HOW WE LOOK FROM MARS
"Take me to your leader! I want to
download the contents of his brain.
It shouldn't take more than a few nanoseconds."
If Martians can't fathom
our politics, who can?
By CHUCK McFADDEN
The visitor from Mars, it turned out, was not a little green man. Oh, maybe a little. He was sort of a pleasant turquoise color, really, that rather nicely set off his red traveling suit. The fact that he had three sets of eyes in both the front and the back of his head was remarkable, of course, but after the initial shock of his visit had worn off, everyone got used to that.
Surprisingly, his English was impeccable. No accent, very colloquial, no grammatical errors. He explained that he had learned how to speak just about all of Earth's languages from years of monitoring television and radio broadcasts. (He did tend to interject 'Don't squeeze the Charmin!' at odd times during a conversation, apparently under the impression it was the funniest line ever uttered in Earthling broadcast history.)
It turned out that he was a reporter--a political reporter for the Martian Times-Dispatch. He had been assigned to do a series on Earthling politics, specifically presidential politics in the United States. (Or Tkj Xklxiuxh Pkjgohx, in Martian.)
The initial furor over his landing prevented him from immediately carrying out his assignment, unfortunately. But after the coast-to-coast lecture series had been completed, and he was taking his ease at a spa on the central California Coast near Santa Barbara, the Martian had at long last an opportunity to sit down with a colleague--an American political reporter for some belated, but in-depth questions about American politics. The very last part of the conversation took place in a cab on the way to the airport where the Martian was scheduled to board his space ship for the trip home.
"The Bush Administration just fascinates me," the Martian began. "You say he got to be president even though most voters wanted the other guy?"
"Yes," the American reporter replied. "It had to do with something we call the 'Electoral College' that assigns votes to the states, based on population. So if you get votes in key states, with big electoral college numbers, you can theoretically win even though you didn't get a majority of all the votes cast. Doesn't happen too often, but it happened this time."
"Now, about this business in Iraq," the Martian continued. "The Bush Administration went to war in Iraq because the awful Saddam Hussein was responsible for the terrible events of September 11, right?"
"Not quite," the American reporter replied. "In fact, no one is quite sure why we went to war in Iraq. There has been no evidence that Saddam was connected with September 11, even though a great many Americans have somehow come around to believing that. The Bushies originally said it was because Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction, but no one has found any so far. And the document that indicated that Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa for atomic weapons turned out to be forged. Then the Bush people said it was to eliminate a bad guy who threatened to destabilize the whole region, but given all the turmoil that's going on there now, they don't talk about that very much any more, either. The latest line is that, well, Saddam was a bad guy, period, and the world is better off without him, never mind weapons of mass destruction."
"Were the American soldiers welcomed with open arms by the Iraqis, as the Bush people said they would be?" the Martian asked.
"They most certainly were not," the reporter replied. "In fact, there have now been more soldiers killed in Iraq since the official end of the war than were killed during the war itself."
"Well, at least the United States has friends all over the world who are willing to help," the Martian said.
"As a matter of fact, most of the people of the world are pretty mad at the United States, and afraid of us," the American reporter replied.
"Afraid of you?" the Martian asked. "How can that be? The United States has always been a beacon of hope to the rest of the world."
"Not any more. Now, most people think we're a bunch of bullying cowboys."
"Let's turn to what you Earthling reporters call the domestic scene," the Martian continued. "There may be some disasters overseas, but at least the American economy is in good shape, right?"
"Well, no, it isn't, as a matter of fact," the American reporter replied. "For one thing, we've had three years of job losses. For another, we're headed toward record federal budget deficits "
"But these are Republicans in the Bush Administration!" the Martian interjected. "Aren't they the party of fiscal responsibility, holding the line against those silly Democrats?"
"That's what the Republicans used to say," the American answered. "But the Bushies have kind of turned things on their head. The last huge budget surplus was under a Democrat."
"But the Bush tax cuts are helping out the middle class and the poor people, right?
"Actually, the richest Americans are getting the most benefit out of those tax cuts. The middle class and the poor aren't getting much at all," the reporter said, shaking his head.
"How about the environment here on your planet?" the Martian asked, his antennae quivering slightly. "President Bush is interested in it, for sure. He's always talking about clean air, and green forests, and all that. So at least he's a strong environmental guy, right?"
The reporter shook his head again, sadly.
"The fact is the Administration ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to strip out some scientific information from a report on global warming; they also ordered changes in a report on air quality in the immediate aftermath of September 11; they've weakened environmental protection regulations across the board in favor of mining and timber interests, even while they've talked about 'clean air' and 'preserving forests.' "
"Well, at the very least, President Bush is a square shooter, and he levels with the American people," the Martian said, with just a hint of wistfulness in his voice.
"Afraid not," the American reporter replied. "The Bush Administration has achieved a reputation as one of the most secretive and misleading administrations ever--and if you look at the historical record, that's going some."
The Martian sighed.
"Well," he said, "A foreign policy that seems to be straight out of a Marx Brothers movie, an economy that seems to generate job losses more than anything else, a systematic effort to mislead people and an Alice in Wonderland environmental policy. Have I missed anything?"
"Don't get me started on the 16 words in the State of the Union speech," the American reporter said.
The Martian sighed again and crossed a pair of his six legs to get more comfortable. Then he smiled hopefully.
"At least in the face of all this abundant evidence of a confused, dishonest and incompetent administration, the Earthling voters will rise up and--what's that expression?--'Throw the bums out' in the election next year, right?"
"Probably not," the American reporter replied. "The great bulk of the American people seem to think the Bushies are on their side. Right now at least, all the polls indicate that the Bush Administration will easily be returned to office for another four years."
The Martian said a polite goodbye.
"We Martians have a long way to go before we understand Earth culture," he thought to himself. "And my series on the Bush Administration isn't going to be much help."
©2003 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The illustration is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA.
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