January 13, 2013

The Coming Zombie Apocalypse

Posted in Medical knowledge, Politics, Social issues, Women's health tagged , , , , at 7:03 AM by candacevan

The Coming Zombie Apocalypse

Lately, I find myself worrying about the imminent zombie apocalypse.

It began when my partner introduced me to the American Movie Classics (AMC) cable channel series, The Walking Dead (based on the series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard). It is a well-plotted show, with lots of interesting characters, but I have trouble abandoning all reason so that I can enjoy it.

You see, the zombies are dead. They are rotting, decomposing. They have this compulsion to feast on living flesh, but as is established fairly early in the first season, their insides are rotting, too. In other words, they cannot digest the food they eat. It does them not one bit of good to eat the living. The zombies gobble someone up and then the meat just rots inside them.

Anyone with a basic understanding of human biology knows that the process of breaking down food fuels the necessary activities that must go on inside a human body to sustain life or in order for it to function in any way, shape, or form. But these zombies only eat for fun (not profit), they do not breathe, they are, on a number of levels, rotting away. But they do not fall down and decompose entirely. Instead, they run around — and I do mean run: The contemporary zombie doesn’t just lumber after you at a speed that is just slightly faster than a living person crawling on his belly.

I am perturbed by the sheer absurdity of this conception of zombies. In order to watch or enjoy the show, I have to park my intellect and reason by the door.

I went online to see what other people were saying about issues like this, and what I found concerned me on an even more profound level. I encountered, for example, one man explaining that “Zombies can run faster than us, ‘cuz they don’t have to breathe — they never get out of breath.”

It does not seem to bother this person that respiration is necessary to fuel the muscles that enable us to run. No breath equals an extremely short sprint, followed by complete collapse. Anyone who has ever experienced anaphylaxis (which tends to interfere with things like respiration and maintaining blood pressure within a functional range) can tell you that if you do not have adequate blood pressure or breath, well, you sure as hell ain’t gonna run very far.

There are even Web pages that answer pressing questions that may trouble people, such as:

  • Are Zombies Real?
  • Do you think zombies are a threat?
  • If zombies ruled the world, how would I survive?

Other commentators have found other aspects of the series troublesome. Perhaps the most famous gripe is summed up in this photo:

Who mows lawns after the zombie apolcalypse?

I suppose that I should also worry that people may confuse zombies with the chronically ill. We, too, lumber, occasionally mumble or seem out of it, and are regarded as being little more than a burden on society. I guess we’re not quite the affliction posed by flesh-eating automatons, but I’m sure there are those who might want to argue the point.

But the most troubling aspect of the zombie craze for me, a child of the 60s and the original Star Trek, is that in the era of science fiction, a story had to make some kind of sense, had to possess some kind of internal logic or consistency. Once upon a time we feared having a mouth and being unable to scream. Or that space aliens would disable non-essential electricity for a half hour to get us to listen to their warning about the follies of our ways. Heck, even Gremlins came with specific instructions, and the plot of the movie demonstrated the consequences of ignoring them.

My fear is that the rise of zombies as the monsters du jour reflects the ascendance of polarized and passionate irrationality. Just today I heard that still another Republican (this one an obstetrician-gynecologist!) had stepped forward to assert that, yup, women’s bodies really do have a way to halt rape-related conception. Representative Phil Gringey (R-Ga) did admit that Todd Akin was not entirely correct in his earlier comments on the issue, but then Gringey explained that even in non-rape situations, women may require a glass of wine and an admonition to “Just relax” before they are able to ovulate and then conceive. (That explains why no children were conceived prior to the discovery of fermentation. “No wine, no kids!” as the grape-stomping cavemen used to say.)

To be fair, I shouldn’t just point out the GOP’s irrational ideas. We have liberals who are certain that a major cause of school shootings is violent video games, even though the research that has been done doesn’t really support that conclusion.

And we have NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre, who reduced the complex and difficult subject of how to prevent gun violence to a statement that is a model of oversimplification, namely, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

This is national discourse that is basically on the level of grammar schoolyard taunts. What is the world coming to? I know that that is the lament of every aging generation, but at the moment, it seems like a reasonable question.

Zombies free yard work jpg


Photo credits:

  • The first and third photos used in this article were created using Make your own Road Construction Sign. Thank you to atom@smasher.org!
  • The second photo used in this article was taken from Urlybits. It’s become an Internet meme — I am not sure who created it.

Copyright © 2013 by Candace L. Van Auken. All rights reserved.


January 6, 2013

One More Thing

Posted in Politics, Public health tagged , , , at 1:08 AM by candacevan

The day after I published Friday’s blog post (The Thing I Don’t Get), I took a second look at the image from Facebook that set me off. For those of us with non-eidetic memories, here it is again:

Guns dont abortion clinics do

When I glanced again at that arch bit of political posturing, something really obvious whacked me right between the eyes. Appearing on Facebook only a few weeks after the horrendous grade-school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I could only view the image as suggesting that abortion is a worse crime than what happened that day to those 20 children, 7 adults, and one suicidal shooter.

To me, that image says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, so a couple of dozen people got killed, abortion is the real crime here.”

To which I say, “Huh?”

Paul Hill, holding poster

I know that there are hardline anti-abortion advocates who feel that, for example, murdering a doctor who has performed abortions — even in the middle of Sunday church services — is okay. Most “pro-life” advocates would eschew murder or bombing in the furtherance of their cause.

However, I feel that, even if a person poses as a reasonable, law-abiding moderate on the issue of abortion, by posting that particular image on his or her Facebook page at this time, that person is implicitly creating a moral hierarchy in which outright murder of unarmed children is a lesser crime than a first-trimester abortion.

And that is deeply troubling.

January 4, 2013

The Thing I Don’t Get

Posted in Politics, Public health, Women's health tagged , , , , at 4:43 AM by candacevan

Someone I knew in high school posted this image on Facebook, along with the comment, “Thoughts?”

Guns dont abortion clinics do

I know that abortion politics is one of those swamps that we are advised to stay away from, but I have a problem with the whole life-begins-at-conception position.

Back when I was in graduate school, I knew a man whose brother had leukemia. As it turned out, only two family members, my friend and his father, were a match who could donate blood products weekly to keep the sick brother alive.

Perhaps surprisingly, the brother’s father simply refused to do it. There was no way that he was going to have to go to a hospital every week and make the donation. I don’t know whether he was callous or incredibly busy, but either way, he refused to do it. That left my friend, who was gay, as the only possible person who could make the blood-related donations that would keep his brother alive. It meant that he couldn’t move to a city to study art and begin a more open and enjoyable life. He was stuck in a rural, antigay town for ten years to help keep his brother alive.

Here’s the thing I don’t get: There exist no laws that could have forced the father to donate blood products weekly, just as there are no laws that say, for example, that if I need a kidney and you have a compatible one to spare, I can make you give it to me. If my friend’s brother would be allowed to die, or if I could die for a lack of your kidney, couldn’t the brother’s father — or you — be said to be a murderer for letting it happen?

Note that it’s also been said that over 40 people watched Kitty Genovese be stabbed to death in New York City a half a century ago, but as far as I know, no one went to jail for not doing a thing to stop the murder.

How come people put their energy into opposing a Supreme Court decision that says that a woman has the right to control her own body, that she does not have to carry a first-trimester fetus to term against her will? They seem more concerned about the rights of a few thousand cells that might never make it to term than they do about the flesh-and-blood, living-and-breathing, thinking-and-feeling people around them.

How can a society that lets a father allow his son to die lest he be inconvenienced by having to go to a hospital for an hour once a week turn around and tell a women — even a woman who has been raped or a child who has had her innocence destroyed by a family member — that she has to carry to term a fetus she never asked for and doesn’t want?

Congressman Barney Frank once quipped that someone who is “Pro-Life” believes that life begins at conception and ends at birth, but I have this sneaking suspicion that those who have a knee-jerk opposition to abortion never really pondered what he meant by that statement.

It seems like every week some town votes down funding to educate its children — the ones who have already been born, that is, and those desperately anti-abortion legislators are famous for voting against things like Headstart or school lunch programs. I don’t get it. How can they pretend to care about fetuses but make it clear that they do not give a damn about the children who are already here?

It’s not like I think abortions are wonderful. I don’t think I’d have had one, but that’s my personal opinion, based on my personal morals and untroubled by the vicissitudes of real life. Personally, I think that most abortions are a tragedy, but I cannot stand in front of an incestuously raped nine-year-old and tell her or her parents what to do. I cannot tell a woman who wasn’t exactly raped (but who didn’t consent) that she should drop out of medical school and work in a diner to support the child I’ll force her to carry to term.

Pro life cartoon

I’ve seen so many unloved, even hated, children, who grow up to be hate-filled and destructive to themselves and others. A child who grows up in a home without love and support can be worse off than a child who grows up on the streets.

Don’t tell me that you’re a Christian — show me. If you spew hate or intolerance or rain down judgments like summer sunshine, you’re not a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or especially a UU. If your faith does not soften your heart and open your mind to the suffering of others, then it’s got no place in such discussions.

Isn’t it too bad that we couldn’t sit down without our affiliations or slogans or Bibles and just talk about these issues like real, live people? I hope that day comes — and soon.


Reference for Barney Frank quotation: Pierce CP. To Be Frank. boston.com News. 2 Oct 2005.


Copyright © 2013 by Candace L. Van Auken. All rights reserved.


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