Q: What do our friend’s political rants on Facebook and the undead have in common?
A: They both reveal our dependence on black and white & our dislike of gray.
First, since it’s so close to Halloween, let’s talk about zombies. We are in a time of zombie-mania. The only way to make them even more popular would be to make them out of bacon. But we love our zombies like we love watching a car wreck, a morbid fascination more than warm and fuzzy feelings.
We are fascinated by how uncomfortable the idea of a being that is neither alive nor dead makes us feel. As Derrida says, “The zombie is fascinating and also horrific. For a classic satisfying ending (to most horror movies), the troubled element has to be removed, perhaps by killing it. But zombies are already dead, while alive, so you can’t remove or kill a zombie, you have to resolve it. You have to resolve its undecidability. So the ending of a zombie movie involves a magic agent or superior power that will have to “decide” the zombie, returning it to one side of the opposition or the to the other. It has to become a proper corpse or a true living being.”
Derrida’s point, which I think is insightful, is that the most horrifying thing about zombies is that it is so undecided. We don’t care if it ends up becoming a dead corpse or a live body, just so long as it becomes one or the other.
I think this same principle is operates in politics. The country seems to be fascinated by “the undecided voter.” As the article says, “Why can’t they make up their minds already,” geez, you’re making us uncomfortable. But have no fear, Slate has “revealed” them to you, so rest assured, they aren’t as undecided as first appears. I am an undecided voter. And I am not sure I am going to be deciding by next week. I might just not vote this round since a vote would be to “resolve” it, but I am anything but resolved about my stance on politics. As I have talked to people it’s apparent that my indecisiveness is more uncomfortable to them than if I chose the “wrong” side. Again, they don’t care if I end up becoming a democrat or a republican (or even 3rd party), just so long as I become one or the other (or the other).
In a frenzy of black-and-white statements about each candidate, I would like to throw in my word of choice: “perhaps.” This is a word that makes many of us uncomfortable because it is, by definition, undecided. In the midst of millions of people who have no background or education in government so quickly announcing dogmatically how good or bad for America a candidate will be, I simply say “perhaps.” And as I increasingly use this word in conversation I have found that we cling to clear-cut categories of either/or like my 2 year old clings to her blanky.
Will ObamaCare help us in the long-run? Perhaps.
Will ObamaCare destroy us in the long-run? Perhaps.
Is Romney really just out to support the rich? Perhaps.
Is Romney a really nice guy who wants what is best for everyone? Perhaps.
Would a Liberterian President make a difference? Perhaps.
Would that difference be good for our country or bad? Perhaps.
If we could stomach the discomfort for just long enough we might find that we do not know what we think we know and that we are all zombies in our own way; that this world is not nearly as decided as we think it is. And if we can see that, then, perhaps, the world would no longer be a chaotic place we need to control and label for our own comfort but a place of infinite possibilities, where “for God, all things are possible.”
And as it relates to politics, I think we could all stand to be a little more undecided.