Hashtags, Politics and The Twilight Zone
One of my favorite television shows when I was growing up in the 60s was Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. I remember many episodes from that amazing series, but over five decades later, one in particular stands out: “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” Airing in March of 1960, the story takes place in a, then typical white American suburb complete with barbecues and manicured lawns. It is a classic example of Serling’s skill at taking us from the ordinary to the extraordinary in a scant 30 minutes.
If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t want to know the details, I suggest you bookmark this article, enjoy the show, which is available on numerous pay and subscription feeds, and come back later.
The episode begins when the customary calm of Maple Street is disrupted by a flash of light that appears in the sky. Neighbors assume it is a meteor until they lose electric and phone service. While the adults confer on possibilities and solutions, a young boy offers his own explanation. He tells them about a book he’s read that makes him think it wasn’t a meteor, but a spaceship with aliens sent to earth to take over the planet. According to the book, teams of aliens had been sent to the planet years earlier and since they looked human they were able to blend in. Most of the adults laugh at his tale, but the close-up camera shots of their faces reveal that a seed has been planted.
With the occurrence of other strange events, such as unattended cars starting and lights in different homes flashing on and off, the good residents of Maple Street begin to panic. Chaos ensues. A neighbor who had gone off to check other areas is shot as he returns. Angry mobs accuse one individual after another of being an alien, shouting, screaming, throwing rocks and assaulting one another. When the scene fades from a no longer serene Maple Street we overhear a conversation between two aliens—dead ringers for local residents—discussing their plan for the citizens of earth:
“Understand the procedure now? Just stop a few of their machines, and radios and telephones and lawnmowers. Throw them into darkness for a few hours and then sit back and watch the pattern.”
“And this pattern is always the same?”
“With few variations. They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it’s themselves. All we need do is sit back and watch.”
“Then I take it this place, this Maple Street is not unique.”
“By no means. Their world is full of Maple Streets. And we’ll go from one to the other and let them destroy themselves. One to the other. One to the other.”
What, you might ask, does this have to do with hashtags and politics, and women here at Me-At Last!? If you spend any time on social media you have learned that it doesn’t take much to make something trend. Right or wrong, repeat it often, choose the words and/or images that you know will incite fear or hatred, and boom…you have created a wave in the internet ocean. If it catches on, it’s a tsunami, and potentially just as deadly.
We face a unique problem these days. Liars can spread their lies without consequence or limits. We know that Russia has been working on this for years and they successfully made a mess of something we hold dear, our election. They did what the aliens did. They threw us into darkness and sat back to watch us destroy ourselves. Sadly, they continue to do just that. The difference now is that we know they are there. Have we learned our lesson? Are we wise enough to move beyond the sabotage?
It’s Our Turn to Step Up
We as women with decades of collective wisdom can step up and lead in our families and our communities. We can look beyond the hysteria and confront those who incite fear on Maple Streets around the country and the world.
I am still optimistic about this country. We screw up, and sometimes learn enough to not screw up as badly the next time. Admittedly, throughout this last year it has been an effort to remain hopeful, but I do. I do because I see people who care. People who work tirelessly to help others. They may seem like the minority right now, but they are not.
It is up to us to listen for these voices, hear and understand what they have to say. It is up to us to support them and contribute in whatever way we can to bring love, forgiveness, understanding and humanity back into the conversation. Rest up when you need to. Block and mute the voices of doom and gloom. Be inspired and be inspiring.
At the end of “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” we hear a warning from Serling:
“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”
Here’s the thing, we need to remember that we are not stuck in a television show. We are living, breathing humans that long to love and be loved. If we can feel hope, we can offer hope. No political party, no confused, angry soul will ever have the ability to end that. Not in me. Not in you. Not ever. It’s in our DNA. #HOPE
Jean Sheldon, activist, poet, writer, and a Woman On Purpose, is author of mysteries, many articles, and, most recently, a book of poetry (Persistent: Poems by Jean Sheldon). See more by her and about her on her website: http://www.jeansheldon.com. Follow her on Twitter: @penultimatepen