It occasionally enters my mind that not enough thought is given to how we, our country, our civilization- will appear to future historians. We go about our daily lives unaware of the big picture of life. We have television shows about dating while naked; running around various jungles naked while trying to survive; engaging in swamp competitions, and trying to catch spouses cheating. There are many more shows that did not find their way into production with posterity in mind.
Did King Leonidas ever think while marching toward Thermopylae, ‘Hey, if we hold off these Persians, maybe they’ll make a movie about us someday!’? Did Julius Caesar ever think, ‘If I don’t kick Vercingetorix’s butt and I can’t get out of Gaul, how am I ever gonna get a month named after me?’
On the other hand, maybe we should be thinking about posterity a little more, rather than sitting on our collective posteriors, playing video games, messing with our cell phones, and getting Cheetos stains on the TV remote control. Someday, historians are going to be asking such questions as, “How did they allow Rosie on television a second time?!” Or, “Why didn’t MSNBC think of having a reporter eat Fruit Loops out of a milk-filled bathtub? They may have had better ratings.”
Historians are going to want answers.
I have always been fascinated with SETI - the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. There are numerous searches being conducted around the world for clues that life is out there somewhere. This causes me to wonder: if we find aliens, and they find us, what will they think of us? Sure, they’ll think we’re funny looking, with our short necks and our little heads and our ability to open doorknobs and the fact that water doesn’t kill us- maybe I’m just influenced by Hollywood films. But what will they think of us?
It may not be historians that we have to worry about. What if aliens, during their journey to Earth, intercept broadcast transmissions sent over the decades? If some aliens from the planet Zholtok show up, having seen repeats of “Hannah Montana” or “Alf,” they may not set weapons to “stun.” And don’t forget, “The View” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” are still on the air!
Here we are, noses buried in computer monitors, cell phones, or for some people in their own vomit if it’s after Happy Hour, and scientists are sending signals into space, inviting aliens to come for a visit. And by “visit” I mean “eat us alive.” I’ve seen “V”- the original one in the 1980s. Not a good outcome.
Two hundred years from now, Americans long since having robbed the treasury to the point that the Mexican Peso will look like gold nuggets, historians or aliens or evolved cockroaches will review 2015 and how we conducted our lives. They will ask, “What kind of country would give away its own sovereignty? What civilization hates itself and promotes other, less successful societies, as preferable? What kind of world thinks that everything is normal in the world of Honey Boo Boo?”
Historians, or aliens, are going to want answers.
Most people don’t think about what posterity will think; presidents are obvious exceptions. Perhaps all of us should be conscious, at least as a society. We go to war with rules designed to make it tougher to kill the enemy and easier for the enemy to kill us. We have found ways to feed billions of people, then we pass laws to make it more expensive to feed them. The symbol of freedom around the world, the American flag, is considered as a symbol of disgrace by some American citizens who hate their own country. We encourage slothfulness and a lack of personal responsibility, and we make excuses for immorality and lawlessness.
We have some cleaning up to do, just like when you have company coming over for a visit. It’s not just picking up our dirty socks or sweeping the crumbs into the trash instead of onto the floor, but cleaning up the thugs, the immorality, and some of the embarrassing things we broadcast. We’d have to get rid of half of daytime programming, basically sticking to Magnum PI and Bonanza repeats. Can you imagine our embarrassment if the intelligent life discovered “Hardball with Chris Matthews”? Imagine the embarrassment when the aliens have to explain to him the definition of “self-inflicted,” or he has to explain to them that tickle going up his leg.
They might just decide to vaporize us. Creatures that messed up can’t be tasty, they’d figure.
Or maybe we’ll luck out and we won’t have to worry about aliens- just the historians. Aliens are too far away- thousands of light years, in fact (a light-year is roughly equivalent to how many times the Obama administration can blame George W. Bush for a foreign policy crisis, multiplied by the number of e-mail deleted from White House servers, in a one-year period).
Leaders do not focus on their legacies. That’s what spouses are for. Leaders focus on what needs to get accomplished, and right now a lot needs to get accomplished. Somehow, I just don’t see General Washington trudging through the snow, saying to himself, “Keep on pushing, George. There will be sheet and towel sales in your honor in a couple hundred years.” But a little thought toward posterity, for our society, might be good.
Brian W. Peterson has been a columnist for a mid-size California newspaper, is a veteran of political campaigns, and was a member of the publicly elected Republican Central Committee of Los Angeles County. His psychological thriller Dead Dreams and sci-fi adventure Children of the Sun are currently available through Amazon.com. You can follow Brian on Twitter @cybrpete.
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