“The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” a Rod Serling teleplay that stars Claude Akins as a man trying to use logic and reason to calm an increasingly hostile mob, isn’t entertaining. Some of it is dated, particularly in the performances, but that’s not what makes it an awkward and uncomfortable experience. It’s unsettling and awful, and watching it should be a mandatory experience.
We’ve never liked to discuss prejudice and bigotry in this country; as a society, we’re getting more and more squeamish about it with every passing presidential administration, while at the same time becoming more and more entrenched in the language of fear and hatred. Don’t like being reminded that the overwhelming majority of mass shootings in this country are the handiwork of white men? Bring up “Chicago violence,” and four or five people will nod sagely, knowing what you really mean.
Literally yesterday (Oct. 14), the Associated Press reported that the Biloxi MS school system has removed To Kill a Mockingbird from the eighth grade curriculum, because it was making people uncomfortable. It’s meant to.
I read the screenplay for “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” in my seventh grade textbook. It’s stayed with me ever since. We may not ever win against uncontrolled fear, hysteria, and prejudice, but any victory that we can manage will only come with kindness and compassion. Just be kind. Now that I think about it, that’s what we’re trying to teach our son.