Like many Americans, I’ve been semi-obsessed with the plane that disappeared over Malaysia. Apparently, it just vanished without a trace. As the days go by with absolutely no good information, the mystery grows.
In the absence of real data, a science-fiction devotee (I plead guilty) can let her mind run wild.
What if the aircraft was snatched from the skies by aliens from another planet? And what if, after examining the passengers and crew, the aliens returned them all unharmed and proceeded to make their existence—and the existence of many other inhabited planets—known?
How would we quarrelsome, primitive Earthlings react to the knowledge that we are (a) not alone; (b) not superior; and (c) vulnerable?
How would the clerics and high priests of Earth’s multiple religions incorporate this new information into their theologies? What measures would our “We’re number One!!” politicians advocate? (John McCain and Dick Cheney would probably go on Fox News, blame Obama, and urge a nuclear attack; Putin might actually put his shirt back on. Who knows?)
And what about all of our unhappy, modernity-rejecting bigots? The Aryan Nation, KKK and other white supremacists, the assorted “pro-family” homophobes, the good “Christians” who think all Muslims are terrorists, their Taliban counterparts, the anti-Semites and innumerable others who see Earth as an assortment of tribes forever divided between “us” and “them”? Faced with a new “them,” would they be able to adjust their definition of “us” to include all of humanity?
How would the civic, religious, intellectual and political life of our planet change if we had to confront irrefutable evidence that we are not alone, not unique, and not the Center of the Universe?