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“THE TWILIGHT ZONE” AS COVID-19 PROPHECY

In Business, Entertainment, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 26, 2021 at 12:20 am

On November 8, 1963—57 years before COVID-19 invaded the United States—Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” offered a prophecy of future disaster for the country.

“The Old Man in the Cave” is set in a post-apocalyptic rural town in 1974, 10 years after a nuclear war has devastated the United States. 

A nuclear explosion

The townspeople have discovered a supply of canned food. However, they are waiting for Mr. Goldsmith [John Anderson], their leader, to return with a message from the mysterious and unseen “old man in the cave.” Then they will learn whether the food is contaminated with radiation.

When Goldsmith returns, he informs them that the old man has declared the food is contaminated and that it should be destroyed.

Shortly thereafter, three soldiers led by Major French [James Coburn] enter the town and clash with Goldsmith as they try to establish their authority.

French is clearly a precursor of Donald Trump: Demanding instant obedience and threatening death to anyone who disobeys him. He claims his job is to organize the region so that society can be rebuilt.

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Donald Trump

However, Goldsmith believes that French and his men simply want to strip the town of its food.

French tries to dispel the townspeople’s beliefs in the seemingly infallible “old man in the cave” and take control of the area. He tells them they have survived these past 10 years—but they haven’t lived. 

Fifty-seven years later, Donald Trump will furiously attack not COVID-19 but the medical advice of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—especially that provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease.

He will disdain the wearing of masks and social distancing, and attack those Democratic governors who impose stay-at-home orders to contain the virus. He will offer a series of rosy predictions—none of which come true—that the virus will soon end.

His “cures” include ingesting Clorox bleach and/or having UV light shined up one’s anus.

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COVID-19 virus

And French holds himself out as the man who can deliver them a wonderful new future.

Fifty-seven years later, Donald Trump will similarly declare: “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

French tempts the townspeople to eat the food Goldsmith warned was contaminated. There is a wild orgy of gluttony as they greedily consume it. 

Only Goldsmith refuses to partake in the food orgy.

The townspeople turn on Goldsmith and threaten him with death unless he reveals the identity of “the old man in the cave.” Goldsmith finally takes the assembly to the cave. There it’s revealed that his source has been a computer.

French incites the townspeople to destroy the machine, and they stone it to death with rocks and canned goods. Then French leads the people into celebrating their new-found freedom from this “tyranny”. 

Fifty-seven years later, Trump will similarly incite his followers to attack the United States Capitol building to halt the legal transfer of Presidential power from himself to Joe Biden. 

But as Goldsmith had insisted, the “old man” was correct: The canned goods were contaminated with radiation. All the townspeople—including French and the soldiers—die, their bodies left lying throughout the streets.

Trump will similarly tempt millions of Americans to ignore the deaths of tens of thousands of their fellow citizens from COVID-19 and the overwhelming of the nation’s hospitals. The result will be a vast increase in deaths and the shuttering of many of the businesses Trump hoped to keep open.

Only one man survives—Goldsmith, who has refused to eat the forbidden food and somberly walks out of the now-dead town.  

As always in a “Twilight Zone” episode, it is Rod Serling who gets the final word: “Mr. Goldsmith, survivor. An eyewitness to man’s imperfection. An observer of the very human trait of greed. And a chronicler of the last chapter—the one reading ‘suicide’. Not a prediction of what is to be, just a projection of what could be. This has been The Twilight Zone.”

Dark-haired man holding a lit cigarette

Rod Serling

Except that Serling was wrong: “The Old Man in the Cave” has proven an uncanny prediction of what did happen in America.

* * * * *

The chief lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 epidemic is that catastrophe inevitably results when natural disaster collides with an evil and incompetent administration.

And the man who stands most responsible for the deaths of 400,000 Americans is Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

Under his tyrannical rule, the United States suffered not simply from a lethal virus but a combination of denial, lies, Republican subservience, chaos, extortion, propaganda as news, quackery as medicine, premature demands to “re-open the country,” ignoring the danger and—finally—resignation (“Learn to live with the virus”). 

Even now, when three vaccines have been produced, millions of Americans—almost all of them Right-wing Trump supporters—refuse to protect themselves and the families and friends they claim to love. 

Mark Anthony—in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”—had it right: “The evil that men do lives after them.”

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