Awakening our inner zombies

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Esther Cepeda
Monday, June 4, 2012
— Is it just me or were you also a little bummed last month when archaeologists announced the discovery of what is thought to be the oldest version of the Mayan calendar and it turned out that, no, the Earth isn't going to end this December?

This past week, all signs have pointed to the fact that a lot of people -- especially those of us with the unbending egotistical belief that we have what it takes to be among the few survivors of a cataclysm -- are sort of pining for "the end."

How else to explain the zeal with which news of the bizarre Miami tragedy, in which a naked man attacked a homeless man by stripping his clothes off and then mauling his face, spurred rumors of a coming zombie apocalypse?

The end-of-times scenario certainly took on more life after it came out that a New Jersey man stabbed himself repeatedly and threw his intestines at police, or that in Maryland a college student killed a man and then consumed the victim's heart and part of his brain.

Plus there was the Canadian porn actor suspected of dismembering a Chinese engineering student and then eating his body parts. Police say the actor posted a video on the Internet and then mailed a foot and a hand to Canada's two major political parties. That isn't very zombie-like, but crazy is contagious and it's easy to lump all the gruesome stuff together.

It got so bad that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- which just last year had launched a tongue-in-decayed-cheek zombie preparedness guide meant to bring awareness to the types of safeguards individual citizens should have in place for a hurricane, earthquake or terrorist attack -- had to confirm that it didn't actually believe in zombies.

I don't think it's just a case of beginning-of-summer daydreaming. To paraphrase the fictional FBI agent Fox Mulder: We want to believe.

It seems like everything's going to pieces anyway, so why not entertain the possibility that the end is near? It's comforting.

How else are we expected to cope with headlines about the latest Syrian massacre, the latest miserable jobs report, and the latest political insanity -- you've heard that the "corners" are demanding proof that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is not a unicorn?

On top of a steady stream of secret presidential drone-kill lists, wide-ranging corruption in politics and finance, and general incivility, there are unending examples of neglect, violence and plain stupidity -- sometimes in frightening combination.

Every day we wake up, learn what's happened in the last 24 hours and wonder: What the heck is going on here? Some of us are just resigned to the reality that we are all doomed -- and we hope that the absurdity will somehow abate.

Yes, there's definitely a certain crowd that's at least partially ready to consider the upside of the latest apocalyptic scenario. Whether it's the zombies that come to get us, the next super virus (heard about "the new AIDS of the Americas"?) or the ghosts of the Mayan calendar, some imagine finally being put out of their misery. The rest of us crave the chance to survive and taste the possibility of sweet relief.

Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

Last updated: 8:51 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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