Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Zombabies... or, why it's okay to punch a Nazi.

So this is my second post in as many weeks about zombies.  What can I say, they fascinate me.

Oddly enough, I'm not actually a zombie movie buff.  I don't particularly like the super grotesque outside of the comedy horror genre.  I certainly don't have the stomach for series such as "Saw" and I've never seen "Dawn of the Dead".  However, I loved "Sean of the Dead" as well as "Zombieland" and "The Evil Dead" trilogy that was directed by Sam Rami.

I refuse to see "World War Z" mostly because I've read the book and reviews of the movie seem to indicate that the involvement of zombies are about the only thing that the book and the movie have in common.  "World War Z" is a master work in it's genre.  I wouldn't even describe it as particularly frightening.  In fact, I'd say it's more a book about the depths and heights of humanity than it is a book about zombies.

Zombies are the perfect "other".  When we apply principles of orientalism to the post apocalyptic zombie genre, they make for the perfect enemy.  They are simple in motive, they only want to kill and eat.  They don't have families that will miss them, they don't have people that depend on them and you don't have to feel a drop of guilt for enacting horrific acts of violence on them.

Of course, I've always found that the most interesting bad guys are the ones that you can, on some level, empathize with.  The antagonist from "No Country for Old Men" Anton Chigurh comes to mind.  Yes, he was cold blooded and relentless, but the humanity he displayed in the last act despite his sociopath nature is what made him memorable. Darth Vader falls into this category as well. Introduced as robotic, unfeeling and brooding, Vader's character takes on new depth when we find out he has both a conflicted and vulnerable soul.

It's one of the reasons why it hurts my heart to see children zombified in the movies.  It represents such a waste of potential, a life robbed before it could be lived. Seeing zombie children pulls at the heartstrings of any parent who knows what a curious bundle of love and potential that a young child can be.  Children make effective monsters because it leads me to think about what kind of monster would turn children into monsters.

Yet there are no such accommodations made for zombies or Nazis. (And communists, depending on whether or not it's still the 80's).  Nazi's are always okay to kill, whether you're Harrison Ford or Quinton Tarantino.  It's all fair game and the more gruesome the death is, the better.  But are we really justified in thinking this way?  Surely many Nazis were forced into service against their will.  We know that those who dissented from the state were punished severely.  We also know that their families were punished alongside them.  Even among the ranks of Nazi generals, not all were in line with the final solution as was displayed in Tom Cruise's excellent film "Valkyrie". (P.S.- let me know if you want to hear an insane third hand story about the death of Hitler, it's redonkulous).

So is it always okay to punch a Nazi?  Yes. If you are an allied soldier and it's 1943.  If not, you may want to take pause.

Recently a man named Richard Spencer was cold clocked at a political rally.  Spencer's views are vile, let's get that out of the way right now.  He's been described as a leader of the white nationalist alt-right which is a blight on conservative politics.  Conservatives do (and rightly so) disavow Spencer and his followers with extreme prejudice.  However, Spencer himself claims that he is not a Nazi, neo or otherwise.

There is a part of me that derives great satisfaction at a man like Richard Spencer getting his comeuppance in the form of a red hot knuckle sandwich.  But if it's okay to punch a Nazi, who gets to decide who the Nazi's are?  I've been accused of being a Nazi in political debates (with strangers on the internet, of course) does that mean that I should be on the receiving end of a beat down?  If anyone who disagrees with us is a Nazi, why bother using words? Why not move straight on into murder?  After all, if it's okay to punch a Nazi, by extension there shouldn't be any qualms about murdering a Nazi.  They are just scum of the earth Nazi's after all.

The term Nazi in political debate is problematic, as soon as I see it used it acts as a signal, loud and clear, that the person throwing that accusation around is ideologically tied to a stance that is independent of logic and therefore not worth debating with.  There's even a name for the tendency to mention Hitler in an argument on the internet named Godwin's law. This states that the longer an argument goes on, the more likely someone will make a comparison to Nazi's, Hitler or both. There is also a logical fallacy tied to it as well that is named "Reductio ad Hitlerum". The invoker of the fallacy argues that a policy leads to - or is the same as - one advocated by Hitler and is therefore undesirable.

Obvious discussion questions are obvious:

1. Is it okay to punch a Nazi?

2. Have you ever been accused of being a Nazi while debating on the internet? (details please!)

P.S. Read World War Z. It is SUCH a good book!


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  2. In my opinion it's okay to punch anyone if they deserve it. Especially if they are doing something that affects you personally. Would I just go up to someone I thought was a Nazi and punch them? Probably not. Would I blame someone who was Jewish for punching a Nazi? Definitely not.

    I agree with zombifying a baby being completely heartbreaking or uncalled for. I know in some movies pregnant women get bit and then give birth to zombie babies as well. This breaks my heart. Although there is a lot of psychological and philosophical debate as to why this is. Why do we care so much more about the life of a child than we do an adult. It's like the "Baby on board" stickers on cars. We mentally think to drive more cautious around them. If it said "middle aged lawyer on board" we wouldn't care as much.

    The analysis of this having to do with a child's innocence and potential I believe to be accurate. However, why don't we ever recognize that this potential isn't just to be good? They have the potential to be average or even do evil unspeakable things. Why am I looked at like I'm crazy when I think, "maybe we are doing the world a favor. Maybe this kid would have grown up to be the next Hitler" (see what I did there with the Nazi reference?)

    Now I don't really think that kids, or even humans in general have equal potential to be bad or good, but using their potential as a reason to try and protect them over someone else is an interesting psychological phenomenon to me.
    I too have a few things that, in an intellectual debate, make me realize that I am no longer dealing with someone intellectually but instead emotionally. Being called a Nazi is one of them. I belong to a lot of groups online that discuss adoption with women who have placed their children. Obviously this is a sensitive topic and many women who go through this process have a lot of trauma associated with their experience. There are rules set up in these groups about what is okay and not okay. Many times if I see someone trying to invalidate someone else's feelings I step in. At one time I was then told to "stop being such a PC Nazi." It was at that point I realized this person had no ammo to defend their actions and words with and instead just decided to come at me. I feel the same about people who use the term "grammar Nazi." Just learn how to use the English language appropriately, and I won't have to come in and correct you.

    I love Max Brooks books. I started off reading The Zombie Survival Guide, then read World War Z when it was published. I, like you, refuse to watch it for the same reasons.

  3. Eric, First off let me just agree with you on the novel World War Z. Wow, what a read! I was equally entranced and horrified at the speed and efficiency that a biological agent could move through our modern world. Though a work of fiction, I hope the CDC took note. I also saw the movie and enjoyed it. You should watch it simply for it's take on zombies. It bears so little resemblance to the book you won't be disappointed. In truth the only aspect the book and film have in common is the title.

    To answer your questions, I have never been accused of being a Nazi. However, I have been marginalized solely based on my religion. The interesting aspect of my online experience was that I wasn't debating. I wasn't even involved in any communication with my Facebook friend before the incident. He simple messaged me privately one day and asked me to please disavow my religious affiliation publicly on my Facebook page or we were no longer friends. In face to face communication we had been friends for nearly 15 years but I hadn't seen him in a while. I was stunned at what he was asking me to do. I assured him that though he and I had different beliefs politically and morally, I loved him and had always valued his friendship but I could not comply with his request. He immediately accused me of being a bigot and a hateful fascist. It feel it's important to note that the only thing I really share on Facebook are vacation photos and my children's public school accomplishments. I don't engage in political discourse. He jumped to these preposterous claims about my character based on the fact I had listed my religious affiliation in my Facebook profile. I am LDS, by the way, and he took extreme issue with that. After I declined his offer once more. He immediately unfriended me and blocked me from viewing his account.

    So I guess you can say that I don't think we should be allowed to punch a Nazi. In his misinformed political view I suppose I was a bit of a Nazi, though probably the least aggressive Nazi in history. Based on his political and moral beliefs he felt marginalized and "othered" by the more conservative members of society so he returned the favor by "othering" me as well. When we marginalize, including Nazi's, I suppose, we risk orientalism and though we may disagree with another person, even with every fiber of our being, they are still entitled to their opinion.