Friday, July 08, 2005

Day of the dead

Since I met my husband, I've discovered the value of horror movies. Not the stupid slasher kind - the suspenseful kind, the kind that, like good speculative fiction, make you question who you are as a person and what really matters to you and what you are willing to do to protect it. In particular, apocalyptic films are great for this. Within that subgenre, the sub-subgenre of zombie movies.

We recently saw George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, a movie that asked those questions in much the same way his previous Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead did. (Day of the Dead, like the Dawn remake, was an egregious misfire, despite my using it for an entry title.) Another movie that asked those questions was 28 Days Later, a British film that put zombies on speed and showed truly haunting images of a post-apocalyptic London at dawn.

It was a movie I thought about quite a bit (along with the excellent BBC film Dirty War) viewing images of London following its July 7 terrorist attacks.

Not just because of the empty streets and the screaming and the images of the dead, but because ever since September 11, my husband and I and our zombie movie-fan friends have all speculated on how the phenomenon of the zombie film pretty much describes our lives in the age of terrorism.

How so? No, terrorists' flesh isn't rotting, and they're not out to consume us. Instead, their brains are rotting, and they're out to consume our way of life.

I include wacko McVeigh types with the Islamists. Like zombies, terrorists don't think. They are driven by an insatiable appetite. In 28 Days Later, they had a specific disease called Rage. It turned their eyes red, and in one scene, a Rage-filled zombie appears to cry, "I hate you!" Because the movie was filmed in 2002, it's impossible not to think its makers wanted to explore our post-9/11, rage-filled world.

More to the point, is the question of what you do with zombies. Hard-core fans know that you hit the road, and before you take care of food, water, or shelter, you get weapons - preferably guns - and kill as many zombies as you can on sight. Before, of course, they can kill you.

This cornerstone of zombie myth, as applied to terrorists, flies in the face of my anti-death penalty beliefs, which are based on a belief that only God can call people to Home or to Hell, that humans don't have the right to deny others the future chance to repent. It smacks of vigilantism, for one thing, especially because radicals don't look or smell like zombies. They look and smell like us, and it's impossible to tell them from our legitimate neighbors.

A now-retired police official who blogs under the name of Cerberus doesn't make that judgment, not yet. He asks, "How do we feel about the treatment of prisoners held at Camp Gitmo now? Where do we draw the line between being an inclusive and welcoming society and a people that are willing to exclude immigrants in order to keep enemies outside the walls rather than next to our hearths?"

I'm still working on an answer to that, folks. My son is young; I don't yet have to explain it to him. I hope by the time he's old enough to ask questions, I'll have an answer. Even if it's not the answer.

Meantime, the best I can do right now is keep praying. For enlightenment. For the victims in London and Madrid and Ukraine and New York and everywhere else touched by terrorism. And most of all for the terrorists. Many faiths have prayers for the dead, asking God for mercy for their sins and for their peace in the afterlife. As close to being the living dead as these people are, I think they could use such prayers.


Blogger Mary Louisa said...

Thoughtful essay, Christa. I too am going to be looking for some answers.

8/7/05 11:01 PM  
Blogger Meg said...

Wow, I wish you could publish this somewhere. You should be writing op-eds!

9/7/05 5:33 AM  

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