these heroic happy dead

If you’ve ever wondered why zombies have captured the fascination of America for the last few years, it seems that Donald Trump is the clear answer. Clearly, someone predicted the rise of American Fascism and wanted to help us survive it. How better to prepare for this waking nightmare than a narrative about some mysterious force rendering our fellow citizens mindless, bloodthirsty monsters? We feel a kinship with protagonists seemingly shocked by a sudden outbreak. We empathize with those characters whose loved ones are turned into the undead. We share their panic and their helplessness.

It’s a perfect metaphor for America in 2017.

Our friends and family members have turned into racist, xenophobic horrorshows, seemingly overnight. We are left wondering how to survive this period in our history, whether it is leading a rag-tag band of survivors through “crime-infested” Atlanta, or holing up in an abandoned shack until the Night of the Comet is over. How to survive a zombie movie provides some excellent pointers for how to survive Trump’s America. Who knows, these 7 Rules might save your life.

  1. Cardio. Look, Zombieland wasn’t wrong. You have to get up and move. You have to go protest. You have to go show up at your congressional offices. There is so much to do. But in the mean time, you need to keep yourself physically healthy. We’re already seeing people complain about being emotionally degraded by what’s happened in four weeks of the Trump Administration. Baby, I got news for you: they’re just getting started. If you’re ready to tap out now, you’re not going to make it through to the end of the film.
  2. Strength in Numbers. If you’re separated from the group by a bunch of shamblers, you’re lunch. If you find yourself alienated during a time of moral crisis in our country you become a statistic. Reach out to people. Form groups. Gather often. Grow. This is not the time to hide at home alone while you hope that the storm passes over. You need others and they need you.
  3. No attachments. Once someone has turned, you have to be ready to let them go. You have to be willing to call them on their bigotry and hatred and then you have to be ready to walk away from them. Haven’t you seen The Sound of Music? It’s all fun and games and dancing in the gazebo until someone turns into a Nazi.
  4. Understand your enemy. Zombies have an aching hunger for brains that urges them ever onward toward their victims. Right now we’re dealing with a very specific brand of nationalist nativism, amped up by religious fervor and white supremacy and made powerful by the broken electoral system. There is a similar emptiness here.  Zombies can only be stopped by blunt force trauma to the head. Our mindless death machines can only be stopped by removing the social and political barriers that make them lash out in the first place. Are they wrong? Absolutely. But we have created them and only we have the power to take away the forces that are inspiring them spread their hate in every direction.
  5. Use what you know. This isn’t new. Zombie movies are a dime a dozen. You’ve seen them all. You know how they’ll end. You know the gags and the tropes inside and out. So too, many great republics have fallen in the past. Historians are not at all surprised by this nonsense, nor are they terrified and paralyzed by it. They use what we know about fascism and autocracy in the past to inform how we behave today. Don’t know your history? Learn it.
  6. Look out for the weak. Your party is only as strong as its weakest members. If your weakest members become part of the horde or don’t survive, it decreases your chances of survival. Practice intersectionality. This crisis is about more than one thing. It isn’t about Islam or Mexico or transgender people or race or women or or or… It’s about all of these things and so many more. They are counting on us to fight among ourselves, which keeps us divided and weak. Now, many of you are thinking, “That’s right! So quit telling me I’m being [sexist, racist, classist, ableist, etc.]! We need to fight them, not us!” *record scratch* If you just had that thought, then you haven’t been listening. Also, three of your party members just got picked off because they were trans women of color and you weren’t protecting them.
  7. Have an escape plan. The most heartbreaking deaths in a zombie movie are the people who can’t admit when it is time to go leave everything behind and go somewhere safer. They are the sentimental ones. They don’t want to leave a friend, or a dog, or a family member who has turned and is standing outside snarling at the boarded window. Don’t be that person. Set a standard for yourself (“If they do X, then I will leave…”) and hold firm to it. Otherwise, you run the risk of revising your expectations ever downward until there is no chance of leaving. This is especially true if you are a person who is a part of a marginalized or targeted community. This isn’t some fancy “let’s go be an expat” plan. This is “plan to be a refugee if the alternative is staying in the US and being targeted.” Know your options. And if you think this is crazy advice, some people are already leaving, meaning you might have already stayed too long.


One Comment

  1. Carol A. Otvos

    Great post, Patrick. Thank you! The political activism seminar I took Em to yesterday was about 1/3 Intersectionality, which is actually the main reason I took her. Being 13, information is almost always better perceived when given by anyone other than a parent. It was interesting though, she took real offense at the presenter raising that everyone has prejudices that they aren’t aware of and those influence how we interact with others, so they need to be recognized and dispensed with. Confronting the possibility that she may not be perceived by others to be as universally accepting as she feels she is was way more soul homework than she expected, but I know she’ll be better off for it. We all will.

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