The Walking Dead & Trumping Our Own Conscience

The Walking Dead & Trumping Our Own Conscience March 17, 2016


 I love all things zombie. I have never been a Trekkie or a SciFi Superfan — although I do love Marvel Films — but since I first saw The Night of the Living Dead as a pre-teen in my parent’s sunroom one summer afternoon I was hooked on all things zombie-genre. This intimate and lifelong relationship hit a new depth when The Walking Dead came on AMC. It was the zombie genre that I loved but extended beyond the disappointingly too-short time frame of a film, and it was so well curated that it elevated itself beyond its primarily horror base and into the field of what I would consider a morality play. Each week, with metaphors about belief, faith, love, life, and survival, it delved into the deepest layers of human nature. It told the story of us, society, all of us, being played out in front of a post-apocolyptic background. Each week offered something to be considered about not just who the characters were but who we all are, as their struggles mirrored our own, particularly in this particular era of the United States where hate and fear have begun to run as rampant as a mysterious virus, taking over so much of our populous.

I want to articulate here that I do not write about electoral politics. In this case I still don’t think what I am about to discuss is electoral politics. I do feel, in morality tale style, there is a deep calling to all of us to talk about conscience, morality and human decency when it is flagrantly being violated. Much in in the same way my favorite morality play — The Walking Dead — exposes and explores the depths of humanity, in all its beauty and blemishes.

In the last year I have seen alarming and painful hate exposed on a national landscape — to an extent I never thought would exist in my lifetime, or at this state and stage of my country’s becoming. The current presidential race has become its own frenetic morality play, as what I once considered a parody — Donald Trump in a presidential election — quickly turned into a tragedy, emblematic in harmful and problematic ways to the conflict of the characters and caricatures of a zombie-field world and paralleling that fictional story of a battle for soulful humanity.

It has become apparent that what is happening in our nation is not a creation of one character, Donald Trump, much the same way evil in The Walking Dead is not created by each caricature of evil that appears in the plot. In fact, in an increasingly nuanced fashion the show, much like the nation, has articulated that good and evil are not a simple line crossed only by a singular “bad guy” [like the Governor character brought in Season 3, giving us a peek into a dark and stormy character with distorted morality] but rather it is a line we can all easily cross, when pushed to a threshold of hurt or hate, and requires intentionality and radical compassion to not become the thing we fear the most.

As the main character, Rick Grimes, articulates in Season 5, “…We tell ourselves we are the walking dead,” illustrating both the capacity for us to do unthinkable things if we live as if we are already dead, and, deeper, how when the evil seems to be defined and certain, and “over there,” how easily we can avoid seeing the evil rising up in ourselves — action by action, fear by fear, hateful act by hateful act. We can so quickly convince ourselves we are “the good guys,” fighting for the right cause, and in doing so absolve ourselves of ever looking at our own actions to, for example, “Make America Great Again!” Or, similarly, while fighting to take back the world from this “plague” of the undead, the decidedly bad, the decidedly evil, we miss the point that the evil is welling up in us — that when we act from evil to blot out what we perceive to be evil, we find that we are the walking dead.

What is Trumping our own conscience and morality in this morality play we are living out across the landscape of the United States right now? We see state after state, in this primary election, hate and fear and bigotry are winning. Trump winning in these primaries is not about this one great super-villain who is turning a nation, it is about the hidden, private, secret walking dead hate which is being unleashed into our public sphere. We are being shown the overwhelming amount of walking dead, fight to the death, anything goes evil which is welling up in ordinary places. In cities, towns and communities that many of us inhabit — hate has been growing, like a virus, a plague, unseen until now.

Like The Walking Dead, this virus of hate, the potential for it, is in us all — the question is what will we choose to be?

Because hate is always a choice.

Bigotry is always a choice.

Violence is always a choice.

Whether it is being chosen in a polling booth, through punches thrown at protesters in a rally crowd, or in the louder and louder expressions of fear acted out in violence against black and brown bodies, trans and queer bodies, immigrant bodies, in our communities at home–hate is always a choice.

More and more of America is choosing hate. More and more of America is voting for hate. More and more of America is acting from hate. More and more of America is becoming the Walking Dead.

In this morality play called life, being lived out against the backdrop of ‘Merica, who will you choose to be?

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