet Wilson.

Janet Wilson is a 52-year-old, legally blind Quaker who demonstrates against the war with a group of other Quakers and peace activists once a week. She carries a sign that bears a peace symbol and the word “peace” in both English and Spanish.

Last Saturday, Janet had her sign ripped from her hand and destroyed by a passer-by who jumped out of his Hummer, which was towing a trailer done in camouflage and covered by a domed tent, to scream at them to support the troops. After yelling at them and smashing their signs, he then left.

This, I will tell my new extraterrestrial friends, is America. It’s a country in which we have to fight wars to ensure we can continue to fuel both our dependence on oil and our gas-guzzling vehicles, but we fight these wars under the pretense of delivering freedom—which, by our own country’s definition, includes freedom of speech. Ironically, I will say, as the aliens each fix their single great, pulsing eye on me curiously, it is men like the sign-wrecking Hummer driver, whose hubristic refusal to sacrifice even the most easily expendable of his resource-gobbling habits, for whom we must fight these wars, and, in further expression of his luxurious ignorance, he is the most likely to believe that the war is being fought for the very freedoms he yet resents in his own country. And while he will be first to demand that others support the troops, he would be last to lay his own life on the line alongside them.

The Martians will pause for a moment, I imagine, and then gently explain they will seek out kinder shores, before returning to their spacecraft.

“What does that thing run on?” I’ll ask.

“Reason,” they’ll tell me, and I won’t bother asking for the blueprints, but instead wish them well on their journey.

(Hat tip Fritz.)

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