The Twilight Zone Meets Reality

October 7, 2019

  

     Famous for their clairvoyance more than half a century ago, the Twilight Zone episodes have of lately been compared to the state of present American society. Many of them could be taken as parodies of our current political times, were it not because they precede us by decades. Several of them expose the destructive behavior of individuals and their effect on society. Such is the case of "It's a Good Life", where a six year-old boy holds an entire community hostage to his vicious, intemperate tantrums. In that story, those surrounding the boy are terrified and immobilized by his ability to destroy anything and whoever he wants by merely thinking about it. He makes his critics disappear or turns them into horrible creatures by only wishing it ("I wish you away into the cornfields.") 

 

     But one episode stands out because it looks not at evil itself, but the response of society to evil. "Still Valley" mirrors remarkably closely the current political-religious climate in the United States. In this episode, set at the height of the Civil War, a Confederate scout approaches a town to confirm the presence of the enemy. Not detecting any noise, he decides to enter the town and finds that the Union soldiers are there alright, but frozen in place like wax sculptures. He next discovers that they are under the spell of a witchcraft book held by an old man. The old man explains that he will soon die, but would like the scout to take the book and use its magical powers against the approaching Union army.

 

     The scout recognizes the amazing powers of the book and, troubled, mutters to himself: "It doesn't seem right... there is something unclean about it... it's like being in league with the..."

     "Yes, son. That's it... you are in league with the devil. That is who we will have fighting on our side, the devil! " interjects the old man, with a mischievous smile.  

 

     Upon reuniting with his superior officer, the scout tells him about the diabolical book and how it can be used to stop and defeat the entire Union army. The officer agrees that this is an opportunity that cannot be missed, in order to cement once and for all the "Confederate cause."

 

     Aware that the Confederacy will likely face great hardship and even defeat in the coming battles, the Confederate officer declares: "We've got to call the devil... maybe it's the only thing that is left for us..." He then orders the scout to cast a spell in the direction of the approaching Union army. As he reads from the book, summoning the devil for help, the scout suddenly hesitates, unable to end the invocation: "And in so doing, I revoke the name of... "

 

     In Rod Serling's finale, the scout throws the wicked book into a fire rather than revoke the name of God, and declares solemnly: "If this cause is to be buried, let it be put in hallowed ground". He would rather lose the battle than win it with the help of Beelzebub. 

 

     Forward to 2019. It is clear now that in the US we have a presidency that embodies the raw opposite of Christian principles. And yet, in a numbing and perverse contradiction, its most ardent and devoted followers are a large subset of evangelical Christians.

 

     In pursuit of winning what they consider their ultimate religious battle (mostly curtailing women's reproductive rights and the rights of non-traditional genders), those evangelicals have decided to embrace a man that personifies the worst in humans, for the purpose of prevailing at any cost.

 

     Alas, in two respects is Serling's episode totally off: given the opportunity, humans will do anything to secure their cause —better a damned victory than a saintly setback—. The second is, of course, that the Confederate cause, upholding slavery, was an iniquitous one to begin with. Nothing to feel righteous about. 

 

Welcome to the Reality Zone! 

 

 

 

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