Ever since George Romero's classic Dawn of the Dead came out in 1978, America has been obsessed with zombies. This obsession has reached a fever pitch lately, as evidenced by the success of films such as 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, the Resident Evil series, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland. The zombie plague has spread beyond film to infect other genres of entertainment. The Resident Evil movies were based on a video game. Max Brook's excellent novel World War Z brought zombies into the realm of literature. Heck, there's even a Pride and Prejudice with zombies in it now, or so I hear.
Why is America so hungry (pardon the pun) for zombie-related entertainment? I believe that it's because many Americans think they're living in their own personal zombie apocalypses. Think about it. What are zombie movies about? A small group of human survivors struggles against hordes of mindless devourers and possibly also against the evil government or corporate entities involved in the zombie plague. Compare this with the mindset of the young or those who consider themselves "independent thinkers." They see themselves surrounded on all sides by people they think of as mindless drones locked into a materialistic feeding frenzy. There's a reason they call it "consumerism." In addition to literally gorging themselves on bigger and bigger portions of fattening food, Americans buy more and bigger houses, cars, TVs, etc. Our nation feeds on more and more stuff.
Seeing the world in this way is profoundly frightening for those who experience it. Like it or not, there is a strong component of fear running through every modern ideology. Working-class people who vote Democrat fear that hordes of cheap offshore workers and immigrants will gobble up their jobs and livelihoods. They see the wealthy CEOs of multinational corporations as the "evil masterminds" behind the collapse of American manufacturing, just like the Umbrella Corporation was responsible for the zombie apocalypse in the Resident Evil movies and video games.
I could sit here coming up with sets of "zombies and masterminds" for every group in our society. Wealthy businessmen and professionals fear that hordes of welfare recipients will gobble up their profits after being egged on by power-hungry politicians. Social liberals fear legions of brainwashed cultists marching in lockstep behind pedophile priests who want to burn them at the stake as witches and heretics. Social conservatives believe that gangs of godless youth inspired by rappers and rock stars will corrupt their own children with pills and poontang and turn them into another kind of zombie.
Zombies aren't even the only kind of undead whose lore is sweeping the country. From Twilight to True Blood, vampires have captured our cultural consciousness as well. Like zombies, vampires feed on their prey and turn those upon whom they feed into vampires as well. Barack Obama, in this ad, calls Mitt Romney a "vampire" who sucks companies dry of capital and then leaves them to die. I find it profoundly disturbing that people of all backgrounds and political persuasions have come to agree that in some way or another, our society is dead and only continues to function by feeding on the literal and metaphorical lifeblood of its own people. They see their fellow citizens not as human beings, but as mindless zombies or worse, sinister vampires. Everyone is out to get everyone else, and we have to band together with the few like-minded individuals we can find to survive.
Are the would-be "survivors" right? Is America really the land of the walking dead? In some ways, it probably is. Self-deception has overtaken this country like the Rage virus of 28 Days Later. State and local governments, the federal government, and even private individuals rack up debt like there's no tomorrow without thinking of how they're going to pay them off. These entities are financial zombies waiting for the rotten flesh of their debt-financed excess to fall off. Don't even get me started on TARP and "too big to fail." You know what they call Japanese banks that their government had to prop up? Zombie banks. Meanwhile, people suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes continue to stuff their faces. College students keep drinking their parents' money away and ignoring their GPAs, thinking jobs will materialize out of thin air for them. *Warning, Catholic soap-box deployed* Would-be parents continue to abort and contracept their children into nonexistence to experience the pleasures of sex without the pains of childbirth and childrearing, thinking that these practices have no effects on their bodies or souls. Lots of people are walking around with problems that could end life for them as they know it.
Things aren't hopeless, though. The "independent spirit" is, if anything, on the rise in America. In real life, "the virus" works in the opposite direction as in a zombie movie. Once someone becomes conscious of his own humanity, he's not going to give it up. The hordes may take our money. They may even take our lives, but as William Wallace said, "they'll never take our freedom!" In the movie The Matrix, once you've taken the Red Pill, you'll never experience the matrix in the same way again. I'm going to make a bold prediction. I don't think we're survivors of the apocalypse in this story. I think we're the zombies. Catholic/Christian readers, think about the way that the early Church spread, and about the way it continues to spread today in Africa and Asia. No matter how hard people try to stamp it out, it propagates itself like a virus. Whatever your cause, if you want to succeed, don't think of yourself as the sole survivor holding on against the ravening hordes. Think of yourself as the first zombie poised to infect the entire world. Christians of the 21st century: Jesus told us that we are the salt of the earth, the leaven of the peoples. Let's start thinking of ourselves as the zombies of the REAL Apocalypse, the one described in the Revelation of John, which will bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.