The Twilight Zone – a Dangerous Place

By | August 10, 2017 | 2 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 between at least 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 to apply feeble sanctions to North Korea, when its unbalanced leader develops nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We try not to “over-react” 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, but laws and court orders keep us safe. They tell us that our military are ignorant boors, but treaties and UN meetings 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 for our time,” but instead brought the bloodiest of wars.

Prime Minister Chamberlain, 1938

So we don’t complain when the UN descends into irrelevance as it fails to act against Iran, North Korea, 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 North Korea and 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 and chemical weapons, years pass and still the UN does nothing.

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. But in the Twilight Zone, we spend only about 15 percent of the federal budget on defense ‒ and many complain that it’s too much.

When Kennedy proposed a tax cut to stimulate the economy, some complained that it would benefit mainly the rich. He retorted, “A rising tide raises all boats.” But in the Twilight Zone, 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.

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.

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. Do you suppose there may be a clue here?

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.

The bottom line.

Theo van Gogh, a descendant of the great painter, was a Dutch film maker. He made a film with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, exposing the oppression of women under Islamic law. Despite death threats, he refused police protection. An extremist Muslim shot van Gogh, then stabbed him in the chest and cut his throat.

As he lay dying, van Gogh is reported to have said, “Can’t we talk about this?

In the Twilight Zone, they imagine that they can talk to Islamist extremists who attack them with deadly weapons ‒ knives, guns, trucks, suicide vests, and airliners filled with passengers crashing into buildings filled with workers. In the Twilight Zone, they fantasize that they can talk to North Koreans who threaten to nuke them, despite the fact that decades of such talk have allowed the problem to reach a critical state.

But back here on Planet Earth, history has taught us that we should talk to people with whom we disagree. But when people come to kill us, the time for talk has ended, and the time for action has arrived. That way, we may live to see another sunrise.

Twilight is nice, but sunrise is better. It gives us hope for a brighter future, rather than nostalgia for the fading past.

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