Growing up, I had a good friend whose father worked as an air-traffic controller at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

On a half dozen occasions during his career, my friend’s father was on the radio with Air Force pilots who described to him–and whatever commander happened to be on duty–cylinder crafts flying within eyesight.

The crafts moved incredibly fast; seemed to dance in and out of a cloaked state; and seemed to expand and contract as they moved. The cylinders did not show up on the tower’s radar.

To his credit, my friend’s father never indulged in untethered speculation about what those cylinders were. He only told us: “I have no doubt those jet pilots were telling the truth about what they saw. I heard the urgency in their voices, and they all described similar things.”

So it was with great nostalgia and interest that I read Scott Morefield’s essay at Townhall “If You Aren’t Paying Attention to the Latest UFO News, You Really, Really Should Be.”

Morefield discusses the recent recordings of flying objects on flight cameras by Navy pilots (which you can watch on YouTube). He quotes Navy pilot Chad Underwood:

“The thing that stood out to me the most was how erratic it was behaving,” [Underwood] said, describing the “Tic-Tac”-like object they encountered while flying the Navy’s Super Hornet fighters on combat exercises. “Its changes in altitude, airspeed, and aspect were just unlike things that I’ve ever encountered before flying against other air targets.”

The unclassified DOD report surrounding the event stated that the object seemed to go from 60,000 feet to 50 feet over the water “within seconds,” had no heat or wings, and “possibly demonstrated the ability to ‘cloak’ or become invisible to the human eye” and could even have the capability to “operate undersea completely undetectable by our most advanced sensors.”

Almost verbatim of what I heard as a child.

My point is not to stray into dubious UFO “evidence” or explore the myriad conspiracy theories around this topic. I’m still agnostic. There’s so little hard information. Besides, I’ve never seen anything of the sort myself.

My point is this: we now possess strong hints and a smattering of hard evidence that life in the cosmos may be far, far different than we understood before.

Nevertheless, teenagers, as represented by “youth-tivists” like Greta Thunberg and David Hogg, don’t seem to focusing on the wonders their future may soon unfold to them. Instead, many are playing the part of middle-aged catastrophe hysterics–what used to be the purview of bitter old San Francisco hippies and toothless street-corner doomsayers.

Many young people seem to oversimplify or outright deny the complexity of our emerging reality. They treat the future as a sad certainty with no surprises, only suffering. They hide in their mobile phones, unwilling or unable to make eye contact with the world around them, its contradictions and mysteries.

Young people two or three generations ago watched Star Trek on TV and wondered: “What might non-earth life look like? How might it behave? What sort of technology might they–and we–have soon?” As kookie as Star Trek was, the show invited young people to imagine the next phase in human existence; a phase with new neighbors, new challenges, and undreamt-of possibilities.

Few Americans are indulging in such imaginative exploration now. Instead, we perseverate over Reality TV, like the impeachment theater surrounding the president. We track the minutiae of obscure legal procedure and the personality conflicts of old men and women bickering over power.

When that fails to hold our focus, we watch rehashes and endless sequels of the same old TV shows and old movies, but with the imaginative flights replaced by a numbing barrage of CGI action.

Like sharks, we have stopped swimming forward, and our imaginations are suffocating.

A staggering number of young people have transformed into the paradoxical “leftist reactionary.” From grade school, they fret over amassing credentials and state-guaranteed security. They think not about building a future of prosperity and unity but about their own personal safety and the mundane project of  subdividing humanity into groups increasingly at odds with one another over their places on the identity totem pole.

In a darkly humorous inversion, old conservatives are hectoring young socialists: “Impose your imagination on the unknown! Take a few risks! Stop reducing yourself and others to superficial characteristics! Dream, for pete’s sake!”

Many young people demonstrate reflexive paranoia toward the most disruptive, optimistic, daring, and imaginative president the United States has elevated since John F. Kennedy. They demand his removal, to be replaced by the gray predictability of a vast, socialist welfare state.

Their icon is a disheveled 78-year-old retro-communist who has never done anything remotely daring or creative in his life, just sat in government and pulled a salary for more than four decades. His policy “innovations” amount to the New Deal on steroids plus more windmills and electric cars–which were first proposed in the mid 1800s.

Now would be a great time for the Tic-Tacs, if they truly exist, to perform some visible fly-bys for us all. Maybe we’ll get really lucky, and one will land at the Capitol, repatriating Adam Schiff to the penal colony on Pencil World from which he escaped years ago.

The United States has fallen into chronic complacency, fear, and imaginative poverty. T’would be much better for new wonders of the cosmos to shake us awake than, say, the horrors of war, as happened to our great-grandfathers.