On September 16, 1963, the classic television series, The Outer Limits, debuted. I’d turned nine in January of that year. My brother, Keith, had turned eight just eight days before the first episode aired. From the moment we heard the control voice (the inimitable Vic Perrin), we were fans, regardless of the fact that we were so terrified at times that we hid behind furniture.
The show was positioned, of course, as fantasy, as presentations of the supernatural, as science fiction. Like all good fiction, though, it foreshadowed the future by examining the shadows in the present. And so it is we find ourselves cast in the shadows of the second half of 2020, at war with nature and with each other — divided, contentious, manipulated by political and media narratives, driven by fear, and reveling in our righteous disunity.
Welcome to human history.
What’s different about this moment in history is that, at least in the United States of America, we have the means to bring about the change we want. It’s called, The Constitution of the United States. It codifies the rule of law by which we are guaranteed representative government; that is, we are granted the legal right to be represented by our duly elected peers. (Translation: We don’t hire them to lead us. We hire them to represent us. They aren’t superior to us in any way. They work for us.)
In no scan of the Constitution will you find the phrases, career politician, or ruling class. What you will find are prescribed terms for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively. Were our elected representatives held to those terms — and, at the end of those terms, were they required to return home to face the constituents who sent them to Washington to reflect their will — at least three ends out of many would be served:
- We’d have levels of accountability we haven’t had in decades, if not more than a century.
- We’d diminish the influence of lobbyists dramatically.
- We’d have more direct evidence of the fact that our votes do, indeed, count.
Then, with respect for the checks and balances of bicameral government and the rule of law — political and media narratives notwithstanding — we could take our divisions, our contentiousness, our fear, and our righteous disunity to the polls in every election cycle.
Life Follows Fiction
On September 30, 1963 — 57 years ago — the third episode of The Outer Limits aired. It was called, “The Architects of Fear”. (You can see the entire episode uninterrupted here for $1.99 Or you can watch it here after sitting through an ad.) At the end, the control voice delivers this timeless message:
Scarecrows and magic and other fatal fears do not bring people closer together. There is no magic substitute for soft caring and hard work, for self-respect and mutual love. If we can learn this from the mistake these frightened men made, then their mistake will not have been merely grotesque, it would at least have been a lesson. A lesson, at last, to be learned.
Let’s learn the lesson. Let’s impose term limits. And let’s remember: The government doesn’t control the horizontal, the vertical, or any other damn thing. We do.
If we learn the lesson, our republic need not be pushed to the outer limits of its unity and cohesion.