“It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.” — Rod Serling
On the night Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds military force, was killed by an United States airstrike in Baghdad, I was curled up on the couch watching an old episode of The Twilight Zone. It was the classic episode “It’s a Good Life,” about a town that is controlled by the mind of an evil six-year-old boy.
In order to avoid the punishment of being “sent to the cornfield,” the townspeople have to keep telling the boy how good and smart he is, while they wear pained smiles trying to be as outwardly happy as they can be.
The boy decrees a new normal that must be followed: no television, except for once a week when he decides what everyone can watch. He has a hatred of dogs, and so he gets rid of them when he finds them. He literally controls every aspect of their lives, and forces everyone to go along with him. Or else.
In this climatic scene, one person finally stands up to the boy and suffers the consequence:
Looking into the Mirror of Television
Television is an art form that has great value. It is a mirror of society at any given moment, and like The Twilight Zone, a mirror that never stops reflecting our shared world.
In January 2020, the United States is on the brink of potential war with Iran. Strategic alliances are frayed. An entire continent is literally on fire. The President is taking the advice of dictators and despots. Anti-semitism, racism, and hatred are surging. Children are separated from their parents and put in cages.
Watching The Twilight Zone episode where a young boy forces a bunch of grown-ups to cower and agree to his every whim was unnerving. I couldn’t help but think of various press conferences and moments where President Trump is surrounded by sycophants who smile tightly and nod as he talks. They sound just like The Twilight Zone townspeople:
“It is so good you ordered the killing of the Iranian general.”
“It is so good you want to target cultural sites in Iran.”
“It is so good you had a perfect call with Ukraine.”
“It is so good to start a tariff war with China.”
“It is so good you think climate change is fake news.”
“It is so good you made up nicknames for all your political enemies.”
“It is so good you are going to build a big, beautiful wall.”
For the last three years, the President is rewriting the rules. He is blatantly ignoring aspects of the Constitution, terminating agreements and treaties, and putting into place questionable new policies. Those that question or speak out are pushed out of the way for people who are willing to support and even encourage his impulsive instincts.
As this president faces a trial in the Senate over two articles of impeachment, The vast majority of Republican Senators are vowing their unwavering support of him. There are virtually no dissenting voices within the President’s own political party. It feels like there is no need to pretend to uphold an obligation to the Constitution, because their oath is now to a man who has the power to control them. Even at a press gathering of the Cabinet, the President called on the Secretaries and had them compliment and pledge their support of him. His followers know they must smile, nod, and assure him he is right and all-knowing.
Can he be stopped at this point? With the Republican party firmly behind him, the answer is becoming increasingly clear.
We are in a twilight zone. It’s a new dimension where the old expectations and norms have fallen away. The ending of this episode has yet to be written, but the narrative remains terrifying with new, unexpected plot twists at every turn.