Monday, October 31, 2011
When Zombies Walk the Earth
Halloween doesn't scare me. It's not supposed to. It's supposed to be a celebration, of the sacredness of life past, of the inevitability and sacredness of death past and future. Without the ancestors whose bones we walk upon, whose dust we breathe, whose water we drink, whose ever-living spirit sustains and inspires us, we wouldn't be here. And when we end, hopefully after long happy lives, our dust, our water, our spirit, returns to the great communal life force which will sustain the future. That is awe-inspiring and mysterious: sure and yet un-knowable, not really.
There's nothing wrong with the popular Halloween masquerade: laughing at things we might not always find funny, or trying out different identities or experimenting with the absurd. Indeed in trying out the Halloween swap of identities aren't we also trying out what the world would feel like without us as we know ourselves to be?
On Halloween I try to remember the ancestors who contributed to who I am; and to the friends and loved ones who have passed over to somewhere else after sharing a moment of space and time with me. I've lit a candle and burned some sage and copal. I've shared some rum and water. I've spoken names I haven't thought much of lately. I've prayed to the spirits who guide my life with perspective and inspiration. I'm not forgetting the tasks before me, but I'm counting my blessings and offering my thanks.
None of this stuff — what an old boyfriend called heebeejeebee stuff — scares me. I like the Mexican tradition of making skulls and headstones of sugar candy, pretty, colored in bright decorations, adding sweet deliciousness to reverence: turning fearful imagery to something else that in levity brings understanding.
But I'll tell you what does scare me: the deadness of living human souls.
Consider our politicians: liars all of them, from Democrat to Republican. Dishonest, manipulative people who will say anything for votes. And how horrible that we 99% — to use this new and relevant language — have to live in a world of illusion and corruption made meaningless and hateful by these zombies filling up the halls of power despite the fact that without us, the 1% would be nothing at all.
Today UNESCO admitted Palestine as a full state member, and within moments the U.S. cancelled its funding of that important United Nations agency: the Democratic Obama administration saying recognition of Palestine was an "obstacle to peace." Consider the walking dead across the political aisle: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum: these are masked monsters without an ounce of human empathy. Consider those who cheer these politicians on: cheering on the death penalty, hooting for the deportation of people away from their homes and families and jobs, jeering people who are gay. How virulent is the zombie infection. Consider the fear that these people instill in the rest of us, clinging to the faintest of hopes that politicians like Obama might hurt us less than the ones we know will hurt us more. Because well, what could possibly be the alternative but something worse?
Perhaps it's fitting that in this painful era, where some people are finally waking up to the way things actually are, that zombie movies and zombie TV shows have so captured the popular imagination. Because that's what we've been too often, zombies feeding on each other, going nowhere fast.
Maybe the alternative to life among the zombies isn't gathering together in a boarded-up shopping mall or circling the wagons, or choosing whether to eat plain shit or shit with broken glass: Maybe the alternative is to choose something better.
Winter is almost here, it's true. This weekend's freak October snowstorm certainly reminded us of that. But winter ends. Spring is coming.
Be gone, zombies, be gone.