Next year, Denver voters will be asked to approve the establishment of an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. No, this is not about members of Congress having affairs in space (although all bets are off if there are motels out there). This is about creating a mood in Denver that would welcome beings from outer space to the Mile High City.
There is already a lot of talk about the 2010 elections. Will the Democrats lose their majority? Will Republicans get more unified by then? Will there be a reappearance of the dreaded chad? With all this talk about Congressional elections, an important ballot measure is being lost in the fog of partisan politics. Next year, Denver voters will be asked to approve the establishment of an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. No, this is not about members of Congress having affairs in space (although all bets are off if there are motels out there). This is about creating a mood in Denver that would welcome beings from outer space to the Mile High City.
The ballot measure, which got the required number of signatures, is the idea of Denver's Jeff Peckman, who describes himself as "an entrepreneur." That's not the word that everyone is using to describe him. In his defense, his initiative doesn't claim that extraterrestrials definitely exist. He's just saying that if they do exist, we should be friendly to them.
At the same time that there is this "take an alien to lunch" attitude going on, space travel is becoming more and more of a reality. Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Everything, recently said that he'll have a spacecraft ready to start commercial flights in 2011 or 2012. There won't be an economy class on this craft. A ticket will cost $200,000 for a 2 ½-hour flight about 60 miles above Earth.
I know what you're thinking: nobody's going to pay that kind of money. Think again. So far, about 300 people have put down $40 million in deposits to guarantee a seat on this spaceship.
"Space funerals" are also becoming more and more popular. One Houston company takes the ashes of hundreds of people at a time into space. If you ask me, if we really want a friendly relationship with extraterrestrials, I don't think dumping the ashes of dead people in their neighborhood is the best approach.
But I do think having a friendly, welcoming attitude toward beings from outer space is a nice idea if they ever visit us. In most science fiction movies, they're perceived as enemies rather than friends. They're often characterized as beings who are trying to take things that are important to us -- our water, our air, our minds. This is somewhat ironic, because people who are in favor of our traveling to other worlds often feel that it could be a great opportunity for us to find alternative fuels, bring back clean water, or dump our garbage. In other words, we would do to them the very things that the "evil aliens" in those movies do on earth. Maybe they're just trying to beat us to the punch.
Mr. Peckman believes those who live millions of miles away from us are very intelligent. This is also a common element of many science fiction stories and movies. I've often wondered, why are these beings generally thought of as so smart? Aren't they just as likely to be dumb? Maybe they'd land on earth and barely be able to speak. Maybe they'd decide to go for a drive in the middle of rush hour. Maybe they'd go to a high school reunion before going on a diet.
But smart or dumb, I agree with Peckman that we should plan on being good hosts. However, there is one group that is quite outspoken in their negative reaction to Peckman's initiative. This group that feels the proposal is unnecessary and rather silly is the Colorado state chapter of MUFON. On the off chance that you are unfamiliar with MUFON, it stands for the Mutual UFO Network. So, those who are serious about UFO's think this "be nice to extraterrestrials" is ridiculous. Maybe people who believe in werewolves laugh at those who believe in vampires.
There's probably another group that isn't so enthusiastic about the proposal. I don't think they'd be hospitable if aliens from another planet dropped in on us for a visit. I can just imagine their rhetoric: "I'm not against legal extraterrestrials, but those illegals have no place here. Those Martians who sneak into our atmosphere are taking jobs away from Americans."
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Home Improvement" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.