Transylvania has vampires. Japan has Godzilla. And America has grain-fed, brain-dead zombies—the perfect malady for a land with a critical cultural identity crisis and Abrahamic doom lurking just discernibly below the horizon, our heads blissfully buried in oily Gulf Coast sand.
Zombies are what we can’t run away from. AIDS epidemics, impending economic collapse, climate change, peak oil, national debt, and the return of Newt Gingrich. Like irritable bowel syndrome, it all catches up with you eventually. And it comes from inside.
It’s Romero’s Fifth Law of Physics: A self-made nation will naturally self-destruct (and when there’s no room left in hell, the dead will walk the earth).
In the modern milieu, we subdivide purgatory and manufacture our own minotaurs (often forgetting the map of how we got into this mess). Frankenstein’s monster was the prototype. Note that the original subtitle was: “Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus.” Stalin, Taliban, kudzu, stink bugs and high-fructose corn syrup. Nobody makes a menace with best intentions like we do.
Cheap and made in China
Zombies are the perfect commodity. Cheap. Darn near indestructible. And like eager Energizer bunnies, zombies create more zombies. The horror strikes us when we realize that, like everything else, zombies today are made in China. Ideologically anyway. In the 50’s we were invaded by alien Body Snatchers. The Red Scare of social programs and welfare. Today it’s still the menace of collectivism that plagues our national psyche (especially in Red States where, coincidentally, zombie films play best.)
Like any social movement, it begins with infection. Could be a thought. Or a bite. Or something in the water (enter General Jack D. Ripper and his precious bodily fluids.) It wipes out a civil society until only a few true individuals are left (often bearing firearms). But do Socialist zombies share the brains they accumulate? Or is it more every zombie for himself? And is consumerist Capitalism our subconscious spook? But there’s no time to debate politics when a zombie horde groans for brains with the roar of a Tea Party in Election Season.
So, we run. And the quicker we run, the faster they follow. Remember how ghouls used to stagger? Is it the advent of steroids that made them sprint? Or was that the Red Bull? New habits are hard to shake. Zombies are the shadows of our conscience. Wherever we go, they go. No matter how well your board your windows, they will get in.
The solution? Stop running and face your zombies. A psychologist recently hypothesized that zombies act on instinct. Pure predator and prey response (a product of brain damage – or too much reality TV). If you run, you must be prey.
Zombies like fast food and wait in ambush at the drive thru. Move slowly and the zombie forgets you are there. A harmless but repulsive ghost, its carrion reek reminding us of our immoral infractions and toxic legacies. Indeed, in America our zombies are here to stay. It’s perhaps time we learned to live with them.
At least they don’t need healthcare.