February 26, 2017
As we all know, the Zombie Apocalypse is where the un-dead threaten to destroy the remnant of the living, wiping them off the face of the earth. The living human beings, on the other hand (or is it the same hand?), have to eradicate every last zombie in order for humanity to survive. In addition to some thrilling action scenes, the tension in the story seems to come from the moral choices the human beings must make in order to prevail against the zombies. The zombies themselves are not credited with having the capacity for moral choice. When you’re one of the un-dead, that’s just part of the deal, I guess.
Incredibly, this seems to be where we, as Americans, are right now. Two hostile populations mingle on the streets by day, seldom looking deeply enough to recognize the other. But by night, and on the weekends, intelligence is gathered, propaganda disseminated, defenses probed, and raiding parties troll their way behind enemy lines on Facebook and other social media. Yes, at night we shout obscenities at each other because the “other” is just a bunch of zombies. We have allowed ourselves to disrespect one another, and in so doing we have de-humanized ourselves. We are the Zombie Apocalypse.
And that’s how George Saunders, writing in the New Yorker Magazine in July 2016, comes to share an astute observation: “…we are now two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems.”
I only bring this up to suggest that what remains, if anything, of common ground between “LeftLand and RightLand” is quickly eroding as these two subcountries drift farther apart. On both sides of the divide we shout and curse at the other, “You zombies are living in ignorant darkness!” All the while the leadership on both sides fuels these arguments, pushing the divide ever wider.
I had the opportunity to read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” recently, reportedly a highly-valued text in the personal library of former Presidential advisor Steve Bannon. I could easily understand why U.S. military commanders would be issued this short book as a combat field manual. I could even see how some people might come to view such a manual as a guide to non-military, social, or interpersonal, relations. One might effectively use the “Art of War” as a guide-book for social interaction, but in so doing those interpersonal dealings will certainly come from an adversarial paradigm. I am amazed at how many concerned citizens and interest groups, both liberal and conservative, not to mention our current Administration, would describe their current position as “on a war-footing.” THAT is an adversarial paradigm.
I’ve met plenty of people who deal with others as adversaries. People who know me know that I can go there sometimes, too. But that is not where we need to be right now as a country IF we are going to find common ground and move on. And that, my friends, is just where we are.
Our common ground is now either the devastated no-man’s land between our two Zombie Nations, or a place to get to work and co-operatively build a new synthesis from the rubble of our differences. It’s a moral choice we all get to make. Do I abandon my dream of a progressive American liberty to pursue a dialogue with my respected conservative friend? Not a chance. I choose to dialogue when there is mutual respect, but I refuse to abandon the dream. I choose to raise my voice for both the Liberty, and the Humanity, in which I believe. I choose to not demean or de-humanize those who disagree with me. I choose to seek a path to meaningful discourse with anyone willing to drop the adversarial game, mutually re-humanize, and talk about what is real. The truth shines on no Zombie Nation.