The Monsters Are Due on Pennsylvania Avenue

Back in the olden days (before video games, children) when TV was black and white, and ACTUAL writers wrote actual scripts that had actual meaning, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone was able to nail a lot of uncomfortable truths about American life that couldn’t be told in any other way than by fable, with Serling as our Aesop. One fable, in particular — of the Cold War and the need to find and kill “the Other” — sticks with me these long years later.

So, let’s take a moment, and fade back in time, to September 10, 2001, and, with a slight modification, we hear Rod Serling’s narrative to the classic “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

Maple Street, U.S.A. Late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice-cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 pm on Maple Street. This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street, in the last calm and reflective moment before the monsters came.

And then, on September 11, 2001, the monsters came.

Here’s a partial synopsis from Wikipedia of our Twilight Zone episode:

…A man is seen walking along Maple Street through the dark, towards the gathered crowd. Panic begins to build and Charlie grabs a shotgun and kills him. When the crowd reaches the fallen man, they realize that it is Pete Van Horn.

Suddenly the lights in Charlie’s house come on and he panics, realizing how it looks. He is now the subject of the suspicion. He makes a run for his house while the other residents begin to chase him and throw stones. Terrified, Charlie attempts to deflect suspicion onto Tommy, the boy who originally brought up the idea of alien infiltration. Lights begin turn on and off in different houses, lawn mowers and cars start up for no apparent reason. A riot begins and the hysterical residents smash windows, fight and switch blame from one person to another with little justification.

The episode ends with two Martian observers watching the rioting on Maple Street and discussing how easy it was to create paranoia and panic, and let the people of Earth destroy themselves—one place at a time. One of them tells the other:

“Understand the procedure now? Just stop a few of their machines…throw them into darkness for a few hours and then sit back and watch the pattern. They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find…and it’s themselves.

Well, in our episode, the Martians are actually Osama bin Laden (et al), who only needs to show up at critical moments, turning the lights on and off while we do his work for him. Because, unlike American media, and American pundits, and American politicians, bin Laden seems to understand that sometimes KEEPING SILENT is the smartest move.

Can you argue with me? Can you really sit in some jingoistic fantasy and think that we are winning the war on terror (while we’re shredding our own Constitution) , that we’re “kicking ass” (while we’re bankrupting our country) , and now that we’re SAFER (while we’ve overextended and exhausted our military, and shown EVERY ARMY IN THE WORLD our tactical weaknesses)?

Osama bin Laden would be a FOOL to attack us when we’re doing so good a job of it ourselves. We’ve alienated half the world, managed to show the entire Muslim world (and not just the extremists) how racist, how religiously intolerant and how mad with unfocused rage we’ve become.

I’m sorry. I’m an American (and not those two statements WITHOUT the period separating them). And, as an American, I’m embarrassed at the imbecility I’ve been listening to, well, ever since 9-11.

When Christian Fundamentalists bombed the Murra building in Oklahoma City, we did not declare war on Fundamentalism, nor did we invade Idaho. We saw it as a crime, and as perpetrated by a small cadre of criminals. But since 9-11, “everything changed.”

Yeah. Rationality flew out the window. And we hear the endless blather, while all bin Laden has to do is make a tape, and the entire Washington D.C. establishment and press corps has an attack of the vapors. (Just like today. Just like now.)

Grow up, America. Gird up your loins and get a grip. Right now Osama bin Laden is kicking your ass, courtesy of your hate, your paranoia and YOUR boots.

And he is smart enough to keep his mouth shut, like Mr. Ed, only talking when he has something to say. (Would to Ghod OUR pundits could do the same.)

But soft.

Listen to Rod Serling’s narration at the end of that Twilight Zone episode:

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 the 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.

And consider that another way must be found, if we are to survive as a Constitutional Republic. The Monsters are due on Pennsylvania Avenue.

And they’re due today.


UPDATE – SEE: Swiftboated Again and “So Much For Napkin Rings” (the followups to this column)

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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2 Responses to The Monsters Are Due on Pennsylvania Avenue

  1. Pingback:   Another Bin Laden tape to come. - The Detroit Times

  2. Pingback: Swiftboated Again, part iii « his vorpal sword