"After President Kennedy’s assassination, my father wrote something perhaps intended as a letter to a newspaper or magazine editor. It was written on his letterhead and clearly typed by him, not his secretary. I read it for the first time forty-six years after it was written. I can hear my father’s anguish:
'More than a man has died. More than a gallant young President has been put to death. More than a high office of a land has been assaulted. What is to be mourned now is an ideal. What has been assassinated is a faith in ourselves. What has been murdered is a belief in our own decency, our capacity to love, our sense of order and logic and civilized decorum…
…To the Leftists and the Rightists, to the Absolutists, to the men of little faith but strong hate, and to all of us who have helped plant this ugly and loathsome seed that blossomed forth on a street in Dallas on last Friday—this is the only dictum we can heed now. For civilization to survive it must remain civilized. And if there is to be any hope for our children and theirs--we must never again allow violence to offer itself as an excuse for our own insecurities, our weaknesses and our own fears. This is not an arguable doctrine for simply a better life. It is a condition for our continued existence.'"
AS I KNEW HIM: My Dad Rod Serling
August 28th will be the 50th anniversary of THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON and Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. In a recent post, John Hightower, (who with 250,000 other people attended the 1963 march) mentioned my dad’s 1963 Twilight Zone episode “He’s Alive.” Although about neo-nazism, his message could just as easily apply to the egregious conditions prompting the original march.
This episode was the only one that makes no reference to “The Twilight Zone” in its closing narration and when it aired, my father and the network were flooded with hate mail.
Tragically, Dr. King's dream is yet to be realized and the message is as relevant today as it was fifty years ago:
“Where will he go next, this phantom from another time, this resurrected ghost of a previous nightmare - Chicago? Los Angeles? Miami? Florida; Vincennes, Indiana; Syracuse, New York? Anyplace, everyplace, where there's hate, where there's prejudice, where there's bigotry. He's alive. He's alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He's alive because through these things we keep him alive.” Rod Serling
“He heard the sound of voices . . . and laughter—and hellos and goodbyes—and all the jumbled language of the past—so sweet, so unbearably sweet.”
They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar
“I imagine my dad driving slowly down Bennett Avenue, his old street, and passing by his house, now slightly in need of painting, a little worse for wear. I wonder if, stopping briefly, he pictures his mother still there, opening the front door, seeing him suddenly, a vision she cannot quite be certain of, holding up her hand to block the afternoon sun. Or maybe it is his father he sees out in the driveway, washing the old Ford, suddenly dropping the hose, which snakes through the air, spraying memories my dad can almost touch as he imagines both his parents running toward him in a kind of dreamlike, slow-motion reverie that only this level of recall can recreate. Or perhaps, driving a little farther, he sees the ghosts of his boyhood friends running barefoot alongside the car or calling out to him from their porches, waving to him and calling, ‘Come on, Roddy, come on,’ until the sounds of the present bring him back and the passage of years and everything he has imagined are gone again.”
AS I KNEW HIM: My Dad Rod Serling
It was years ago, decades, actually, but I can still see him: my father carrying that tattered white box out to the blue lawn chair and sorting through all the letters he’d told me were to and from his parents before he went off to war.
I’d usually see him from a distance, waiting by the screen door for him to finish, watching as he read, listening when sometimes he’d chuckle, or mumble something out loud, then holding up a photo of his dad who died while my father was overseas. Shaking his head, my dad would carefully place the letters and photos back into the box and stare off at nothing.
I would sit beside him then, only a limited comprehension of his journey but always knowing what would come next, “Pops,” he’d say, calling me by one of my nicknames, “If only you had known your grandfather.” And he’d smile at me nodding back at him and reach down to pet our dog.
On that lawn all those years ago I couldn’t possibly understand his loss. Nor could I have ever imagined that I would one day say those same words to my own children, “If only you had known your grandfather.”
Thank you all for your continued kind and wonderful messages and comments. Please know I will get back to you ASAP; just a little inundated right now but I WILL respond!
In Binghamton, New York, the 5th grade Elementary school teachers developed a program called "The Fifth Dimension." It is designed to explore issues of prejudice, scape goating, mob mentality and other moral / social conflicts presented in various "Twilight Zone" episodes. This excellent program is focused on enhancing the life skills of the students as they prepare to enter middle school. On the 50th anniversary of the Twilight Zone, Brian Frey from WSKG taped the following interview with Lisa Rieger, one of the program's coordinators...