Attention, internet: Enough with the zombie apocalypse meme. ENOUGH. In general, I need you to stop talking to me about zombies, vampires, werewolves, unicorns, bacon, cupcakes, Chuck Norris if that's still happening, and "I just threw up in my mouth a little bit." Stop. Make a new thing. But more specifically, please stop aggregating gruesome crimes committed by mentally ill and/or drug addicted people so you can make some big har-har zombie punchline on your Facebook wall. Zombies are not real. Human beings are.
So a guy ate another guy's face. That sounds pretty wacky, until you consider the fact that a guy ate another guy's face. To someone, somewhere, this isn't a remote story about some weirdos on the news—it's an immediate, close, howling pain. And to turn that pain into a cheap joke (and not even a particularly good joke) is irresponsible and inhumane. As Richard Lawson at the Atlantic Wire put it:
It's a real, sad, terrible thing that happened. All those other catastrophes are real too. Stringing together a bunch of awful tragedies for the purpose of making a lazy listicle is so checked-out and blase and insensitive that it's, well, kinda disgusting...Just maybe try not to be so excited that some poor man had his face chewed off by a naked drug addict who still had bits of flesh in his mouth when he was shot and killed.
Or, I don't know, maybe I should make a hilarious meme about the time your mom died! She's probably a ghost now! Ha ha, you and your stupid ghoul mom. 75 dickheads "liked" this.
Yesterday in Seattle (where I live) a man walked into a cafe and shot five people—not people I knew personally, but people I'd met, friends of friends. Then he drove to a different neighborhood and shot another woman, a mother of two. Then he shot himself. According to his family, the man had a concealed weapons permit and a history of mental illness. They felt that he was dangerous, but there was nothing they could do. Now everybody is dead. Jonathan Golob wrote in my hometown newspaper:
In place of (costly and arguably inhumane) warehousing of the mentally ill, the plan for decades in Washington state has been to provide aggressive outpatient case management. Psychosis, bipolar disease, depression, anxiety and others are all treatable diseases. The notion—and it's not a bad idea at its core—is to use an army of social workers (state employees) to keep mentally ill people in the community engaged with treatment and the community safe.
Over the same decades, our investment in social services has dwindled. Right-wing propagandists like the Seattle Times's editorial board, Tim Eyman, and everyone you know who has uttered the phrase 'a more efficient state government' are directly responsible for our social service network being gutted, the many safety nets being left tattered and unmanned.
The reign of radical right wing financial policy in Washington State has left (the richest of) us with some of the lowest tax burdens of any community in the United States. The cost is a day like today.
I don't mean that the people who latched on to this particular meme are bad people (though I would say they're a bit thoughtless), or that it's never appropriate to respond to unthinkable tragedy with macabre humor. But I'm not feeling particularly charitable toward wacky zombie jokes today. There's no such thing as undead people, only dead people. And sad people. No one deserves to be publicly ridiculed for their identity — gay people, fat people, black people, poor people — but when we ridicule and marginalize mentally ill people, actual innocent people get killed.