One of my best memories growing up was watching the Twilight Zone with my dad. Rod Serling would offer his unique monologue with cigarette in hand. These were old black and white episodes with unique storytelling. There was always this character who entered the zone through a series of events. He or she became increasingly aware the reality to which they were accustomed was actually something else entirely.
“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.”
The last few weeks, I have felt as if I woke up in the middle of this black and white drama. A strange middle ground where I am realizing the foundation on which I stand is no longer solid. This pandemic has cultivated a level of fear, continued to exacerbate political animosity, and challenged what it means to be free.
I am standing, no I am wobbling, in a land which exists between freedom and authoritarian policies. I am not familiar with this reality. I look out the window and the streets are eerily empty. The stores are closed. Schools no longer have the sounds of energetic young bodies.
It is a land overshadowed by death I am told. Standing in front of the television, the talking heads speak about death, lack of testing, and inept leadership. “The old are dying. The young are not being aware of the needs of others. We must shut down everything!”
This is the middle ground between light and shadow. It is the middle ground between freedom and authoritarian policies.
I understand sickness and death can shake us to our mortal core. The realization of our own mortality places us between the fear of this present reality and the knowledge death comes for all of us at some point. What I can not abide are the actions of leaders in this alternate reality and the actions of its citizens. This is an alternate reality being created by leaders who take actions calling them “guidance,” “recommendations,” or “suggestions.” Then in the same breath use words such as “enforcement, fines, and citations.” The land I believed was free and launched an example for other nations to emulate was in transition to something entirely different.
This is the middle ground between light and shadow. A lady walked over to me and encouraged me to not lose hope. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “They will let us out again son. They told us they would be taking responsibility for our workers and families.” She was sincere in her belief but I could not shake the feeling something was just not right. “Where was the push back,” I said to myself.
I remember Black Lives Matter pushed back against government and law enforcement.
I remember the Tea Party pushed back against increased taxes by the government.
I remember the LGBT community pushed back for the government for marriage equality.
I remember the religious community pushed back the government for the life of the unborn.
I remember the movements pushed back against the government placing immigrant children in “cages.”
This is the dimension of imagination. The imagination of a few to shape the behavior of many. Our behavior is controlled in how long we can be outside the house. Our movements are controlled by what businesses can be solicited. Our incomes curtailed for the greater good. This is the dimension of their imagination. It is the imagination where everyday citizens can do the work of making phone calls to report neighbors. Citizens can accuse others of not valuing the life of others. It is the imagination where shame can do the work for immediate compliance. It is the imagination of a few to create a reality in which the few know better than anyone else.
As I look out the window, I see flags wave,
For the greater good
For the greater good
For the greater good
“God, I want to wake up!”
I am between the fear of seeing all of our freedoms curtailed and the high knowledge this has happened before in other nations. This place lies between the sunlight of freedom to live and the grand shadows of previous lands forced into compliance.
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….America.