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On New Year’s Day, there was a “Twilight Zone” marathon on cable. Standing out was one show in particular, a 1962 episode entitled “To Serve Man.”
A spaceship landed near the United Nations and a nine-foot tall, 350 pound emissary, looking like a conehead from “Saturday Night Live” but without the cone, “a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time” according to the show’s narrator Rod Serling, made his way to the U.N.’s General Assembly, carrying a book.
Addressing representatives of the world’s nations through telepathic communication, the Kanamit, as the alien referred to his kind, announced that his people had come in peace to help the inhabitants of the Earth. From afar his race had seen disturbing broadcasts emanating from our world, depicting wars, hunger, disease, and other calamities. The Kanamits had decided to travel to our planet to offer new technologies and instruction, enabling mankind to enter a new era of happiness, health and comfort. All that was required of humanity was trust.
The diplomats were stunned. When the Kanamit exited the U.N. chamber, no one noticed that he had left behind his book.
The aliens started sharing their knowledge as promised, and almost immediately strife and tribulation around the world began to subside. Many remained skeptical, though, and when the Kanamit book was discovered, written in an alien language, cryptologists in Washington, D.C. were quickly recruited to pry open its secrets.
A man named Chambers and a woman named Pat, two of the best at cracking codes, somehow succeeded in translating the book’s title — “To Serve Man.” For Chambers that was enough. These aliens were on the up and up. All they wanted was to be of assistance and deserved to be trusted, and the book’s title was all the proof he needed. Pat still was not sure, and continued working away at deciphering the book’s contents.
Soon peace and contentment covered the globe. The Kanamits began offering free tours to their planet, giving the grateful on Earth an incredible opportunity to travel to another world, another paradise. Chambers ordered his seat on the next saucer.
In a scene showing Chambers standing in line, just about to board the ship, with Kanamits on both sides, Pat rushed in but could not reach her friend. She screamed to Chambers to stop, pleading with him not to go any further. Confused, Chambers turned and asked Pat why she was so upset. Bawling, she told him that she had translated the inside pages of the book’s alien writing, and then uttered what has to be one of the greatest lines in television, “It’s, it’s a cookbook!” Chambers was hustled into the ship by the Kanamits, soon to be served as their dinner.
The episode ended with Serling’s summation: “The recollections of one Michael Chambers, with appropriate flashbacks and soliloquy. Or more simply stated, the evolution of man, the cycle of going from dust to dessert, the metamorphosis from being the ruler of a planet to an ingredient in someone’s soup. It’s tonight’s bill of fare on the ‘Twilight Zone.’”
It has been 35 years since another recipe book for serving human beings, not as subjects created in the wonder of God’s love, but as prenatal ingredients, was published under the name of Roe v. Wade. The Jan. 22, 1973 ruling by the United States Supreme Court, legalizing abortion on demand and opening the way to the eventual destruction of human life through embryonic stem-cell research, has pitched our country into a twilight zone of a dark moral scope.
The Kanamits of the legal and political world have twisted what it means “to serve.” They push for policies that allow human life to be used and disposed, reducing the newest and most vulnerable among us to mere means so that others might achieve their own ends. None of us is a “means,” however, since each one of us is, and should be treated as, a sacred end.
There is a dedicated group of people who, day in and day out and without glory-seeking, take up cause against the Kanamits on the abortion front. They bring their literature about real alternatives and their compassionate hearts to the sidewalks of Boston, Worcester, Framingham, and wherever else the commerce of “choice” plies its killing trade.
For trying to talk to women just before they keep their abortion appointments, these dedicated few are ridiculed as zealots. But they are not so in the eyes of those many women who have decided at the doorstep to choose life. To the now grateful mothers, encouraged and given practical assistance to make the right choice, the pro-lifers with rosaries in their hands and alternatives at their fingertips are godsends. These are among the true servants of humanity.
And now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts thinks this sidewalk ministry is a menace to society and has to stop. Gov. Deval Patrick recently approved a new “squelch zone” law that our state legislature passed last year to criminalize sidewalk counseling within 35 feet of any entrance to an abortion office. More drastic than a “buffer zone” law passed a few years ago that allowed people to approach those who do not object, the new statute forbids any entering into the expanded squelch zone, except by those going into abortion places and those who work or volunteer for the abortionist.
The Alliance Defense Fund, the pro-life and pro-family alternative to the American Civil Liberties Union, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of several sidewalk counselors, some of whom complain that their own safety is now at risk because they have been forced to stand in the street, and have narrowly missed being hit by passing cars as a result. By the way, the ADF and the ACLU are actually in agreement about this law—they both conclude that it is an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights on our public sidewalks and should be struck down.
The twilight remains, but points of light continue to burn and multiply. The steadfast witness of the caring pro-lifers on our sidewalks is joined by the growing phenomenon of young people coming forward in unprecedented numbers to take up anew the cause of life in all walks of social and political life. In ways sometimes just barely perceptible, humanity is being truly served, and we can trust in the promise of the dawn.
Daniel Avila is the Associate Director for Policy & Research of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.