Just Who Slept With the Pods?

by James Wallace Harris, 5/14/22

In the 1956 film, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dr. Miles Bennel (Kevin McCarthy) realizes his friends and neighbors are changing. One by one they all start thinking alike and that worries him. If you haven’t seen this famous film about the pod people you should. It’s based on a 1954 Collier’s serial by Jack Finney called The Body Snatchers, which was then published as a book in 1955.

The story is about an invasion of pods from outer space that transform people if they sleep in the same room with one. Back in the 1950s, the story was seen as an allegory about communism. Finney has said he didn’t target communism specifically when he wrote the book, but most readers and moviegoers did back then.

In 1951, Robert Heinlein had published a similarly themed novel called The Puppet Masters. In that story, flying saucers land with creatures that attach to our backs, and take over our bodies and minds. Heinlein was an arch anti-communist, and his story was intended to imply the evils of a commie takeover.

In 1953 Robert Sheckley’s story, “Keep Your Shape” reflected a liberal’s paranoia. It appeared in the November issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. Sheckley rewrote the story for his collection Untouched by Human Hands and gave the story a much more elegant ending and a different title, “Shape.” It’s a humorous story told from the aliens’ point of view, about how they invaded the Earth twenty-something times and always failed. The aliens come from a rigid society of shape-shifting creatures whose God dictates that everyone has to maintain a certain shape. On Earth, the aliens are corrupted by our freedom when they see that we take so many different shapes. Sheckley’s story was anti-establishment and anti-conforming.

My point in mentioning all these stories is I feel like the conservatives have been sleeping with pods or have an alien riding on their backs. I feel this because they all seem to speak the same way. It’s kind of creepy to see political ads for Republicans because they all claim to toe the party line better than any other Republican. They all claim to hold the same beliefs. And their followers all repeat the same soundbites. I’m sure conservatives feel the same way about us liberals.

A couple days ago The New York Times ran a book review called “Where Have All the Liberals Gone?” The conservatives have made the term liberal such a dirty word that liberals are now calling themselves progressives. Conservatives have aligned themselves so tightly with Donald Trump that it reminds me of the fanatics who follow Putin and everything he says.

It makes me feel like the Kevin McCarthy character wondering when I will fall asleep and wake up a pod person. I no longer think of communism when I watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I think of everyone following one leader, one strong man’s view. If you look at history, the dangerous horrors of the past didn’t come from ideologies, but from single men pushing their view of reality onto everyone else.

I no longer understand what conservative or liberal philosophies means, even if they ever had a consistent description of their goals. I’m now thinking it’s always been individual men pushing their own philosophy onto other people. (I use the word men because I can’t think of any women dictators in history. I hope women won’t mind me being sexist in this instance.) That’s why Trump is so popular – people resonate and relate to him. He is their political philosophy, no matter how you label it.

I want a true democracy. But I don’t think it will ever work when winning is defined as a 50% majority. I think it needs to be at least 60%, and better yet, a winning majority should be defined at 75%. I want to live in a society where we work to compromise and create laws that attempt to make 100% of the population happy. It will always fail to reach 100% agreement, but if we could work out compromises where 60-75% of the population come to some kind of agreement, then I think we could escape our never-ending political polarization.

Right now we vote for our self-interests. And we vote for candidates that come closest to those self-interests. I have to accept that Trump is a beacon shining on what a lot of people want. But as long as half the country wants something different we’re going to have a miserable society.

When 50% is the finish line for any political agenda, we’re going to be ruled by pod people. I think real democracy begins when 75% of the population hammers out good compromises. I don’t think one politician with one point of view could ever find that many followers. Maybe we should move away from politicians and have referendums on everything. If we can’t find ways to get three-fourths of us to agree, then we should do anything.

It doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum you live on, if we have minority rule, or even 50% majority rule, half the country will always feel they are living with pod people.

JWH

4 thoughts on “Just Who Slept With the Pods?”

  1. Liberals & Conservatives need to understand one another. And it looks to me like neither side even tries. Liberals, for example, want to “prevent gun violence.” Despite the rise of “gun violence” being closely linked to Liberal policies being enacted. At the same time, Liberals want to extend the franchise to folks who are not citizens of this country. You claim they should have the right to vote in our elections since they live here, too. So you want to extend civil rights to folks who aren’t citizens, and don’t really belong here, and take away civil rights from people who are citizens. Not to mention abortion. Liberals think that Conservatives want to take away their “freedom” to control their own bodies. They don’t seem to understand that aborted babies have their own civil rights. The very first one listed in the Declaration of Independence, in fact. Life. You have control over your body. You should not have control over the body of an innocent child. In most cases, anyway. I’d allow abortion exceptions for a rape victim, or a victim of incest. It is still not the baby’s fault, but neither is it the victim’s fault. They didn’t chose to take part in an act that can result in the conception of a baby. Liberals cannot, some reason, understand how Conservatives see things on the subject of abortion, 2nd Amendment Rights, or the Franchise.

    Looks to me like you don’t actually understand the concept of “Civil Rights.” It’s not just voting, or “controlling your own body.” Particularly when you remember that the same folks who want control of their own bodies for reproduction want to enforce vaccination and masking of folks who do not believe that the government has the authority to demand compliance. Your body, your choice, but my body, not my choice? How can you support that? How can you not see just how two-faced that is?

    Note that not all Liberals actually do all of those things, nor all Conservatives. I identify as fiscally Conservative, and socially Liberal. I don’t care who you sleep with as long as they are consenting adults. I do want social programs fully funded and written so that the purpose and extent of the support is limited and defined carefully. I don’t want to see people becoming dependent on government support when it is not absolutely necessary. I also don’t want to see people starving to death, or homeless. And most of us are one or two paychecks away from homelessness and hunger.

    Bill

    1. Bill, you are waving the Don’t Tread on Me flag, but if you got what you wanted, then 165 million other people will feel they are living under an oppressive government and they will start waving the Don’t Tread on Me flag. The political pendulum just keeps swinging back and forth making everyone miserable. We need to find a different path. We need to cut out the extremists at both ends of the political spectrum. Right now conservatives and liberals are mostly driven by the 15% on the far right and left. We need to switch to finding what makes the middle 70% happy through hammering out compromises. I’m not advocating anything specific right now other than changing the rule on what a winning majority is in an election. I say start with making it 55% and in twenty years make it 60%. We need a purple party that shuns both the extreme reds and the blues.

  2. Part of the problem with our country today is the suppression of voting and–on the other end of the spectrum–the lack of interest by millions of voters in voting at all. It’s hard to have a democracy if citizens don’t take the time to become informed and vote. Our public library just had an election for the library budget and members of the library board. Signs were put up, notices were sent to everyone in our city (about 30,000 residents) about the date of the election. The library budget passed 251 to 5.

    1. I want to maximize democracy. For it to succeed will require paying more attention to how things work. We’ll need to stop voting for what we want to vote for what is best for everyone. That will require learning about how other people and their needs.

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