There’s a show on television called “The Purge.” Don’t watch it. (Now you will.)
It’s about a time in the future when the government, under the auspices of the NFFA (New Founding Fathers of America) decides that to calm social unrest, relieve citizen frustration and give a suppressed populace a release valve, for 12 hours once a year everyone is allowed to commit any crime they wish - robbery, assault, even murder.
The first year it’s tried, people are reluctant to start. So, the government releases criminals, bus them into the inner city and give them free reign. They unleash terror.
People react. Soon, the purge starts. People one by one begin joining in. And that’s how it all began.
Each year, the purge attracts more people … some driven by vengeance, others driven by pent-up anger. Some do it for money.
People take contracts out on one another. Bounties are placed on people and put up on social networks. Every year, the purge gets more violent, more people get killed. No one knows whom to trust, sometimes not even their spouse.
Excitement for the purge spreads like an epidemic. People start looking forward to it. Cameras are positioned all over the city, on every building. At purge headquarters, the government has people stationed in front of screens monitoring everything that’s going on.
People barricade themselves inside their homes. Others go out to join the purge. Anyone who leaves their house knows that they are either the hunter or the hunted.
For some, what starts out as one purge leads to a hunger for the next. They spend all year getting ready for it. The atmosphere is like a New Orleans Carnival. The streets fill with roaming mobs armed with guns, knives, bats. Mayhem breaks out.
The day after, sirens fill the air. Ambulances scream down the streets picking up the injured. NFFA trucks come in with body bags to scoop up the dead.
I told you not to watch.
So why did I watch? I wanted to see just how far this could go, an all-too-unsettling likeness to the times we’re in. Mass shootings. Sharp divides. A loss of moral compass. A world spinning out of control. Panic, craziness and a government bent on dominion.
I watch hoping that “The Purge” is not a harbinger of things to come.
I went to the theatre to see “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” I couldn’t help but think, what culture produced a show like Mister Rogers and what culture could create a thing like “The Purge”?
I hearkened for a gentler time, an innocence, a sweetness. I remembered going to school as a child and never dreaming that what happens now could ever happen.
So, watch it if you must. But beware, take care, be watchful that the thing that you hate does not take you and make you what it is.
“The Purge” can happen only if you let it. Don’t.
Avery Freauxbischer is a Brookings resident.