“…And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!”
Macbeth- Billy S.
I decided to take the teevee plunge the other night and punched the square with the smiling A on it, and right at the top of the page that came up was a whole block dedicated to the new movie- “the Tomorrow War”. It so happened that we were in the mood for a ‘things blowing up’ story, which was a good thing, because hell and the audio track were certainly poppin’ all the way through. As the booms and rat-a-tat-tat’s commenced and advanced, at least one of our dogs headed to the porch, since the fourth of July was now a memory, of sorts- at least enough of one where even distant sounds of explosions from the night sky out there were few to none. As this sci-fi movie’s exposition spooled its way out, we found ourselves in a somewhat similar time of the now, except there was also this rather rickety ride to the future, that was an actual ride to the future, and definitely not a stupid ride like the Time Masheen, if you know what I mean. And so, we began to find out, without giving much of anything away, that people from their not too distant (30 or so years) future have come back to get some help fighting a menace that has arrived and is kind of kicking mankind’s collective ass, so to speak, and not only that, but this menace, that kind of looks like a horde of velociraptors on a bad acid trip, are also eating mankind for breakfast, lunch and dinner, literally.
Let’s just hit the imaginary pause button right there, since it’s about the same time I hit the real pause button on the teevee so I could visit the bathroom to get rid of the beer I was about to replace with the next can I grabbed from the fridge. I can’t say exactly when it hit me, but somewhere early on I had this Godzilla and Rodan kind of flashback, and more the “human in a Godzilla suit trashing a toy Tokyo” kind of flashback, versus a Gareth Edwards CGI masterwork. I make that distinction because it was said back there some time ago that one of the reasons the Japanese had been cranking out all those crazy, early monster movies was possibly because they were trying to work out the enormity of the atomic onslaught we had rained down upon them through monsters as war metaphor. They were trying to work through the trauma of people just vanishing from the face of the earth, with nothing to show for their time here, beyond becoming just a shadow stain on a wall or a pile of ashes on the sidewalk. With the giant lizard and the flying flame thrower, they were putting a face on evil, and at least then fictionally given the time and a chance to perhaps find some clever way to vanquish it.
I bring this up, because it seemed to me that in this Tomorrow War we, as the all-encompassing we, were being given a similar visual opportunity here in metaphorical terms. A short way into the Tomorrow War, we have these kids from a future that is just around our corner, coming back through a time warp to ask us for help with a problem they are encountering out there because they are finding it too overwhelming to deal with on their own. Is it just me, or does that remind you of something Jimi Hendrix once presciently sang when he mentioned something about coming back to find “the stars misplaced, and the smell of a world that is burned”? On the other hand, maybe framing climate change in metaphorical and truly horrifying terms might cause some to recognize the severity and immediacy of the imagined analog and actually do something about it. Oh wait, I think that’s already been done, in a number of visualizations and imaginings and factual enumerations, and look where that’s gotten us. It would also seem to be an awful lot to ask of nearly half of the population of these “United” States to even grasp the concept of didactic metaphor when they can’t even comprehend the practical application of life lessons to be gleaned from any number of parables set forth by a sacred character from an ancient text that they claim as the guiding light of their lives. Instead, they just take the shell of that character and rewrite the narrative to support whatever it is that they believe.
The problem with tomorrow is that there is always another one out there waiting to become today. Tomorrow exists mostly because of hope. Hope allows us to believe that no matter how much crap we have to slog through today, tomorrow will always bring a brighter dawn. Without giving too much away, what we and the future/past warriors of the Tomorrow War find is that the solution to their monster dilemma lies in their past. In some ways the main characters have their ruby slippers moment – of sorts- and have to go back to their time to find the solution to the problem that was previously only known to those in the future. In some ways, this situation has some parallels for the Us of this here and now. As we continue to experience the effects of a climate that is changing rapidly away from what we have been used to, and race and social and economic situations that continue to spiral downward and out of control, among other things, we are also finding pieces of history that were hidden or erased from our collective memories, all of which could have collectively led to a concern and awareness of these problems and issues years ago, and that could have provided valuable life lessons then that might have steered us away to a place that could have been much better than where we are now.
What some of us seem to be finding these days is that we are the fools of these yesterdays, or at least fooled by them. It would be nice to say that if we had the opportunity to hop in a time machine, that we could go back and undo whatever it was that we now see in a different light. One of the things we had problems with while watching the Tomorrow Wars was buying into the operating premises of time travel- meeting oneself as two different you’s in the same time for example. But can you imagine if everyone had the chance to go back and change things how chaotic that might be? As it is, we can only deal with change in terms of the now going into the future. In fact, learning of events like the white slaughter of Blacks in Tulsa in 1921, or the military slaughter of Native Americans at Sand Creek in 1864, is disturbing to find out about and troubling that they were suppressed and hidden for so many years. But if you do happen to have the opportunity to travel backward or forward in time, it would seem that regardless of your awareness of the past, a basic lack of awareness, or willful ignorance, of basic human rights and respect for life should preclude you from going anywhere before you get all the basic life lessons loaded and understood in your basic, operating software.
“Had those who lived in this one been less human, less brave, it would have happened to all the neighborhoods of Earth…”
As long as we’re jumping back and forth in time, let’s go back to 1964 and the first season of ‘the Outer Limits’. I don’t think we’d gotten our first color television set yet, which means it was either on that Philco wooden entertainment center in the basement or the black and gray plastic one with the rabbit ears on top in the kitchen breakfast nook where we saw this episode. For some reason, this one sticks in my head, although I had to look it up on the internets for the details. It was called “A Feasibility Study”, and after we lost control of both the horizontal and the vertical, it told the story of an entire neighborhood that was stolen by aliens. This particular group of space invaders was looking for a planet to conquer and a population to enslave. As it turned out, this neighborhood had been chosen to see how they would respond to alien contact. It also turned out that the aliens carried a disease that was toxic to the earthlings. What eventually happened was that the people of the neighborhood learned that they were guinea pigs, and if they survived, the aliens would go on to enslave the rest of the Earth, and so they all agreed to stand in a circle and hold each others hands and share an infection that one had contracted, and they all died and the aliens went away.
At the time, I could see that happening, I could buy into that premise, but I do not know that we could expect the same kind of cooperation in these times. I do not know what has changed. I could tell you what I see. There are native plants dying on this Island once again this summer, most likely because of record drought, and I saw trees from the native evergreen oaks in the Sierra Nevadas to the Sugar Maple in New York dying in large clusters on the two driving trips I took across country in 2018 and 2019. If you kneel on someone’s neck for nine and a half minutes and for most of that time they are telling you they can’t breathe, you should probably take your knee off their neck and help them up, especially if they have their hands cuffed behind their back. And if someone tells you that the rioters at the insurrection at the Capitol were “…peaceful people, were great people…”, you should probably wonder about their sanity, and certainly not consider them fit to be President of the United States, let alone as a candidate for re-election. I continue to be amazed that we somehow keep making it to tomorrow. I guess that’s why I stay around.