The Maple Street Monster Has Returned

As the first two months of the new year have come to a close, it’s become apparent that the problems that plagued 2020 have  followed us into 2021. In fact, it seems these problems, that were originally scheduled to be solved after a two-week lockdown, will be a part of our lives for many years to come. 

The past few months have forced many of us to ask the question of when enough is enough. We have had to draw a line in the sand, because there is only so much one person can take. We all have our breaking point, and for many of us it is coming sooner than later.

As a current college student, the hopelessness and desperation that comes with the isolation brought on by virtual learning is almost impossible to describe in words. However, as someone who has recently returned to her university for the first time since last March, it is becoming extremely obvious these feelings will not be leaving with in-person instruction. Free-thought is officially a thing of the past.

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I say this as someone who is not a rule-breaker. I enjoy structure and have very little problem with authority. But to be back on campus and not even be able to recognize half my classmates, due to the constant mask-requirement, is almost as debilitating as being home on Zoom. 

This past week, I was walking around my campus with a few friends. We were wearing our masks (it’s D.C. policy to have them on outside), when we were stopped by other fellow students. They praised us for wearing our masks and proceeded to hand us raffle tickets for being such great students. 

I walked away from that encounter feeling annoyed and embarrassed. I realized I had let myself become a member of the herd; I was blindly following the rules because I was scared of the consequences of breaking them. I had received a gold star for my mindless compliance. 

The more I thought about the encounter, the more frustrated I became, not necessarily because of the rules themselves, but rather because of who was enforcing them. 

A few months ago, I made a joke to my dad about how the world is beginning to feel like an episode of the Twilight Zone. As is often the case, when we joke, we are at our most serious; and this was no exception.  

My college campus has become the Twilight Zone, or more specifically, Maple Street. The popular episode titled “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” follows the inhabitants of a normal suburban neighborhood when their street goes dark with no explanation as to why. As chaos ensues, the neighborhood looks for a “monster,” believing a monster must be the reason for this sudden blackout. Instead of finding the monster, neighbor turns against neighbor and destruction ensues. 

The sick irony is, of course, there is no monster. There never was one. The monster was created on Maple Street by each member of the neighborhood when they turned on each other. 

It is a great, timeless example of the dangers of mob mentality. 

My campus has become Maple Street. It has become a part of our campus culture to shame individuals who do not conform, and to look for scapegoats to take the blame. Students “patrol” campus looking for offenders and praising those who stay in line. It has become up to the students to be the teachers. 

While students enforcing COVID-19 protocols may not be the same as lights going off on Maple Street, the parallels are there. The problem with giving students the responsibility to enforce the rules is that it will inevitably create divisions and ultimately turn student against student. With the political climate we are currently living in, stating your opinion is already impossible; but now isolation is happening in more unique ways. 

If you are “caught” without a mask on, you are now blamed for every positive COVID-19 case on campus. If you gather in groups larger than 10, you have no respect for those with underlying health conditions. If you dare to think for yourself, you are now the monster. 

The monster on Maple Street is not confined to the Twilight Zone. It lives in each and every one of us, waiting to be set free. The lights have been turned off on college campuses, and the monster has been set loose. 

Students have been told it is their job to turn in other students, and they have been taught to blame them when COVID-19 peaks. Students walk around campus looking for offenders, waiting to become heroes for “saving others.” 

The truth is, college campuses have become places of fear. Conformity is the only option, and students have been recruited to make sure this is a reality. 

The monster that killed Maple Street has awoken in our youth and is here to kill our freedom to think freely. The mob will win if we do not open our eyes. If we are not careful, we will allow our students to become the monster. 

“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” ends with these harrowing words: “For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children…the children yet unborn.” 

The youth are under attack; instead of being told “Be not afraid,” they are being taught to live in constant fear of each other. How can a person trust in the Lord when they are too busy looking over their shoulder for the unmasked monster? 

[Photo Credit: CBS]


  • Renee Rasmussen

    Renee Rasmussen is a student at The Catholic University of America.

tagged as: Catholic Living

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