Barbara's latest post mentioned alien invasions and aliens seeking refuge on Earth. These topics brought to mind the numerous SF scenarios in which contact with extraterrestrials, especially aggressive ones, brings the nations and cultures of our world together as one, overcoming all our age-old hostilities and perhaps leading to a unified Terran government. I've even read a story in which a small conspiracy of scientific geniuses fakes an alien invasion to incite peace and unity among the peoples of Earth. The Star Trek universe assumes a world government and a worldwide multicultural society, as exemplified by the rainbow of ethnic groups on the Enterprise, and we can infer from the ST movies and the TV series ENTERPRISE that humanity's first contact with the Vulcans initiated this process of unification.
Would it happen that way? On a PBS folk music special filmed a few years ago, one group sang a song whose chorus proclaimed, "On September the eleventh, we were all just Americans." I clearly remember that in the first few weeks after the 9-11 attack I felt obligated to be especially nice to everyone I met, because in a sense we were all going through a terrible catastrophe together. And most of the rest of the world rallied in support of us. Of course, as we know, this pervasive feeling of unity didn't last. (Months later, Miss Manners sardonically remarked in one of her columns that it was clear the terrorists hadn't won, because we'd started being rude to each other again.)
Would an alien invasion, or perhaps just the unsettling experience of alien first contact, make us feel that "we are all Earthlings" (in the words of a song on SESAME STREET)? And would such a unifying sentiment have permanent effects on the social and political climate of our planet? I would like to think so, but I fear much of the historical evidence is against it. Isaac Asimov dismissed fears of alien invasion on the grounds that any species advanced enough for interstellar travel would have outgrown aggression and war. How anyone who lived through the twentieth century could believe there's a necessary correlation between advanced technology and peaceful motivations baffles me. It was a nation noted for its scientific and technological achievements that perpetrated World War II and the Holocaust. As any Dungeons and Dragons player learns during the first game session, intelligence and wisdom are two separate qualities.
And yet -- we now have the European Union. We have the U.S. and Russia cooperating on the international space station. Maybe there is some hope for the future we SF fans dream of. If we meet the aliens (when they arrive) as a united Earth, our next step should be to learn to see extraterrestrials as "human," too.