Dear President Obama,
So the other day, I was surfing the web, and I stumbled across an image depicting the extent of radio signals that have left Earth since we started broadcasting back in the â€˜30s. One of the first signals broadcast was a video featuring Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Olympics. After World War II, Howdy Doody is one of the first shows any prospective alien viewers will see, and in a few yearsâ€™ time, theyâ€™ll get the McCarthy hearings in 1954. Jeez, talk about a bad first impression.
We might as well have sent them Jerry Springer, Temptation Island, and to expose alien races to true perdition, The Teletubbies. By my count, sending that line-up would be just as bad (if not worse) that our original broadcasts. (Plus, Hitler looks a lot like the red Teletubby.)
And once TV really took off, we started broadcasting all sorts of stuff into space. I mean, itâ€™s weird enough knowing that weâ€™re broadcasting Infomercials and QVC into space, but itâ€™d be even weirder if the first radio signal we received from another civilization was an alien civilization interested in buying one of our infomercial products. Hey, you never know, that could happen. Maybe they really wanted a Chia pet, or an OveGlove. I mean, if I lived on a planet even remotely similar to Mercury (it reaches 550 degrees Fahrenheit!), Iâ€™d probably wear OveGloves all the time. Or maybe the Alpha Centaurians are really smart, but not in very good shape. Then the Bowflex or Hydroxycut might be right for them!
Thatâ€™d be bad enough, but what if a whole slew of alien civilizations that have received our TV signalsâ€”and our endless alien invasion and apocalyptic moviesâ€”take us at our word. That is to say, thereâ€™s an outside chance that an alien race might think that Roland Emmerich is our preeminent historian and documentary filmmaker. Then theyâ€™d think that our civilization had been ravaged by aliens (Independence Day), that New York City had been attacked by a mutant lizard (Godzilla), that we were undergoing a new ice age due to climate change (The Day After Tomorrow) and that humanity has just survived a dramatic realignment of Earthâ€™s crust and subsequent mega-tsunamis (2012), all in the last fifteen years! If thatâ€™s the case, theyâ€™re probably on their way right now with blankets and emergency rations and doctors and all that. When they show up in orbit and they realize that Empire State Building is still standing and Manhattan isnâ€™t a popsicle/underwater/or has been attacked by a giant radioactive lizard, then weâ€™ll have a lot of explaining to do, as theyâ€™ll probably think we are liars. And then weâ€™ll have to explain why our popular entertainment usually involves killer robots from the future or war on a grand scale and mass suffering. That sounds like a pretty odd first conversation to have.
Thereâ€™s also the off-chance that one of the evil alien races in our science fiction films actually bears a passing resemblance to a real species in the neighborhood. I mean, what if the aliens orbiting Alpha Centauri (our nearest neighbor) look a lot like the Klingons from Star Trek? But what if they dedicate their lives to gardening and pottery instead of a rigid code of honor and death through a glorious battle? Mr. President, at best thatâ€™d be really embarrassing, and at worst that could cause an interstellar incident. (Though in this case, it might be kind of funny; can you imagine a bunch of Klingons throwing potted plants around?)
Of course, one of the staples of our science fiction films is the mention of the secret base at Area 51, which is allegedly home to UFOs, aliens, and so on. If half of the stuff weâ€™ve heard about Area 51 is true, then I think we should open it up to the public, as I think itâ€™d make a great theme park. Also, if itâ€™s named Area 51, does that mean there are 50 other areas? (On an unrelated note: Why does no one dress up as Leonardo da Vinci at Renaissance festivals?)
And do any of our secret installations resemble that one scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark with that warehouse full of secret boxes and containers where they kept the Ark of the Covenant? If so, can I visit? Thatâ€™s kind of my idea of heaven, as Iâ€™m really into mysteries and lost treasures and stuff like that. Come to think of it, itâ€™s also my catsâ€™ idea of heaven, but for a completely different reason; they just love sleeping in boxes.
Finally, if aliens really are out there, weâ€™ll have to come up with another word than â€œextraterrestrial.â€ Itâ€™s a bit cumbersome, and as we donâ€™t really refer to ourselves as â€œterrestrialâ€ in everyday parlance, it doesnâ€™t make a lot of sense to use. (Itâ€™s also a hard word to type; every once in a while, Iâ€™ll add a space on accident, and itâ€™ll just be extra terrestrials, which makes it sound like there was a blue light special on humans or something.)
Please let me know what you think about these important matters, and take care.
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