the hell are we doing?
It doesn’t take someone as in-tune with the world-wide events
surrounding the plague as I to see that, as a species, we’ve gone
and done it again. Perhaps I’m being a bit vague, so I’ll
The plague has reached a pivotal point not in its hold on the world,
not in its devastation or eradication efforts or even in the drama it
breeds as quickly as it does the undead. No, this pivotal point has
nothing to do with global political positioning and it doesn’t
refer to the recent flare-ups and failed containment attempts we’ve
seen in hot spots all over the world. It has to do with an even more
critical element than how many undead are shambling through the land,
how quickly we can destroy them or even in the research into stopping
the virus that causes corpses to rise. The greatest danger we have now
is in the court of public and personal perception.
You’ve seen it before though given the obvious drama you may have
missed it in concerns to the plague. We’ve lived with the plague
for a few years now. We’ve seen so much footage and read so many
reports that many of us in the “civilized” world have become
dangerously desensitized to it. Chierbeck’s
spotty journalism, the discovery of stateside body farms and redneck
undead eradication teams full more of bravado and pride than skill and
knowledge started the trend with a direct and obvious line running from
them to today. You haven’t picked up the thread yet? Okay…
The Oklahoma City bombing was a decided tragedy on both a personal and
national level. The attacks on the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon
and the heroic, self-sacrificial acts of the passengers on Flight 93
we collectively refer to as “9/11” were even more so. But
no matter how important, far-reaching and devastating these events were
to our culture, spirit and sense of personal and national safety, within
two years they became nothing more than footnotes in history. Their
dramas played out as long as the cameras remained, as long as there
were millions and millions of people, dollars and votes to be spent.
But as with all things so tragic and so sudden, we eventually buried
them away in the little backroom we have in our memories, yellowing
papers inside cracked and faded banker’s boxes of things we don’t
really think about anymore but need to remember in case we’re
playing a round of Trivial Pursuit or someone ever asks us “Where
were you when…?” After almost two years for each of these
events, the American people just got tired.
Sure, they gave to the various foundations and charities. They screamed
and raged at any perceived enemy, they rallied around the flag and a
few country singers and even supported going to war in two different
countries at the same time (and yes, many of you out there did in fact
support going into Iraq and Afghanistan. The approval ratings and independent
polls at the time support this.). But then, we hit the two-year mark.
It started slowly at first, even before that benchmark was reached.
Sales of American flags went through the roof. Truck stops and department
stores couldn’t keep flag-draped items like leather jackets and
inspirational t-shirts and hats on the shelves as far back as 9/12/01.
But at that magical two-year mark we started to see more. Scandals broke
out about the mob diverting scrap steel from the Twin Towers to other
recycling concerns. Reports of fraud in the payout system established
for the survivors of the attack and their families came in by the score.
Political candidates started using footage of them touring Ground Zero
in their ads for reelection, often accompanied by country songs written
specifically about (and headlining albums and tours) the attacks. Late-night
30 minute commercials popped up on cable, advertising footage of the
aftermath of the attacks and book after book from the clinical to the
farcical appeared. The American people did what we do best in the aftermath
of a tragedy; we made money off it.
My point is that we in the United States and many other countries are
acting like we’ve already hit that two-year mark. The difference
is, those other tragedies all had a definitive end, a point where you
could buy a three-year planner and start scheduling your production
lines so you could have your tragedy-related products ready for the
shelves on the second anniversary. True, we’ve been dealing with
the plague for longer than those two years. But, Dear Reader, let me
assure you that we haven’t reached the definitive end. We haven’t
even reached the zenith of the story arc. Judging by the news of the
day, we’re far, far from that point.
People in Great Britain treated sloppy security procedures and poor
attention to protocol in an undead
research facility more like it was a teen-offender half-way house
that was hurting their property values instead of the utter disaster
it could have become. Sure, they were worked up about it. But I’ve
seen stronger protests outside an abortion facility than I did with
that. Kids are still using M-bomb
even though they know what can happen, turning what could be the end
of humanity as we know it into a chic rave drug. Undead “trophies”
are being sold on black markets around the world like the vinyl window
decals designed to emblazon your pick-up truck to let the world know
“You Will Not Forget”. Yes, this did happen in the early
days of the plague, but not to the extent that on-line auction sites
had to make special scrubber runs through their millions of listing
to weed them out. This is the single-most dangerous practice next to
actual sport hunting operations the world could have produced for itself
in terms of the undead. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that so-called
“advanced” countries that we would have thought would have
many natural barriers to the plague, such as Australia and Japan, traced
their small outbreaks to individuals mishandling such “trophies”.
The point is we haven’t reached that pivotal moment in history
where we can step back, take a deep breath and start the capitalistic
machinery into production. We haven’t reached the climax of the
tale where we can put the book down and get another cup of coffee before
reading the epilogue. The story of the plague hasn’t ended yet.
In fact, we’re only now reading the prologue. But like those high
school and college reading assignments of yore, it’s a story many
of us don’t want to read, just one we want to buy the Cliff’s
Notes to, get to the good parts and ultimately to the end on our own
time and our own terms. That’s not going to happen, people. Take
a look around. Outbreaks are not only getting worse in severity but
in frequency. Fed by our perception of it being yesterday’s news
and fueled by our growing public and political apathy, ignorance and
greed are quickly becoming the handmaidens of the plague.
We do it all the time, every time, in this country. Look back over our
200+ years and I dare you to prove me wrong. As a people, we’re
slacking, Dear Reader. We need to rededicate ourselves to keeping the
plague in its proper perspective and in its proper timeline. Acting
as if we’re at the end of this tale will only accomplish our own
end. I urge you to read the book cover to cover. Don’t wait for
the movie on this one.
Arthur Helms is a syndicated columnist who has dealt with a host of
social and political issues. His previous syndicated column, “Logic,
Please?” offered commentary on a host of world-view issues as
seen through the cold yet bright light of plain logic, demonstrated
fact and simple common sense.
the academic and political elite often dismissed his commentary as “too
simplistic” for our complicated times, his books of collected
columns and hundreds of national speaking engagements each year attest
to his connection to a readership yearning for simple answers to complex
issues. Helms recently ended his syndicated column to sign on exclusively
with Zombie World News, providing a fresh, logical,
plain-English view of the plague and to bring some common sense to what
many perceive to be a senseless situation.
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