My Perfect Partner and I are at odds over my latest theory about UFOs. Yes, UFOs. Having largely grown up within what can most graciously be called the Blast Zone of a number of first-strike military targets — Strategic Air Command military bases, cutting-edge weapons research labs and, in my youth, the U.S.’s largest concentration of U2 spy planes — UFOs have always fascinated me. Alas, they’ve also always let me down.
This fascination was fueled by the 1951 black-and-white sci-fi film, The Day the Earth Stood Still . To this day I may be the only one who regularly checks it out of the library. Made in the aftermath of World War II and just as the Cold War was heating up, the plotline is pretty simple. An alien from an unnamed planet lands on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to deliver a message to Earth’s leaders. Learn to live in peace or the really advanced planets, who have banded together to ensure no backwards planet threatens the social fabric of space, will send one of their powerful robots back to earth to reduce the planet to a cinder.
He’s shot by the army almost as he emerges from the spaceship.
I liked the idea that there may be powerful aliens who actually cared enough about Earth to destroy it if its alleged leaders didn’t get their act together and stop threatening to reduce it to a cinder themselves. When we were in the middle of those inane and pointless Duck-and-Cover drills — scrabble around on the dirty classroom floor and hide under your desk so it’ll somehow protect you from the shockwave and wall-o-fire that would reduce the entire building around you to dust in the event the Commies let fly their nukes — I would mutter to myself, “Gort, where are you when we need you most.” Gort was the robot who could stop time or cinderize Earth.
But despite regular scans of the night sky and living almost within smelling distance of Roswell, I never spied a UFO, let alone a robot destroyer/saviour. The only things I ever saw in the sky I couldn’t identify could be traced to pharmaceutical experimentation or the effects of altitude. I began to get skeptical, notwithstanding the best efforts of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book to explain UFO sightings as swamp gas or some other nonsense, explanations that made UFOs seem not only plausible but likely given the government’s desire to debunk them.
As time passed, photography grew in popularity, video cameras were invented and UFO sightings gave way to chillingly similar descriptions of alien abductions, my skepticism grew. Hell, if there was that much alien activity happening all around me why weren’t there any better pictures than the ones that looked remarkably like frisbees floating through the night sky?