On July 2nd, 2011, the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle set a world record and marked an important civil rights milestone: for the first time ever, over four and a half thousand Zombie-Americans marched openly and proudly through the streets of a major city. There was no widespread violence, and most onlookers were either openly supportive or covertly terrified.
The zombie rights movement, long an underground sub-current of the broader civil rights movement, has in recent years seen a groundswell of popular support. The movement has three main premises: that zombies should be proud of their undead identity, that being a zombie is a gift, not a curse, and that a zombie’s hunger for brains is natural and should not be suppressed or intentionally altered.
After the infamous Living Dead riots of 1969, which originated (oddly) at a gay bar in Greenwich Village, many cities across the United States enacted anti-zombie statutes. While many of these were struck down in the 1990s, this legalized form of discrimination has continued in some of the more conservative areas across the Bible Belt. In order to establish a public presence in these locations, some zombies have been forced to identify and behave as orthodox dybbuks, which most evangelical Christians struggle to distinguish from human orthodox Jews. This kind of closeted life is a leading cause of depression and suicide among the undead.
As is often the case with zombie pride parades, anti-zombie squads such as the Umbrella Corporation were also represented in the Fremont zombie walk. While their security presence made itself felt at times, the Umbrella Corporation’s personnel remained on best behavior during the walk and took pains to avoid overt intimidation. Only one minor incident involving a cerebellum and a machete was reported.
Although some participants attributed a minor virus outbreak to the Umbrella Corporation, its effects were quickly contained and no zombie transformations were reported. The Umbrella Corporation would not comment for this article, other than the following cryptic statement from their spokesperson: “we’re battening down the hatches for the zombie apocalypse here”.
Much has been made of the presence of celebrity undead at the Zombie Walk. Both John Lennon and (Sweet) Zombie Jesus made an appearance, each expressing support in their unique way for the zombie cause.
While these celebrities provided luster to an already spectacular event, the story of the zombie walk was really that of the anonymous, everyday zombie; the zombie on the street. The one that even today has immense difficulty obtaining even basic forms of healthcare to address her numerous lesions, cannot visit family members in the hospital, and is often forced to scrounge for brains in garbage cans.
One heartwarming aspect of the zombie walk was the unmistakable presence of humans, fraternizing and in some cases even dressing as zombies – presumably to signal their solidarity with the undead. While it would be an exaggeration to say that days of fear and misunderstanding between humans and zombies are over, one cannot avoid feeling parallels with other famous acts of solidarity and defiance: JFK in Berlin, Gandhi on the Salt Satyagraha, or the anonymous civilian in front of the line of tank at Tiananmen. And who among us has never woken up and said to ourselves “my god, I feel like a zombie.”
Another encouraging sign of integration was the presence of American flags and other signs of mainstream cultural integration among the undead. After all, nothing says American small town patriotism like Uncle Sam and clowns.
Because of this, the Fremont zombie walk should be understood as a powerful statement that humans can coexist peacefully with the undead. In addition to finding alternative sources of neuronal protein, it should be stated plainly that most humans hardly use their brains at all. They would never even notice if their cerebral cortices were delicately removed and lightly sautéed with onions. Add some chili pepper and fish sauce and… But I digress.
When asked about the message they intended to send to the world, many participants spoke less about integration and more about celebrating the diversity that exists inside the zombie community itself. In contrast to common societal misconceptions and portrayals in popular culture, Zombie-Americans are a diverse set of undead creatures with highly varied characteristics, interests, and injuries. Seen among the participants in the walk were brides, geishas, nurses, knitters… even photographers. In a time of great financial crisis and economic upheaval, can our society afford to exclude such productive citizens from realizing their full potential?
Despite the fantastic turnout for the Fremont zombie walk, zombies continue to face significant challenges in their daily lives, including discrimination in the work place, hunger, homelessness, pencils, and screwdrivers.
So if this reporter can leave you, living reader, with a thought to supplement this image gallery of vibrant zombies enjoying the best moment of their lives, it is that while they may be flesh eating undead creatures, their appetites and predilection for random destruction are not entirely dissimilar to our own. Indeed, humans have been responsible for far greater environmental destruction and warfare than any of the various zombie apocalypses recorded to date. If they are monsters, even fictional monsters, then they pale in comparison to our own reality.
Indeed, perhaps we humans have something to learn from our zombie cousins. If we could only establish a common ground for dialog, we might find creative ways to put our brains to good use. The Fremont walk has left me convinced that the zombies can help us with that.