So, last night I was browsing the web and found a remake of one of my most beloved Twilight Zone episodes – “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” written by Rod Serling. I’ve always loved The Twilight Zone, it’s actually one of my all time favorite television series. I love it because the stories were so original, well written, compelling, and examined even critiqued so many relevant aspects of human society and people’s behavior.
I first saw Monsters when I was a child and it immediately struck a chord within me. At the time, I couldn’t articulate why it had such an impact, I only felt a gut reaction within me that told me they were on to something when they wrote it.
In the original, neighbors and friends on a quiet suburban street begin to turn on each other after a power outage because paranoia, suspicion, and hysteria have set in. They begin to think that one of them is talking to aliens from outer space, invaders, and the thought is originally instigated by a comic book a kid in the neighborhood had read. In the end, it is revealed that a couple of aliens have landed and are manipulating the power to see how humans react.
So, flip forward a few pages to our own present. To be truthful, the remake I saw last night hardly did the original episode any justice, however, one thing that was interesting to me was that they updated the cause of the fear to reflect our modern world, the fear of terrorism. Now, the residents fear that one of them may be a terrorist and that the power outage is a prelude to an attack. They attack and burn down the “odd ball” reclusive neighbor’s house as a mob convinced and driven wild by paranoia that they are the enemy who wants to kill them.
Crazy? Most likely.
But the point is valid.
Could this happen in a neighborhood? While not convinced, I do believe it is a very plausible possibility.
I’ve noticed lately that there seems to be more and more outbursts of anger and violence toward certain populations of our society, namely Muslims and their communities. I’ve read and seen news pieces where people have verbally threatened others for what they perceive as being different, perhaps the enemy, an enemy potentially planning an attack or a mass shooting. These outbursts have occurred at political rallies, at Mosques throughout the country, on our streets, and it seems as if more and more people are arming themselves in what they perceive as an effort to protect themselves. I’m not even sure some of these people know exactly who they are trying to protect themselves from. Sometimes it merely seems as if they are just plain scared, pure and simple.
But how far does it go? If we, as a civilization, would be willing to threaten and possibly hurt a segment of the population, a person who might just be our very own neighbor, then who’s next? Who’s next on our list of potential enemies? Who’s next on our list of someone being different, strange, or threatening? Where would it stop?
Our modern world seems to have become more and more ruled by fear. That fear is transforming into anger and sometimes violence. How do we reasonably protect ourselves without becoming a paranoid mob and possibly hurting someone who is a decent person, a fellow citizen, a neighbor, a human being who is merely trying to make a living and live peaceably in this world?
I came to believe, while fighting in Iraq, that fear is the root of most, if not all, of our problems in this world. Fear fuels anger, hate, violence, ignorance, prejudice and a host of other dark emotions we all have experienced at one time or another.
But I don’t believe it has to be that way. It is only when we give in to fear that we will, in my opinion, eventually end up self-destructing or hurting someone unintentionally and without a just cause. Maybe that’s one of our great challenges as a species, a challenge that I believe we can overcome in order to move forward together and live in a better world than the one we are building.