As longtime fans of AMC long-running smash hit “The Walking Dead” know, the show isn’t so much about zombies as it is about how the living interact with each other as they attempt to survive and deal with the chaos of their world, a world that once looked like ours.
My wife and I have followed Rick Grimes and his band of survivors through thick and thin. It’s always fascinating to explore with the writers of the show how people, particularly strangers, interact with each other in the absence of law and order, steady employment, stability, security, even the knowledge of what one is going to eat the next day. Certainly, as one of the season promo posters eloquently stated, in such a world one would find it necessary to “fight the dead” but “fear the living.”
Of course, while such an apocalyptic scenario would likely never occur in real life (Chinese electromagnetic pulse or financial collapse? Maybe. Zombies? Not so much), one of the appeals to watching this genre is the thrill of suspending our disbelief and placing ourselves in the characters’ shoes. What would we do? In a similar situation, would we be as brave, as unwavering, as strong as the particular character we identify with?
We get the luxury of dancing around the edges of what such fear would be like, without actually experiencing it for ourselves. But what about when that manufactured fear punches just a little too close to home?
We All Face Tyranny In Some Form
That brings us to the latest mid-season cliffhanger, as Grimes and company face their biggest challenge so far. It’s not the dead, but Negan and his band of Saviors, hell-bent on conquering the world in the name of finding Negan as much, as he puts it, “sh-t” as one human being could possibly own, or something.
Without giving away any major spoilers, Negan is a typical tyrant, but devoid of pomp, circumstance, or the trappings of “officiality.” As such, his brand of tyranny is raw and unencumbered by any checks, balances, or pretenses of civilization. In his apocalyptic world, he is a leather jacket and T-shirt-wearing Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, wielding a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat just in case you manage to forget he could beat your brains out anytime he takes a notion.
He has goons, not armies, but he conquers all the same. The people he subjugates pay him in scavenged goods, not taxes, but it’s still theft because what he does with his loot does nothing to better the lives of the subjects forced to pay it, save keep them alive to serve him. Negan promises to restore “order” to an unraveled world, but at what cost?
So, as his influence finally reaches the world Grimes previously led, something has to give. Presently, thanks to a military “conquest” of sorts, Negan’s Saviors have the upper hand, and Rick’s band find themselves virtual slaves on the land they once owned and worked freely. As a tyrant whose subjects would mostly rather face hordes of flesh-eating zombies than live under him, Negan finds it necessary to take one particular, logical step with each new person he conquers. He disarms them.
Disarmament Is Always Scary
As Rick, Daryl, Michonne, Carl, and the rest are forced to gather the weapons they’ve used thus far to protect themselves at great cost from both the living and the dead, then turn those weapons in to Negan’s tyrannical Saviors, the fear, at least for me, became just a bit more real. After all, isn’t peasant disarmament what tyrants have always done throughout history? I’m not likely to face any zombies (other than drug-addled ones who may try to block my street to “protest” something or other), but the threat of disarmament is always quite real, and quite scary.
The right to self-defense is God-given, natural, visceral, and as entwined with our humanity as breathing, eating, sleeping, or even love itself. So naturally, in their never-ending quest for power and dominance, liberals and would-be tyrants find it necessary upon seizing power to remove the right of their subjects to defend themselves and others. After all, why would individuals matter when the state is supreme? Really, shouldn’t we worry less about our own pathetic lives and get busy finding the state more “sh-t?”
Even gun registration played into “The Walking Dead” account of Negan’s gun confiscation— seriously, are these writers National Rifle Association members or what? But it’s true to life: any attempt at gun control, from registration to outright bans, is always at its core aimed ultimately at weakening and eventually eliminating the right to self-defense. Consider England, where strict gun control has existed for decades and where laws make it virtually impossible to legally defend oneself with deadly or even reasonable force.
Those of us who just want to be left alone and live our lives in peace free from the constraints of an overreaching government breathed a sigh of relief on November 8. Whatever our reservations about President Trump, for at least four years would-be federal tyrants are unlikely to seek to disarm the populace while leaving themselves armed to the teeth. And who knows, we may even get to keep more of our own “sh-t.”