Aliens, clowns and tolerance

Published 6:15 pm Monday, July 22, 2019

LaGrange resident

One possible Baby Boomer legacy claim is to be the “Generation of Tolerance.” After all, we are the generation who popularized “political correctness,” “diversity” and “inclusion,” not to mention the participation trophy. Clearly things are not perfect, but progress has been made in promoting the idea that differences should be embraced, not feared or hated. However, I think we should approach inclusion even more broadly, and there are a couple of demographics I would like to tee up.

The first group that comes to mind that is still being marginalized are extra-terrestrials. When will we stop depicting them with oversized heads and dinner plate-sized eyes when everyone knows they have five tentacles and two abdominal mandibles? 

And why does everyone want to focus on their acid-spewing nostrils and poisonous fangs, rather than their past cultural contributions, like building the pyramids and Stonehenge? With only occasional exceptions, the mass media insists on misrepresenting aliens as bloodthirsty invaders. I think it far more likely they are just directionally-challenged travelers. 

I think another ostracized group is clowns. Did you know “coulrophobia” is a real word defining our specific fear of clowns? Apart from having that grotesque oversized red nose, skin color normally associated with a corpse, a hideous painted-on smile, fuzzy big hair in a primary color and the general demeanor of a manic creep, it is unclear to me what makes a clown scary. If you feel like you personally have no bias against clowns, then I would ask you to submit to a simple litmus test: When did you last invite a clown to dinner? 

One need only watch any newscast to know that we have still need to grow in tolerance. But despite the fact that cultural change occurs more slowly than an asthmatic tortoise climbing uphill with ankle weights, we are moving in the right direction. Just a little over 150 years ago, slavery was abolished in this country. One hundred years ago, women won the right to vote. Fifty years ago, the country was struggling to enact the Civil Rights bill of 1964. This year, the Equality Act passed the house (although it is unlikely to be approved by the Senate). 

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that in 2060, the group currently identifying themselves as “white” will comprise only 44 percent of the U.S. population. Maybe with that profound change in ethnic distribution, we will come to genuinely embrace the words in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence which state that all men are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If so, maybe then we’ll be ready to work on our attitudes towards aliens and clowns.