I began thinking about nostalgia by feeling it – an impending nostalgia for my time in Madison, the constant low-level nostalgia for the years spent amongst friends in Arizona. My dad’s dog (which is to say, my first family dog) died a few days ago at the ripe age of 14, and all of us who loved her are feeling pangs for the velvet ears she wore in her puppyhood. (Plus for the many ways in which she was a pain in the ass. They’re how we knew she belonged with us.)
Here my thinking took a slight turn. You know that wrenching Kurt Vonnegut quote that makes the rounds from time to time? It comes from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and it goes like this:
“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
Well, that’s nice right? If that’s not nice, I don’t know what is. But how’s this for a totally different kind of nostalgia? Every time I read that quote, I hear it spoken in Will Smith’s voice, because of the scene in Independence Day when he punches out that alien.
Are you too young to have seen Independence Day? Are you some kind of mockery of a human being? I’ll help you out. Basically, a bunch of aliens have begun invading Earth, conveniently right around the 4th of July. Will Smith is an Air Force pilot or something, and his vacation is ruined, as he reminds us throughout the film.
For reasons I can’t recall he ends up in the desert – wounded, angry, and incredulous – at the crash site of one alien ship. He creeps up to what turns out to be the door. What could this strange thing be? he seems to be wondering. What will I find here? What new turn could the human race take after my encounter?
Then the door opens and he pulls out the alien and punches the living daylights out of it. Like this:
[Will Smith punches alien]
Smith: Welcome to Earth.
POW! – Welcome to Earth. I’m not sure that’s what Kurt Vonnegut was going for*, but I hear it anyway.
For more on nostalgia, check out Yumi Sakugawa’s strange and magnificent comics.
(And just because everyone should get the opportunity to see the real thing, here’s Will Smith again.)
*Actually, I’m pretty sure it was not.