April 2004
2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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In the 1956 movie "Earth versus the Flying Saucers" they came not to praise DC but to bury it.
Et Tu, Al Quida?

Editorial License - Everyone Comes to DC to Change the World
by Ernest Lilley

Written Science Fiction tends to avoid Washington DC, but that's not hard to understand. It's a political town, and politics is the ultimate form of the "social hack", something that SF readers, as a rule, aren't comfortable with.

In their heart of hearts, SF fans really want to believe that if we weren't competing for limited resources everybody would "just get along".

Hollywood, with its sights aimed lower, hits closer to the mark. When Aliens come to earth, with rare exceptions, they stop and pay their respects to the White House, often visiting the Capitol Building, and just for fun, they like to visit the National Air and Space Museum. Why? Well, because the latter is for a good laugh, but the former, because (to paraphrase bank robber Willie Sutton) "That's where the power is".

Now, I'm sure that there are plenty of you out there saying "Superpower, shmuperpower." One shoulder launched missile in the hands of  a terrorist will show you where the real power lies. It would, except that those RPGs and acts of terrorism are aimed at US troops and Civilians...and their whole intent is to affect the decisions made in DC.

The world is changing, though that's nothing new. China and India are rising as new poles of technological and economic might, and though briefly the US is the only superpower on the block, this condition will not last. The transition to the next world order will be painful for us, but ultimately provides us opportunities far beyond those we have today. In a world where the power and economic disparity is as great as it is today, it's not surprising that the have nots should vilify the haves. Unfortunately, we cannot uplift the rest of the world by giving them what they lack, for as Thomas Paine said many moons ago, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly."

The rest of the world needs a seat at the table, but more importantly, they need a stake in the game. Currently, the table is the UN, but the players aren't really there to accomplish anything, only to make it clear that the current state of affairs isn't their fault, or problem. As long as the US is willing to take on the job of world policing, the rest of the world will be happy to complain about the job being done...and not to do it themselves.

Interestingly, policy makers in DC need look no further than their doorsteps to see an example of this up close. Though the politicians, diplomats, lobbyists, and federal employees in DC and its surrounding environs are among the most affluent in the country (and hence the world) DC's slums and homeless are among the most abject in the nation. Given a few more generations going on as we are, the world's most advanced government could find itself surrounded by a third world city. Why? Because of the unbalance of power.

Living among the Greek temples in DC, but having no voice in the running of the place must be like what street sweepers felt like keeping Mt. Olympus tidy.

What will the future hold for DC? Hopefully the movies have it wrong, though someone should ask the 9/11 Commission if the destruction of US landmarks by alien spacecraft flying into them shouldn't have been a clear indication that we were at risk, half a century ago.

Ernest Lilley - Editor, SFRevu

2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
columns - events - features - booksmedia        home  /  Join Mailing List