Civil Rights is a term that has been applied to efforts of fairness and inclusion for groups who have been marginalized due to ethnicity, gender, religious belief, socio-economic status, age, disability, sexual-orientation, as well as other noteworthy classifications. Is it not time to advocate for the better treatment of experiencers?
For the last decade, I have been an active member of a committee for diversity and inclusion at the college where I’m employed. I have seen good efforts toward educating the community on how to develop a better culture of understanding and respect alongside those whom are different from ourselves and I think there are some tools from these efforts that can be applied to encouraging better treatment of the experiencer community.
I define an experiencer as anyone who has encountered a paranormal intelligence, be it extraterrestrial, cryptid, or spirit.
Why should so much consideration be paid to such a small minority. Here are two reasons. The first reason is that mainstream culture is ignoring often-times credible individuals who have witnessed aspects of nature and reality that would revolutionize our knowledge of the universe if what they said was embraced as truth that only needed to be better understood.
The second reason is that no one knows just how big of a minority experiencers are. Most experiencers do not tend to publicly self-identify. A comparison here might be drawn to the LGBT population. It wasn’t until a large number of gays and lesbians felt safe coming “out of the closet” that many people realized what a sizeable population they are.
Like many minority groups, experiencers might best be classified as having knowledge of things in an area where others are only able to possess beliefs. In this case, they know what it’s like to see something that others question even exists.
A wide variety of personal beliefs often do admittedly follow from unexplainable experiences, however, having theories based on first-hand knowledge is generally superior to the confirmation bias of imaginative bystanders. Also, it is interesting to note that someone who only has a belief (or disbelief) on paranormal topics is generally tolerated, but an individual who claims knowledge is considered mentally suspect.
So, in one sense they are a group based on an idea, like a political group or a religion. However, as the late Budd Hopkins said in his book Witnessed on UFO abductees, "I once remarked on the fact that the UFO abduction phenomenon, its investigators, and the abductees themselves had been labeled a cult by a particular debunker. I pointed out that it was quite the reverse. A true cult…is all beliefs and no miracles. The UFO phenomenon is all miracles and no beliefs." (Hopkins, 1996).
While not all experiencers have bad encounters, many do, and this group can be then also defined by something like a shared disability, this being the mental and sometimes physical trauma of an encounter with a paranormal intelligence. And, sadly, insult is added to injury when those who have been taken against their will are ostracized for publicly confessing these trespasses.
This last group is the one who is in need of compassionate assistance most desperately and mental health professionals would seem the go-to group to alleviate stress, however, most therapists (initially, at least) look at experiencers through a lens of disbelief and apply the question, "What factors are responsible for such delusions?"
When the public was likely paying closer attention to the UFO/abduction phenomenon than they are today, investigators like Dr. David Jacobs and the late Budd Hopkins and Dr. John Mack (and I’m only mentioning a small few) were the public face to the suffering of abductees. They advocated on behalf of abductees and this helped show that abductees were regular people who were going through strange and often difficult times.
Currently, there are far fewer advocates in the public spotlight, though they are still out there. Kathleen Marden, for example, is one of the most visible UFO experiencer advocates these days and we need many more prominent and articulate supporters like her to keep the subject of abduction in the proper light.
Another thing that is particularly helpful is the support group. These sociable gatherings amongst experiencers, generally held at someone’s home, are able to go a long way toward giving solace and prove that a sense of community may be the best medicine. Unfortunately, though, many of these groups are understandably rather private and usually difficult to discover.
What may be best that isn’t currently seen on a large enough scale would perhaps be a visible and vocal community of experiencers who support each other. This might possibly take the form of a larger witness-based internet presence and more witness-based public events along the lines of the excellent Experiencers Speak Conference hosted by Starborn Support. A high volume of experiencers coming forth might just nudge open the floodgates to greater public acceptance.
It is clear, in any case, that we need more experiencer voices heard. Our culture has a problem with long-term memory and it needs to be constantly reminded of important things it tends to forget…like we’re regularly being visited by extraterrestrials, unclassified creatures in the wild, and ghosts.
This is where you come in, those who are part of this marginalized community. The world needs to hear what happened to you, if you are able to share. Do it for those who won’t feel comfortable participating unless someone brave has gone before them. Let’s start, well... a civil rights movement.
Works Cited: Hopkins, B. (1996). Witnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions. New York: Pocket Books. 312-313.
Bill Konkolesky is state director of Michigan MUFON, Inc. (www.mimufon.org). Konkolesky has appeared, recounting his personal abduction experiences, on ABC’s "Peter Jennings: Seeing is Believing," and the SCI-FI Channel’s "Abuction Diaries." He is a listed contributor to the books, Filer’s Files: Worldwide Reports of UFO Sightings, by George Filer and David Twichell, as well as Weird Michigan: Your Travel Guide to Michigan’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, by Linda Godfrey. Konkolesky lectures regularly in the Detroit area on UFOs and the abduction phenomenon.