I have no idea what the fascination with zombies is all about. Now, I like a good horror story as much as the next guy. I used to love Stephen King’s stuff until he started writing down to an eighth grade level to boost sales. Peter Straub, Shirley Jackson, and Dean Koontz are all on my bookshelf, and I’ve read everything H.P. Lovecraft ever wrote. But zombies? Everywhere? Movies? Video games? The Canadian House of Parliament?
Paul Krugman took notice of the phenomenon recently in his column on Marco Rubio’s rebuttal of the State of the Union Speech. “In case you’re wondering, a zombie idea is a proposition that has been thoroughly refuted by analysis and evidence, and should be dead — but won’t stay dead because it serves a political purpose, appeals to prejudices, or both,” Krugman opines, which is to say that your brain is being eaten in a different sort of way.
There are lots of these “zombie ideas” out there, waiting to feast on the unwary: Obama is a Muslim; Obama was born in Kenya; climate change is a conspiracy; 9/11 was a government conspiracy; Oswald couldn’t have shot Kennedy; etc.
And then there’s overkill as a deterrent.
Back in the 50’s we regularly had to participate in a school “drill” meant to ensure that we would be safe in the case of nuclear attack. It was called “Duck and Cover” and it implied that if only we hid under our wooden desks after we saw the flash of a nuclear explosion we would be safe. Since we were all too young to know what a nuclear blast was really all about, we obediently cowered there while the teacher made siren noises through a megaphone.
At that time the US and the USSR were engaged in an even-then zombie–like idea of a “nuclear arms race” which proposed that having enough nuclear warheads to destroy the earth 20 times over was a deterrent against destroying it the first time when your opponent only had the capability to destroy it 18 times over. Hence, we had to learn to hide under our desks to protect ourselves from the capacity to destroy the earth 36 times over.
Ah, fond memories.
Recently overkill has been resurrected in another form called sequestration, something Krugman calls “one of the worst policy ideas in our nation’s history.” Sequestration is the direct result of Republicans and Democrats not being able to talk to each other long enough to solve the budget issues facing the country. The short version is that if they couldn’t come up with a plan to keep spending under the budget limit, automatic cuts would take place that would be so horrendous that neither the GOP nor the Democrats would allow it to happen. Overkill.
It’s like the scene in “Footloose” where Kevin Bacon is playing chicken on a tractor, hurtling toward Jim Young, and someone had better chicken out or there will be a surplus of used tractor parts when they collide. Fortunately for Bacon, Young swerves at the last minute.
In the game of chicken known as sequestration, neither side seems to be ready to swerve.
There is some argument about who proposed this idiocy in the first place, but it appears that it was the White House. According to Bob Woodward, the White House thought that the Republicans would never allow cuts to defense and would therefore never allow sequestration to take effect. This assumes that the Republicans in congress would act logically, based on their past actions, and if that isn’t a zombie idea, I don’t know what is. Damn zombies are everywhere.
After all the blather in the media about the fiscal cliff months ago, we have finally arrived at the edge, rotting limbs flailing away, and somehow still moving forward. So what does congress do with the deadline two weeks away? It takes a nine day recess.
Zombie defined: “the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose.”
So what “supernatural force” animated congress?
Unfortunately, we did. Yessireebob. You did and I did. We put the mute and will-less in Washington to represent us, and I guess we deserve whatever we get as a result.
But it’s probably not going to be nearly as pretty as Milla Jovovich, zombie slayer.
In Washington state alone the sequestration is projected to cost 41,700 jobs and take $3.4 billion from the state economy where federal spending accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the state budget. That’s about $500 for every man, woman and child in the state and an unemployment uptick of .6%.
And this comes at a time when the cuts to the state budget are already causing problems for education and where state employees, including teachers and university staff, are already being forced to take furlough days.
Meanwhile the congress was busy with its President’s Day adjournment and the president was playing golf with Tiger Woods (now there’s a guy showing only some semblance of life – Tiger Woods I mean). At least in the “Resident Evil” movies the source of the all the problems was a known experimental virus. What sort of contagion has stricken our elected representatives?
Partisan politics. Usually contracted at birth, this until-recently non-fatal disease affects most of the population. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, inability to put the needs of the many above the needs of the few, obfuscation, other fallacious logic, inability to hold a conversation with anyone of the opposite partisan persuasion, and, oh yeah, a rotten flesh smell coupled with a hunger for brain tissue. In its advanced stages this disease can cause the sufferer to join other large mobs of the similarly afflicted in rampages against shopping malls.
The usual “cure” for zombies is a shot to the head. This is not recommended practice in the case of those stricken with the partisan politics strain, although more than one person has suggested that lately. A more effective course of action is to remove them from the environment where their will-less actions pose an imminent danger to the rest of the population – which is to say their elected office.
This, however, poses a real problem since it was the similarly afflicted that put them there in the first place. US.
Perhaps we need a “take a zombie to dinner” campaign. Here’s how it would work. Make a list of all neighbors and co-workers you know are infected. Invite one of them to dinner. You may want to take a set of chains for your own safety and to ensure that they don’t wander off. (If you need help with this part, see the end of “Shawn of the Dead.”) You might order Brain Masala Maghaz. Now, patiently and slowly explain – with much repetition – how we can no longer afford elected officials who ignore the better interests of the country in favor of partisan mob-zombie-mentality. Convince them that they have to vote only for someone who can prove he or she is not infected. Try to get a coherent response.
Don’t expect to be successful your first time out. The best minds in the country have failed miserably at this. Repeat as necessary. If nothing else, you may come to appreciate Brain Masala Maghaz.
Lincoln maintained that a house divided against itself cannot stand. He further stated that he did not expect the house to fall, but he predicted that it would cease to be divided. One side or the other would prevail, he said. Lincoln was talking specifically about slavery and the divisions between states that slavery engendered. Our divisions stem from different sources, but divided we are.
And to use his rhetoric, the answer is not to raze the house. Armed revolution is not an answer. We cannot divide the country into “The Federation of Pinko-Commie Sympathizers” and the “Confederate States of By-God True Believers.” At some point we will have to start talking to each other. We’ll have to take a zombie to dinner.
Because either the divide has to disappear, or one side will have to prevail. I’m sure both sides are convinced right now that it will be their side that prevails. And some members of one side think that if they don’t prevail through diplomacy, they can prevail through force. That’s a naïve fantasy. The truth is that each side will have to become more like the other. Unthinkable for both parties as that may be, it’s either that or one of them is going to go away as a major force in the political sphere.
Given demographic trends, recent evidence that they don’t learn very quickly, and the growing activism of the younger generation, the Republican Party should be a little worried if it comes to that.
This is not a game of chicken between adolescents we’re talking about here. It’s the daily lives of the citizens of this country, and we have all the surplus tractor parts we need. But given the blind, zombie-like actions of our elected officials, change will have to come from the bottom up.
The media has a vested interest in keeping the divide as wide as possible. The more drama the better from a ratings point of view. The party bases are only interested in prevailing at any cost. Compromise can only be considered appropriate if it advances that end. The corporate interest is profit and whatever serves that end is where it will put its influence and its money. Ditto Wall Street. Change will have to come from the American Street. There will have to be an American Spring.
So, seriously, take a zombie to dinner. Try to change a mind – even a little. Make an effort.
Or just go hide under your wooden desks and see how much good that will do you.
Your Humble Servant,
The Willowbrook Curmudgeon