‘There are many things the State’s hiding of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is. It is disgusting. It is reprehensible. It is a setback for democracy. But there is one thing that it isn’t: surprising. Our leaders want us to forget what the stars look like so that we will never dream of the Great Barricade coming down. And they are mad enough to think that they can erase every cultural reference to a star. What’s next? When the holidays come will we be able to put a star on top of the tree?’
And so began the blogging career of an Earthling whose name is now known among the stars Van Gogh painted…
Dr. Vyryn looked away from his computer screen and rested his head in his hands. He had read C’therax’s article on the Earthling Sarah Debattista three times now. It bothered him more and more each time.
Dr. Vyryn tapped his watch and said, “C’therax…can you come here.”
Over the communicator, C’therax gave his affirmative. Dr. Vyryn read through the article a fourth time while he waited.
C’therax came into Dr. Vyryn’s private quarters and sat down across from him.
“C’therax…your telling of Sarah’s life reads like a parable,” Dr. Vyryn began.
“In what way?” C’therax asked.
“You begin with her protesting how Earthling culture is being put under attack, you then progress to her father’s raging against misguided compromises and your narrative climaxes with her using the ancient Martian Coat of Arms to signal for help,” Dr Vyryn said, “Now if I look at your opinion articles for the past month…let’s see…you lament that we have watered down the following of the Immutable in what you call a ‘misguided attempt to win the acceptance of lukewarm friends,’ you rage against those who would seek immoral compromises in the name of a ‘shallow peace’ and you have several articles on the history of the Old C’rululian kings and their Coats of Arms. ”
“You think my love of tradition is close-minded?” C’therax asked.
“Just odd. You are so young. What do musty kings and ancient philosophers and old rites mean to you? And why emphasize Sarah’s use of that old-fashioned symbol when there are many other ways you have made her more…personable to our readers who don’t share your fascination with the C’rululian kings?” Dr. Vyryn asked.
C’therax let out a sigh.
“My job as a reporter is not to make Sarah personable. It’s to show her as she is,” Ctherax said, “And her respect for our old ways is important. When the Earthlings first began to feel suspicious of the multiterrestrials that walked among them, many people—if you don’t mind me saying this, it was generally people from your generation—said that if earth-bound multiterrestrials tried to ‘blend in’ more with the Earthlings we would earn their respect. But the exact opposite happened. When the Earthling rulers saw they could make us put away the signs of our most treasured heroes they came to believe that they could make us change our ways on anything and everything. It was wear Earthling clothes first, stop celebrating Martian holidays second, refuse to speak of the Immutable next. And every time we gave up a bit of our culture we were told that if we gave up just one more thing then we would be ‘Earth-y’ enough to be accepted by them.”
Dr. Vyryn looked down. He had heard this narrative several times. It didn’t make it any easier to hear.
“But it was never enough,” C’therax continued. “At the prodding of our short-sighted leaders, our Earth-bound brothers and sisters lost more and more of themselves until it was too late. Now they are trapped behind the Barricade. I…I don’t mean to speak ill of you sir…I regard you as an elder, I appreciate all you do for the Muckraker. But your generation was so busy on trying to make Martian ways acceptable to others that we forgot what our culture was worth. And your generation never understood this simple truth: someone will either accept you or they will not. No amount of appeasement will ever change that. We should have built relationships with true allies, like Sarah, even if they were less numerous, than try and negotiate with dogs and swine.”
Dr. Vyryn nodded. After some small talk, C’therax left.
Dr. Vyryn sighed deeply. Wouldn’t have been worse for the multiterrestrials if they had thumbed their noses at the Earthling rulers? Earthling culture had come to embody a deep disgust for the past and for anything deemed unscientific…old Martian culture was just the opposite. Both thought the other primitive. Deep in thought, Dr. Vyryn made himself some tea, complete with comet dust seasoning.
He wondered why he didn’t refute C’therax. Eventually, he realized it was because he wasn’t sure what he believed anymore. There had been so much hope for interplanetary dialog when he was C’therax’s age and suddenly it had all vanished. The youth were all angry. Some, like C’therax, channeled that rage into a relatively constructive enterprise. Some didn’t. But Dr. Vyryn knew that the youth, en masse, had rejected the interplanetary compromises his generation had worked so hard on. And considering how economically and…well…even spiritually broken the universe had become, he couldn’t blame them.
Nonetheless, Dr. Vyryn felt sick in his soul, and realized he couldn’t join them either. He sipped his tea and looked at the stars outside his window. He hoped the Earthlings and those who hid among them would be able to see their twinkle soon.
To be continued…
First time here? Previously on the Martian Muckraker…
(Picture by Casey Homer at Unsplash)