What better time to reach out to those one cares about than in the midst of of a world-wide pandemic? Since we are all supposed to keep our “social distance” from one another, we can at least have some quality electronic contact.
All you movie buffs surely remember the 1951 sci-fi classic, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” with Michael Rennie, Patricia Neil, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray and of course Gort the cycloptic robot. In that movie a space ship, actually a flying saucer, arrives in a park in Washinton DC. The celestial messenger, Michael Rennie (Klaatu), is promptly shot by soldiers called out to defeat the perceived threat from “outer space”. Today of course, the shooter might just as well be a concealed carry citizen, returning from a CPAC conference.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, I won’t go into too much of the plot except to say that the now mortally wounded but temporarily reanimated alien, Klaatu, has brought a message that the civilizations he represents are threatened by the lethality of the newly developed Atomic Bomb and it’s consequences for the universe. The Earth must stop its destructive ways or face destruction from the advanced civilizations that sent him to earth. To prove his point the Earth is made to stand still for a few minutes. The question then becomes, will the nations of Earth end their destructive ways and avoid total annihilation?
Currently the world is facing its own stand still not brought on by some distant galaxy but a home grown virus. This one apparently comes from the the animal kingdom and the desire of some humans to consume wild and exotic animals to promote their social status or to provide themselves with some mystical power. Whatever the source of the threats to the health and well being of the Earth and its people, they seem to more often than not, to come from human greed, arrogance, ignorance or fear.
We may be entering a new era of social interaction. We might even hope for an increased consciousness about our inter-connectedness and interdependence between individuals and nations. Will we rise to the challenge of working together to end this virus and even more importantly address the most serious threats to the entire eco- system of the planet or will we collectively go back to our old ways as soon as we perceive the threat from this virus is over?
The ending of, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, (spoiler alert!) leaves the people of Earth with this same question. Will the nations of Earth change their destructive ways, or choose to face annihilation?
This virus may not be the single factor in our undoing, but it may be one in a series already begun, that erode our health, our communities, our freedoms, our joy of life.
We don’t have a Gort, the indestructible robot enforcer to police our tendencies for destruction. We only have ourselves and the institutions we have created to change the way we live on this planet. America cannot be great in isolation. This virus is all the proof we should need. Nationalism has never made the world a safer, healthier place to live. Demagoguery has never brought the best out in humans as it relies on anger and divisiveness. Unity is never possible if there is always an enemy to be blamed, reviled and excluded.
This virus and my fear of being quarantined or actually contracting the virus, has heightened my awareness of how much I value my connections with my loved ones and people in general. It has pushed me to write this personal essay to share with you. I welcome your thoughts about this time in our history and your response to what I have written.
My thoughts and my prayers are with you and for you as we face this virus and its challenges together.
Klaatu Baroda Nikto,