Life in the Twilight Zone

By | August 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

A favorite science-fiction theme is a man who wakes up in a world that seems to be the one he’s familiar with, but isn’t. Everything is almost what he’s used to, but not quite. He’s in the Twilight Zone. Sometimes I feel like that. Sometimes I feel that the world I knew has been exchanged for another world.
World War II never happened.
In the world I grew up in, World War II was the greatest catastrophe in history. We learned the hard way that it is dangerous to ignore its lessons.
In my world, Hitler outlined his violent plans in speeches, but we didn’t listen. He scrapped the treaty that ended World War I, but we paid no attention. And we did nothing when he built up his military, reoccupied the Rhineland, seized part of Czechoslovakia, and then took the rest. Finally he invaded Poland, and by then it was too late to stop him without a war that cost over 40 million lives.
But in the Twilight Zone, all that never happened. We never learned that we can’t appease violent megalomaniacs. So we try to appease the Iranian fanatics who threaten us and Israel while developing nukes. We try not to “overreact” when terrorists strike. Then we are shocked – shocked! – when it doesn’t work.
Pieces of paper keep us safe.
In the world I grew up in, we knew that our police enforce laws, and our military defend the Constitution. Yet we never confused pieces of paper with the brave men and women who protect us.
But in the Twilight Zone, the kids who yelled “Pigs off the campus!” are now professors. Lawyers make up the large majority of politicians. They tell us that police are dangerous Neanderthals, and it’s laws and court orders that keep us safe. They tell us that our military are ignorant boors, and it’s treaties and UN meetings that protect us.
We never watched the League of Nations descend into irrelevance as it failed to stop Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo. We never saw international agreements trashed by sneering tyrants. We never saw politicians waving pieces of paper they claimed would bring “peace in our time,” but instead brought the bloodiest of wars.
So we don’t complain when the UN descends into irrelevance as it fails to act against Iran or other threats to peace. We don’t object when academics and liberal pundits tell us to rely on pieces of paper to protect us.
In the Twilight Zone, the 20th century vanished into a black hole.
Moral decisions are made by majority vote.
In the world I grew up in, moral decisions were made by the individual, with the guidance of religion. We used the vote to decide political questions, not moral ones. We had the lesson of Germany, where the Nazi regime was installed by democratic means, and where genocidal tyranny was enshrined in law and ratified by courts.
We studied the Dred Scott decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a slave was not free, even if his owner took him to a state where slavery was illegal, and that freed slaves could never be citizens. So we knew that a court ruling by majority vote, and a nation using democratic processes, could still be immoral.
But in the Twilight Zone, those events never happened, so we naively put our trust in majorities. We duck the decision on what to do about Iran, and fob it off on the UN, where Saudi Arabia sits on the Human Rights Council, while Iran sits on the Disarmament Conference and the Commission on the Status of Women. Yes, that UN, the Twilight Zone UN.
Firearms instructor Clint Smith observes, “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” But when homicidal fanatics build nuclear weapons, the UN won’t get there at all.
High taxes help the economy.
In the world I grew up in, we knew that under President Kennedy, about half the federal budget was spent on defense. When he proposed a tax cut to stimulate the economy, some complained that it would benefit mainly the rich. Kennedy retorted, “A rising tide raises all boats.”
But in the Twilight Zone, we spend only about 20 percent of the federal budget on defense. And even after 9/11, many complain that it’s too much. When a tax cut is proposed to help the economy, many object that we should raise taxes instead.
If high taxes were good for the economy, the pre-Civil War South would have been an economic giant. After all, what is slavery if not a 100% tax rate? If high taxes were good for the economy, Europe would be booming instead of tottering.
But in the Twilight Zone, nobody ever heard of Jack Kennedy. Defense spending is seen as a strictly Republican idea designed to benefit big corporations. And anyone who said “A rising tide raises all boats” would be called a stooge of the “one percent” and an enemy of the poor and minorities.
Everything depends on race.
In the world I grew up in, there was racism, but we knew it was evil and fought it when we could. We knew that racism was the core belief of the Nazis. And we heard Dr. King express the hope that children would grow up in a world where they would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their characters.
But in the Twilight Zone, the Holocaust never happened, not to mention segregation. We never learned that classifying people by race can be dangerous. So we insist that applicants for jobs or places at the university be classified that way.
Evil resides in inanimate objects.
In the world I grew up in, we knew that evil resided in the human heart. We saw monstrous tyrants abroad and violent criminals at home, so the lesson was obvious.  And religion reinforced the lesson.
Boys played war games or cops-and-robbers. I had a cap pistol at an early age, and an air rifle by age 10. In high school, I took ROTC and was taught to shoot a .22 rifle at the rifle range in the school basement – by a master sergeant with combat decorations.
There were no shootings during my time in high school. Guns and violent images didn’t make kids violent – they had good values. There were no stabbings, either, though most boys carried knives – Boy Scout knives. Now we kicked out ROTC and the Scouts. But we have more violence – and fewer positive male role models.
At age eight, I walked to school alone through a park. Kids weren’t afraid. People didn’t put bars on their windows – only criminals lived behind bars. And the 1950s, when the World War II generation matured, were marked by a low homicide rate and the lowest suicide rate in our history.
But in the Twilight Zone, we “know” that guns cause crime, so we ban guns, even toy guns, and we suspend little boys from school if they point their finger and say “bang.” We forbid boys to play cops-and-robbers. We also “know” that there are no bad people, only sick people.
So why is it that in the Twilight Zone, we have to teach kids “stranger danger”? Why is it that children live in fear, but molesters don’t? Why is it that law-abiding citizens need to live behind bars, but criminals roam free?
Of course, no one asks these questions, because all this seems normal. In the Twilight Zone, people don’t study history, so they think that’s the way it’s always been.
Try this test.
What would you do if a man kicked in your front door at 2 a.m., screaming curses and brandishing an axe? (Choose one):
(a)  Call the police only if they promise not to use force, which “never solves anything.”
(b)  Go to court to obtain a restraining order.
(c)  Press for stricter axe-control laws.
(d)  Do nothing, so as not to continue the “cycle of violence.”
(e)  Inquire whether the man’s childhood was unhappy or deprived.
(f)  Sit down and talk, while trying to “see things from his point of view.”
(g)  Remember that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
(h)  Avoid a “preemptive strike” by waiting till he starts hacking up your family.
(i)  Shoot him.
If you chose any answer from (a) through (h), you’re already in the Twilight Zone. Life there won’t be easy. Without history to guide you, everything is new. Without moral principles to guide you, everything is confusing. But if you chose (i), you’re still at home on Planet Earth. Glad to have you with us.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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