Porn for Zombies: Political Discourse in the United States

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By Dr. Walter Greason

Nothing quite satisfies like your sinking teeth into your enemy’s fleshy veins, tearing away his muscles with your bare hands, and ripping the seams of their skulls open, before devouring his brain.

Over the last month, this statement described the visceral hatred unleashed against President Barack Obama in the wake of the electoral defeat Democrats experienced in November. It was not a scene from The Walking Dead or the latest horror film. In the weeks after the President’s first election in 2008, several prominent intellectuals quietly worried about a wave of violent backlash against African Americans by the angriest opponents of racial equality. Indeed, Ruby Sales has documented dozens of vigilante actions that received little attention over the last decade. This sentiment animated the organization of the Tea Party, the sustained attacks on the Affordable Care Act, the partisan redistricting of the Congress and of State legislatures, and the unprecedented abuse of the legislative process since January 2013. The inflammatory rhetoric of the last six years defies descriptions like a War on Women or White privilege or oligarchy. It has become pornography for zombies.

Twenty-five percent of Americans believe that President Obama was never legitimately elected, was born in Kenya, and was placed in office by Islamic fundamentalists. This belief overreacts against liberal rhetoric that criticized President George W. Bush’s administration for accepting office by Supreme Court decree, for dismissing terrorist capabilities prior to September 11, and for dismantling responsible governance as seen in the response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Every criticism earned by the Bush Administration has been leveled unjustly at the Obama Administration. Since the 2014 Congressional elections, gleeful references to shackling, controlling, and humbling President Obama disseminated across the media. What began as a politics of fear under the Bush Administration deteriorated into a politics of death, obsessed with the symbolic — if not literal — destruction of the Obama Administration.

In this context, the police killings of unarmed African Americans — both men and women — came to the nation’s attention. Quiet fears about isolated lynchings by deranged and resentful individuals paled in comparison with the continuing pattern of African Americans killed by law enforcement with the full sanction of local and of state government.

Officer Darren Wilson conjured images of a Black demon to justify his fear for his life. He echoed the language of George Zimmerman in defending his actions when he killed Trayvon Martin. These claims informed the decisions to excuse Officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking Eric Garner to death. Going further back, this thinking shaped the encounter between Sergeant James Crowley and Professor Henry Louis Gates. In retrospect, Gates’ survival becomes ever more remarkable, given the escalating trend of racial violence embedded in law enforcement policy and guidelines. In the United States, the constant, visceral presentation of dead, Black bodies conveys a sexual, pornographic satisfaction that only zombies could relish.

During a presidency that saved the world economy, ended two open-ended wars, and restored the nation’s role as a respected leader in global affairs, the absence of clear standards regarding racial equality at all levels of the law remains the most enduring failure of the Obama Administration. President Obama manifested a transcendental hope for all his supporters to transform the United States into a nation where segregation and discrimination would decrease during his time in office … and in its aftermath. No other goal is more inimical to pornographic, zombie politics. African Americans must remain the grist for the mill of American progress from the perspectives of Obama’s opponents.

More troubling, disregard for Black people in America now extends into total disregard for Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian, Nigerian, Somali, Indian, and Indonesian lives—revealing the horrors of economic globalization. No, Black people do not matter. Indeed, of the seven billion lives on Earth, fewer than 300 million matter. To the zombies, only their own lives matter and the rest of humanity exists as mere fuel for their food, for their fashion, and for their festivals.

When 12 Years a Slave won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2014, millions hailed the moment as the beginning of the world’s engagement with the legacies of slavery in pursuit of a more just society. This holiday season, Selma became the popular vehicle to raise questions and to provide new answers for social equity and equality. This optimism ignores the danger of racial extermination that persists most openly in the efforts to excuse police killings. The underlying presumption that most people’s lives are expendable — if not completely worthless — must be destroyed root and branch. No film can accomplish this task. Any reliance on entertainment to transform the discourse vastly underestimates the daily labor necessary to create global, equitable democracy.

Pioneering educator Patrick Kennedy has challenged his community in Chicago to reject, in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” His voice rose in concert with millions of people worldwide who stood up against the grand juries and local officials who sanction those who kill recklessly and with impunity. The New York City Police Department has both the moment and the audience to dramatically change this debate by hosting ongoing “teach-ins” wherein community residents can transform local precincts from fortresses to civic-engagement centers. Bring young leaders into law enforcement offices—not for fingerprinting or gun exchanges, but for honest conversations about safety, employment, and education.

On YouTube, there is a video titled “Justice: An Action Plan” that shows how to build neighborhood economies while removing zombies and their pornographic rhetoric from leadership positions across the country. Over the next three months, a “Season of Justice” will connect the celebration of Kwanzaa to Dr. King’s birthday as well as Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

The politics of fear became a politics of death. Voters who supported President Obama’s politics of hope must now create a politics of life.