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War of the Worldviews

by James Lileks

A recent National Geographic survey found that Americans trusted Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in the case of an alien invasion. Sixty-five percent to 35 percent. It is not clear whether this was a poll of likely idiots or registered idiots, but it made headlines in USA Today. What’s their rationale? Some possible answers:

His surrender skills are second to none. You can imagine Obama holding a joint press conference after the alien fleet has reduced the world’s capitals to ashes with their Zeta-beam rays. He leans over, thinking the mics are off: “Please tell Zkuti‡sgh!t the Unbearable, Scourge of the Outer Rim, Pain of the Great Void, Lament of the Gaseous Cluster, that I will have more flexibility following the immolation of the Southern Hemisphere.”

Facility with other cultures. There’s no culture President Obama cannot effortlessly impress. He would make sure to pronounce Zkuti‡sgh!t correctly, for example — and you just know that would irritate all the traditionalists who were brought up with a soft ZK sound. Listen to that fancy-pants suck-up with his fricative ZK. Hey, you going to ask him why he vaporized Pock-Ee-Ston, too?

Because he killed bin Laden! Gutsy call! Sure, there’s a bit of a difference between sending in a highly trained team to a cinderblock complex at night to perforate bipeds whose behavior can be reasonably predicted and inserting a team into an orbital platform to kill someone whose gelatinous body lives simultaneously in two dimensions and requires an atmosphere of irradiated chlorine, but gutsy call.

Because he is actually an alien himself, and when he undoes the zipper and steps out of his suit of flesh to reveal the hideous, tentacle-waving monstrosity who rakes the press room with rays of death that seem to flow from his fingers like bright water, some people watching on CNN will shout i knew he was born in kenya!

Because Dreams from My Father has an aching passage, heartfelt and beautifully written, where the young Obama dates an alien girl from the Orion system and thinks there will be some understanding between them because her green skin marked her as an outsider. “The other boys called her Pickle,” he wrote, “but to me her skin was the color of the leaves and grass in the summer sun.”

It later turned out that she was a composite of a blonde girl from Beverly Hills and a can of green paint he had walked past when someone was touching up the trim on her porch. But the general idea of knowing what it’s like to be from another star system is the important lesson to take away; he’s certainly more empathetic than Romney, who would attempt to move jobs to Orion.

But wouldn’t Romney use his special Destroyer Powers to ruin Orion’s industrial base by buying up all the factories and shutting them down? After all, that’s how he makes money: buying up successful companies that are doing well and then declaring bankruptcy, firing everyone, and selling the assets for pennies on the dollar, leading to a net loss for everyone, except for Romney, because his team has the airport concession for sandwiches and makes money on all the consultants who have to fly to the factory to close it down. Nine dollars for a turkey sandwich! Imagine if he’s president! Gas will be over 55 dollars a gallon, because he’s bought the refineries and turned them into big piles of pipes.

Planet-wide death and destruction are excellent opportunities for Keynesian spending, and the president has a natural feel for these things. There’s nothing quite so shovel-ready as a mass grave that needs to be dug, and if 5 percent of the population is put to work interring the other 95 percent, you’re talking employment numbers that make Reagan look like Hoover in ’31.

Because it wouldn’t be an invasion, after all; it would be a compassionate act of recognition that there are Zorgonians who have been living among us for some time now, and he will declare them to be exempt from deportation by executive order. “With this decision, millions of Zorgonians will be able to come out of the shadows, or would, if the touch of our sun’s rays didn’t cause them unbearable pain.”

He would assure us that this is not surrender but “amnesty.” The Supreme Court would agree, thereby assuaging fears that “amnesty” could be construed as “surrender” by future presidents seeking to expand the government’s ability to collapse like a house of cards. Justice Roberts, however, would surprise everyone, noting that the action actually falls under the “capitulation powers.” Some conservative pundits would call Roberts’s decision a brilliant move that handcuffs future expansion of the government’s surrender power, but the pundits would be unable to complete the thought, because Washington had been consumed by a blinding flash of purplish light that made people and marble alike turn to friable ash.

Zorgonians would call talk radio to complain, noting that they came here legally by the route they were supposed to take: crash-landing in deep-space probes and shape-shifting to assume human form.

The survey had some other interesting results. USA Today said that people were unable to rally behind a superhero to defend the planet. Twenty-one percent would call in the Hulk; 12 percent would flash the Bat signal; a mere 8 percent would rely on Spider-Man. But what of Superman? What of the heroic, all-powerful, upright defender of truth, justice, and the American way?

He’s fictional, you say. Well, so’s the president everyone seems to think we have, and that didn’t stop people from trusting him over Mitt.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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