UFO video
A UFO video released by the Pentagon to CNN. Image from broadcast

Take a hard look at the video.  You may see space alien vehicles, but I’m not so sure.  In fact, I’m almost certain recent news of an unidentified flying object off the coast of San Diego is not evidence of visitors from outer space or even Chinese/Russian advanced technology, but timely escapist fare that helps us ignore the harsh realities of 2021.

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A couple weeks ago, the Pentagon released grainy video of blurry UFO images captured by Navy aviators; the footage subsequently produced many wild theories from UFO enthusiasts.  However, I contend this desire to believe in imaginative UFO scenarios, or as the Pentagon now prefers to call them—unidentified aerial phenomena —merely reflects our society’s underlying need to distract attention from the wearisome and more pressing issues we must face on a daily basis.         

To some UFO fans, for example, the grainy footage represents proof of highly advanced extraterrestrial technology capable of transporting aliens across the universe at speeds that defy what we deem to be the laws of physics.  But I see this news of UFOs off the coast of San Diego, playfully evading the reach of our Navy’s aircraft carriers and submarines, as a highly ironic distraction from reality, considering that each night human smugglers play a deadly cat and mouse game evading our maritime Homeland Security forces with low tech panga boats to bring in aliens of the undocumented kind. 

San Diegans enjoy speculating about the technology that allows a mysterious UFO to maneuver through the sky and water like a Star Wars Millennial Falcon, but we yawn when reading about one more Panga boat (developed by Yamaha way back in 1970) found deserted on our shores. We prefer our aliens super-fast and nimble, not slow and sneaky.

On the other hand, many people do not associate these UFOs as national security threats emanating from outside our solar system. Rather, they see these fast moving objects as evidence of Russian or Chinese leaps in technology, and they worry what this portends for any future conflict with such global rivals.

How will we able to defend ourselves against a country possessing this level of technology?  Imagine what kind of harm this advanced technology would inflict on our U.S. Navy carrier battle groups. They call for upping our national defense budget and thereby closing the UFO technology gap. In this sense, UFOs become effective lobbying tools for the military-industrial complex. 

And yet, I think back on the last time one of our Navy ships was severely damaged.  The USS Bonhomme Richard went up in smoke, damaged beyond repair, as the result of a fire that occurred here in San Diego back in July 2020. Investigations to determine the cause of the fire are still ongoing, and arson has not been ruled out. 

I like to think of myself as an open-minded guy, so I’m tentatively leaving open the ever-so-slight possibility that mischievous spacemen had something to do with the fire, but when the mystery is solved I believe the origins will be more homegrown. Chances are good Russia, China and voyagers from all other planet in the universe will be exonerated, and someone will eventually evoke the famous Pogo saying…”We have met the enemy, and he is us.” 

Speaking of the military, the other great disaster that occurred in nearby San Diego waters—off of San Clemente Island—was the July 30, 2020, sinking of a Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle that resulted in the deaths of eight Marines and a sailor.  The preliminary investigation found fault with serious AAV maintenance, safety and training issues that went overlooked by the chain of command.  

Military maintenance, safety and training requires countless hours of hard work, planning, and diligence. These countless hours are rarely associated with anything exotic or worthy of a sci-fi action movie.  No wonder we choose to be distracted by UFOs.  Galactic visitors joy riding off our coast in cool high speed vehicles are never hobbled by bothersome maintenance problems, even after traveling millions of light years through heavy radiation and pesky asteroid showers.

After all, when is the last time anyone filmed a UFO being towed by the equivalent of a UFO tow truck? We assume these spacemen have all received the appropriate safety certifications required by their respective planetary bureaucracies. No one ponders the tedious task of inspecting their safety paperwork. In their own unique way, UFOs serve as convenient escapist symbols of what travel would be like if we didn’t have to worry about the current limitations of our own transportation technology.   

Finally, many fans of UFOs favor portraying the blurry objects captured on video as the vanguard of a future alien invasion. That’s somehow more alluring and dramatic than viewing them as renegade flying saucer jockeys, or alienated leather jacketed teen aliens, tooling around the universe with no other purpose than to recklessly rev up their anti-matter fueled engines.

However, I want to take it a step further and propose one other mundane possibility. I have recently noticed a significant increase in the number of RVs and vans parked daily alongside Old Sea World Drive, a strip of road located parallel to the San Diego River near where it empties into the supposed UFO-infested waters of the Pacific Ocean.  These are the kind of RVs and vans—along with their “houseless” inhabitants—featured in the Oscar winning movie Nomadland.  

As in the movie, this increase may represent the widening economic disparities between America’s haves and have-nots, or it may just represent the growing desire to lead an alternative lifestyle free of traditional middle class accouterments. Nevertheless, I want to suggest those UFOs flying off our coast could be independent-minded space nomads in search of a cheap place to live. And who can blame them?  The fact that they remain off the coast and never make land is understandable considering the recent jump in San Diego real estate prices.

Needless to say, we’ve been experiencing a tough time. Reality is one tough hombre. The UFO/UAP diversion may just be the salve needed to ease us into a brighter post-pandemic world, or at least until such time that Oprah distracts us by conducting another interview with Prince Harry and Meagan Markle.

Steve Rodriguez is a retired Marine Corps officer and high school teacher who last taught at Olympian High School in Chula Vista.