The original Twilight Zone TV series easily ranks as one of my all-time favorite programs. The Twilight Zone has been in constant reruns since the mid-1960s and can be found on Netflix, SYFY, and on classic TV channels.
Through brilliant writing and storytelling, The Twilight Zone’s stories often reflected contemporary fears- nuclear war, communism, alien invasions- and weaved them into weekly stories. The themes of these shows, though produced in the late ’50s and early ’60s can also apply to our current times.
One particular episode, The Monsters are due on Maple Street, can serve as an illustration of how people are dealing with the Coronavirus, especially the responses of protesters, local, state, and federal governments.
The Monsters are due on Maple Street originally aired on March 4, 1960 on CBS. The story begins with a scene of Maple Street, a picturesque view of late 50s/early 60s suburban Americana, not to different from Leave It to Beaver.
The tranquility and repose of Maple Street is soon interrupted by a flash of light and a loud noise in the sky. Everyone on the street sees the light and hears the noise. The street loses power, the phone lines go dead, and cars won’t start.
Two of the main characters, Steve and Charlie decide to walk downtown to get answers about the power outage when they are warned by Tommy, one of the neighborhood kids.
“They don’t want you to,” Tommy warns. Tommy also points up at the sky and acknowledges “them.”
Tommy then proceeds to tell the plot of a sci-fi book he read, where the aliens sent people ahead, who look like regular people.
Tommy’s warning is dismissed as him reading too many comic books or watching too many movies. People still claim the light was a meteor. The arguing begins when Les’ car starts and shuts off on its own. The neighbors then try to make Les out to be an alien and question his odd behavior, such as looking up at the stars at night, which Les attributes to insomnia.
As night falls on Maple Street, accusations begin to fly from every direction, and an innocent man, Pete Van Horn is shot and killed by Charlie because Pete was walking in the dark, which Charlie assumed it “was the monster.” Eventually the tension reaches the breaking point and a riot breaks out, as everyone goes after their neighbors and the neighborhood is destroyed.
The camera pans away from Maple Street to a hill outside of town, where there are two human-looking aliens. One alien explains the procedure: “Stop a few of their machines, radios, televisions, and lawnmowers. Throw them into darkness for a few hours. Sit back and watch the pattern…They always pick the most dangerous enemy-themselves.” All the aliens have to do is watch, which is what they do until the board their ship and fly into space.
I find the parallels of The Monsters are due on Maple Street and the political fallout over the Coronavirus in the U.S. to be uncanny. Just as the worst came out of the residents of Maple Street, so too has the worst come out in some Americans,with armed protesters at state capitols and others refusing stay at home orders. The case with the Coronavirus has become fodder for conspiracy theorists, even President Donald Trump, who dismissed the early days of the pandemic as a “hoax” which was simply out to crash the economy. Many of these protesters are looking for an enemy, someone whom they can blame for their troubles, like the people of Maple Street. People are looking out for only their self-interest and not considering the greater good.
I understand people are desperate and their lives have been turned upside down by this virus. I understand people are hurting, but that doesn’t give one the right to bring harm or ill health to others. Making a virus a political issue is the worst thing that could have happened,because political agendas and irrational emotion have replaced reason and scientific facts. Science is being pointed at as an enemy. People have framed this virus as an attack on personal liberty, religious freedom, a new world order, or whatnot. This is not a time to look for a boogeyman, it’s time to bring healing to those who are sick. It’s time to show compassion for those who are less fortunate. Is this a frustrating situation? Yes. Covid-19 has affected the lives of billions of people around the world. It is time for Americans to tune out the partisan rhetoric and lend a hand to your fellow man,woman, and child. If you value your personal liberty, you still have a responsibility to use it in a peaceful manner and not to walk over someone else. Please, bring yourself to a calm and rational place. We don’t need pandemics of paranoia, ignorance, and fear in the midst of a far more serious pandemic.