by Martin Murie
(Swans - December 15, 2008) They'd visited planet Earth once before, noticed polar sea ice and mountain glaciers melting at an unprecedented rate and wondered why the human animals kept on desperately prospecting for oil and coal to burn in their machines, releasing what they called greenhouse gases that speeded the warming of Earth and acidification of its oceans.
But now, on this, their second scouting trip, reporting back to home planet, Cygnus, they couldn't believe what they were picking up on their translators.
"We ought to warn the Earthlings," said Dendrocnus, the navigator.
"They keep going on with these wars, killing their own kind," said Sirenia, who was in charge of translators. "Can't we do something to stop this insanity?"
"Our mission is to report, not intervene."
Dendrocnus and Sirenia, citizens of the lizard tribe, traveled from a large planet where high gravity prohibited gigantism. No big elephants or dinosaurs roam Cygnus. Dendrocnus and Sirenia belong to a species, Amphitorans, at the very summit of the Cygnus size range. Their brains are equipped with frontal lobes of modest size, but the chiasma between the two hemispheres of their brains had, in the course of evolution, developed formidable intellectual abilities. Space travel among Amphitorans was now routine, the ships small and sleek as an otter.
Sirenia reported to the whip-tails at her home planet:
"We are in dangerous territory now, above the Nation the human animals call Iraq. From all accounts received from Earth, the Nation known as United States dominates the planet, but is making enemies as it keeps on with strange policies that neither Dendrocnus nor I can understand. The United States will not promise to hold back from using their formidable stock of nuclear weapons. Both Iraq and Afghanistan were invaded without permission from the United Nations or any other entity. The United States has abandoned treaties, relying instead on bilateral agreements with other nations that they call Coalition of the Willing. They refuse to talk to some nations on the grounds that those nations are 'against us, harboring terrorists.'"
On the early morning of the next day, the lizards' space ship, scarcely three yards in length, approached the northeast corner of the United States. Sirenia bent closely to her bank of translators, frowning as her long and slender tongue flickered in and out, tasting the stale air of the ship. "I'm picking up a faint signal from a radio station in Malone, a peace group complaining about TV and radio censorship, claiming that what they call the media bows down to the government and the armed forces and the government bows down to corporations. Those partnerships are what the peace people are attacking."
"Attacking? You mean Guns? Bombs? Drones?"
"No, posters on cardboard. Shut up, Dendrocnus, I'm trying to tune in the rest of the signal from this Malone station. They're talking about peace protests in Plattsburgh and Potsdam and Yellow Springs and Casper and a lot of other towns we've never heard of. Also, a big march across the north section of their state, New York, The Empire State, was reported locally, but very briefly, a hardly at all coast-to-coast to the general citizenship."
Dendrocnus tried to speak, but Sirenia shouted, "Hush, I'm getting another faint signal. Listen!"
Notwithstanding the attempted superficial, proverbial shedding of its blood-soaked skin, it will still remain an Empire; a poisonous snake with a different skin that is committed to subduing opposition at home and maintaining global hegemony abroad. (1)
They cruised on, crossed a big lake. Sirenia picked up another radio broadcast, faint, but stronger than the one from Malone.
"While I was campaigning in Syracuse, New York, this October in a city beset with hard times, a middle-aged blue-collar worker with calloused hands approached me after our discussion and said, 'I'm voting for myself, which is why I'm voting for you.' I took that declaration as a serious trusteeship and later on the campaign turned it into a basic question: 'Isn't it about time that we all voted for ourselves? Isn't it about time that we planned our futures rather than ceding that essential function of citizenship to giant rootless corporations?" (2)
The space ship entered the Great Plains region. "Dendrocnus, I'm on what the humans call World Wide Web. Hear this!"
"I Russell Means, due to total absence of Tribal Government and its leadership, and as candidate for Tribal President and Chief Facilitator of the Republic of Lakotah, am declaring an INTERNATIONAL STATE OF EMERGENCY. 1) The current life-threatening severe weather conditions and 2) The ongoing genocidal policies of the United States Government that still remain unaddressed . . ." (3)
They cruised on. Above the Colorado Plateau Sirenia caught another low-powered report, but the translator performed well.
"On Saturday, November 15, at 8:00 am, at the National Archives Building on Connecticut Ave., eight military veterans and a military mother climbed a 9-foot retaining fence and occupied a ninety-foot high scaffolding to raise two 450-square-foot banners stating, DEFEND OUR CONSTITUTION. ARREST BUSH AND CHENEY: WAR CRIMINALS. And, WE WILL NOT BE SILENT.
"Members of Veterans for Peace chose the Archives for their nonviolent protest because it is symbolic of their military oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." (4)
They turned south-east, reached the Gulf of Mexico. Another report.
"We want our forests protected and restored; we want sustainable resource use and reuse, and we want less waste to dispose. We want renewable energy and we don't want policies that pit food production against energy production. We want drinkable and clean water, soil, and air. We want to live within our resource means.
"We need air, land, water, climate, production, and consumption policies that reflect the real limits within which we must live. We need an entirely new paradigm that encourages us to produce green, local, and fairly; most importantly we need true, representative government that serves the needs of the people over that of corporations so that these policies can become law." (5)
Dendrocnus leaned back from his high-backed navigator seat. "That corporation word keeps showing up. We've got to learn what it means. We know that corporations trade big bags of money for TV and radio stations to display their wares, but that's about all we know. Why do TVs show females spraying some kind of chemical inside their houses? Are they afraid of body odors, or is it a mist that makes them happy? They always end up with pleased expressions. And they pour mysterious chemicals on furniture and counters and rugs and, well, just about everywhere. Is that another happiness thing? Isn't all this a kind of separation from what's really going on outside their houses?"
"I think you've got something there, Dendrocnus, but remember, those are TV fantasies, created to sell products.
When the director of the fantasy says 'Smile,' the actors smile. However, rootless corporations in the Nader-Gonzalez statement does back up your suggestion. Lizards and frogs and other creatures down there are more in tune with the earth than those human animals. And I have a confession, it pains me to feel alienated from the human animals, but I am so repulsed by their big mouths biting into big hunks of bread and meat and then they get such a pleased expression on their faces! It disgusts me, really."
"Me too, but, like you just said, it's fantasy, and let's keep this just between you and me. After all, we are supposed to show solidarity to living creatures in the universe, no matter how disgusting their appearance or size or behavior. I'm getting nervous, this is a death planet. Let's go home."
"One more journey around Earth and then we can ask the whip-tails for permission to return. We can't hang around this planet, too scary."
"Do you suppose corporations are like those lizard-eating birds on Cygnus? Or snakes? Like that snake shedding its bloody skin in the Black Commentator report. Snakes eat lizards too."
"Don't get too personal, Dendrocnus."
They turned west and reached the Pacific coast and journeyed on, taking pains to pick up ultra-faint radio waves they had ignored during the previous day and night. And they watched TV images with greater attention.
These two lizards are smart. That's why they were chosen for journeys to Earth, but they were not at all satisfied with their attempts to understand the Big Picture on planet Earth. Frustrated and irritable, they cruised across the huge mountains of the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands. Worn out, they slept. In the morning the ship again neared the east coast of the United States.
Dendrocnus said, "Remember that little tag of information you picked up from, can't recall the name . . . mentioned genocide not yet addressed by the United States? We know that genocide refers to killing animals of the same species."
"It was Russell Means, candidate for Tribal President of the Republic of Lakotah. What about him?"
"Well, suppose the peace protesters are right, that the wars and the media and governments are all together in one big death march. Your comment, yesterday, about peace animals attacking government and media . . ."
"Shouldn't have said attacking. They write words and show the words to other animals. They don't kill."
"Yes, I understand, but don't words instead of guns show us there is a very deep antagonism between the gun people and the word people? I know, we should hold back from drawing conclusions about things we don't thoroughly understand. However, we can go this far: there is tremendous suffering on this planet, and antagonism among the human animals. Come on, Sirenia, we know that much, admit it."
"I agree, we know that much. But why? Human animals killing other humans is a phenomenon I can't get my mind around. Why do they go on and on like that?"
"When we get home let's consult with other Amphitorans. Some of them have explored other planets where there is life. They might have clues to match ours."
The two lizards returned to Cygnus. The whip-tails broadcast their conclusions to Amphitorans and any other Cygnus creatures who knew the Amphi way of speaking. Consultations took place and in a couple of days the Amphitorans were assured that even if planet Earth went up in flames, nuclear or otherwise, it would be, in the very worst scenario, a mere blip on the telescope screens. Things calmed down for another day until activists, a new word, borrowed from Sirenia's and Dendrocnus's report, got together and demanded that the whip-tails send word to Earth to warn the humans that they were marching to the wrong drumbeat (another borrowed phrase). The activists broadcast a slogan to all of Cygnus: We animals have responsibility to fellow animals.
The whip-tails responded, quoting Sirenia and Dendrocnus: "They aren't listening to their own species, the peace and justice animals. They aren't going to listen to a nation of lizards." But the whip-tails, having second thoughts, decided that the activists were on to a fundamental principle, that solidarity meant something. An attempt had to be made.
In the waning days of December, Earth time, in many places in the daylight skies over Earth, spaceships manned by lizards spread smoke signals.
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