There is a classic Twilight Zone episode called “I Am The Night–Color Me Black.” It’s from the fifth and final season. The episode depicts a small midwestern town on the morning of an execution. A condemned man, perhaps wrongly convicted of murdering a hatemonger, is sentenced to be hanged in the morning. But morning never comes; the town is shrouded in darkness.
All the townspeople gather to watch the convicted killer pay for his crime, like fans at a sporting event. And he is hanged — and afterward, the town’s priest explains to the gawkers that the darkness was the result of their hate, the killer’s hate, and the general hate that exists around the world.
I see a lot of that hate in comments on stories featured on Finger Lakes Daily News, the website of the Finger Lakes Radio Group. Occasionally I field calls in the newsroom from people spewing their acidic, small-minded prejudices, or haranguing me with their demure worldview.
There is a lot of hate in this area directed at President Barack Obama. I was posted outside the Harriet Tubman House on South Street here in Auburn Friday morning, when the President was rumored to visit. Of course, there was never any scheduled visit. Nothing was ever announced. It was gossip, maybe wishful thinking. But that did not prevent crowds gathered outside Tubman’s home — and a crowd that had gathered outside the Seward House down the street — from whispering their outrage, their resentment, their hatred of something that was never guaranteed to happen.
I will admit to sharing in some of the disappointment. Having the President of the United States visit a major city is a common occurrence. But to visit a small city in upstate New York? That’s something special and unique to the people who call that small city their home.
Of course, Obama did stay overnight in Auburn. He worked out at the YMCA Friday morning. Those two facts are as irrefutable as they are comforting. The leader of the free world was sleeping less than a mile away from where I live, and from where I sleep. Pretty cool.
I don’t blame people for being upset over what they see as a snub, but I do chastise people who are taking this opportunity to sharpen their swords and crank up the volume on the bile that spews from within.
Like the priest said in that Twilight Zone episode, “there is too much miserable hate” in the world. Rod Serling, in his closing monologue in that same episode, called hate a sickness:
“A sickness known as hate; not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ – but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in the Twilight Zone – look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether.”
The hatred felt about the President, about the world in which we live, about the daily obstacles that crop up, it’s all too much. Life is far too short, and sometimes far too hard. Might as well enjoy what we do have — our health, our wisdom, and our independence.