It was 1960 and time to watch one of what, was to me, one of the most interesting shows on television, The Twilight Zone. That night’s was the twenty-second episode of the show’s first season, an installment entitled, “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.” Perhaps you remember this story. Critics have called it one of the show’s ten best and it is always included in the “marathons” that run every New Year’s Day. But for those of you who may have missed it, here’s my synopsis of the plot.
On Maple Street, a street in a typical middle class suburb somewhere in America, strange things start to happen. Suddenly the electricity goes out. The neighbors come out to see if anyone else is experiencing the same problem or if it is merely a power failure in their home. But the outage extends throughout the entire block. They begin discussing their options – whether they should call the power company – but they find their phones are out as well. They also discover that they can’t start their cars. Of course, they begin speculating about what could be the cause of all of this.
One teenager says that what is happening to them is just like what he read in a book – about how monsters from outer space came to Earth and disrupted our power – just before they launched an invasion of the planet. And the scariest part of their invasion plan is that they had disguised themselves to look human and for a long period had planted spies among us.
Suddenly, one if the neighbors who had been working on his car is startled when it suddenly starts by itself. The others begin probing him as to why his and only his car is now working. They become suspicious of him, now that they have been seeded with the teen’s story about enemy infiltrators. And they not only bring him under scrutiny but begin questionning why others of them do what they do, like going out late at night and staring up at the sky.
Rational people are quickly turned into a lynch mob and one of the neighbors who had walked over to the next block to see if their power was out as well returns and in the darkness of night is shot dead by one of his friends. Their fear of the unknown and the imponderable has overwhelmed their felings of friendship. Unexpectedly,the lights come back on and they are left with a murder and the realization that their comity is not as deep as they might have believed it to be before it was put to this test.
In the final scene, we learn that there are indeed aliens on the planet and that they were responsible for the power failure. Their plan to conquer the planet is to allow us to destroy ourselves and then they can mop up the residue that remains. One of the aliens speaks the last line of the episode, “It’s always the same – every time, everywhere.”
In 1939 the S. S. St. Louis, a luxury cruise liner, departed Hamburg, Germany. Aboard were 900 Jews who were fleeing Hitler. They were bound for Cuba with the ultimate intention of coming to the United States. But when they reached Cuba, the authorities refused them permission to dock or for any of the passengers to debark.
The captain tried negotiating with the authorities over several days but they were emphatic in their refusal. So the captin turned the ship northwest toward Miami. The ship was intercepted before it reached that port and they were again refused permission to dock – this time by the government of the United States.
Direct appeals were made to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but the ship did not receive permission to land and ultimately the captain had no choice but to turn the ship back around for a return voyage to Europe. Out of fear and desperation, one of the passengers on board had slit his wrists and thrown himself into the ocean. Of the remaining passengers, two hundred fifty-four were killed in the death camps.
One might argue that the reason that Hitler’s agression was allowed to grow exponentially as it did was because the other European powers chose to hope that they were dealing with a person who could be pacified by giving away the Sudetenland – a geographic area which was removed from their personal neighborhood and in which people lived to whom they were unrelated by blood.
One might argue that the reason that we have a Syrian refugee crisis today is that as the de facto leader of the free world, Obama has abdicated his and our country’s position of leadership and tolerated the intolerable – a dictator in Syria who regularly gasses his own people and has slaughtered more than 250,000 of them.
When the U. S. turned the S. S. St. Louis away it was four months before Hitler invaded Poland and started WWII. There was no reason to fear that these refugees were coming here to act as a fifth column. No open hostilities had yet occurred. The sole reason for refusing them entry was that Roosevelt was not a fan of Jews in general. He did consider allowing some of them admittance but wanted to keep them in small numbers and spread them throughout the country so that, “They wouldn’t disrupt our culture.” This was discrimination and racism in its purest form.
The Syrian situation is very different. For one thing, while it is apparent that ISIS has declared war against the U. S. and the West, they are not an enemy in the traditional sense. Their borders are amorphous albeit growing. The other nations of the world do not recognize them diplomatically. But they are beginning to look more like a traditional country as western leaders, notably Obama, dawdle in their efforts to defeat them.
They do occupy territory, now the size of the UK. They have an income stream from black market oil sales, and they have initiated laws which they impose on those who live within their occupied geography. They have also developed a currency. All these are characteristics of legitimate governments and countries. And, to state the all too obvious, they have weapons and are not hesitant to use them.
Two thirds of Americans do not want us to admit any of the Syrian refugees. But is their opinion formed by the attack in Paris, the Brussels lockdown or is this merely an overreaction owing to the “Maple Street Effect.” For me, I think the most alarming reason for leaning this way is Obama’s statement that, “We really have nothing to worry about in the U. S.” The man hasn’t made a truthful statement on any issue of substance during his seven years in office.
At the very least, we ought to take a pause before admitting anyone who might potentially be a terrorist. That is what the House bill does. It is sad that partisan politics rather than national security in the guise of Harry Reid may delay or abrogate discussion of this matter in the Senate. But it is government’s responsibility to keep the country and its citizens as safe as it can within their capabilities. However this plays out, this is merely a short term deferral of the real problem.
And that real problem is ISIS, its sister organizations and terrorism in general. And the real solution is for America to get on the Reality Train that Europe is now boarding, make and take real steps to decimate it militarily so that the refugees can return to their homes and start the process of rebuilding their country.