Are we keeping away aliens with our behavior towards disabled people?
After speaking with me a little, it doesn’t take long to realize I am a giant nerd. I love Science Fiction and I never turn down a good Outer Limits or Doctor Who marathon. It makes my heart beat fast when I hear the words “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission,” or “Are you my mummy?” Just thinking about it now makes me a bit giddy.
Recently, I was excited to take part in a discussion on aliens. The topic was “What if the aliens were actually watching us?” What if they were watching us and judging us based on how we treat people with disabilities. Maybe that’s why aliens haven’t communicated with us. Why people with disabilities, though? Think about it. People with disabilities are a diverse community. Anyone can be disabled. Race, wealth, age… none of it is a factor in determining who has a disability and who doesn’t. Television and movies show us that sight, hearing, and mobility are all attributes that also vary depending on the type of alien. It’s not such a leap to think they might be judging our world based on we treat a community much like theirs.
Would aliens even consider a person as having a disability, though, or would it be business as usual on their planet? Not all aliens speak or can speak, hear, or see. There are aliens with differing mobility, size, and shape. Traditional aliens from movies set in the 50’s all used telepathy. The aliens from the Alien franchise do not have eyes and rely on sound to stalk their prey. Chewbacca is nonverbal but uses a limited amount of noises and physical gestures to communicate. Author Temple Grandin mentioned in an interview that she loved the character of Mr. Spock because his ability to act without emotion made it more possible for him to save the day where Captain Kirk could not. While the show was airing, Leonard Nimoy was often applauded for his character’s parallels to the life of an autistic person’s. It’s not a stretch to say that many aliens have similar backgrounds to people with disabilities. I would be curious to know if they face the same ignorance and prejudice that people on Earth often do because of their disabilities.
The media teaches us that aliens are weird beings and very often to be feared. However, what if they aren’t? The media also says that people with disabilities should be pitied or feared because of our disabilities. We are told to praise able-bodied counterparts who take pity and assist us with daily tasks “out of kindness.” Parents who murder their children are pitied because they were “brave” for dealing with a child with a disability for as long as they had. Never mind that a person was murdered because they were an inconvenience to another person. It’s acceptable to take pictures of us eating without our consent and make a human interest story out of it. It’s expected that we are denied access to standard services we need to live and treated like freeloaders because of our disabilities.
What if the aliens see the way society treats disabled people who are so much like them and have decided they don’t want any part in our world? What if aliens are just looking at our ability to be accepting towards people so similar to themselves? An alien race that cannot hear and communicates with hand gestures may be watching how poorly our society treats Deaf people and decided they don’t want to interact with us because we’ve proven that we wouldn’t treat them with respect. The same goes for a short statured alien race, or perhaps an alien race that does not have eyes or that are nonverbal. Maybe the universe is a vastly diverse place. Do you think they would approve of us? How do you think we are doing as a planet? I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but next time I’m sitting down for a Twilight Zone marathon, I’ll keep an open mind.