The Zombie Apocalypse and Voting for President

Click to view video: How to Kill a Zombie

On last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, Rick and the gang decide to help their new prison companions clear a cell block in exchange for half the food left in the prison where they are holed up. As they prepare to fight, our fearless gang provides instructions for killing the Walkers: Aim for the brain. The prisoners show a lack of discipline (not surprising–that’s why they were in prison to start with) and attack the zombies like it’s a prison riot. The prisoners can’t overcome their own past and they resort to muscle memory: punch, kick, and stomp. The prisoners, faced with information beyond their capabilities and understanding, become zombie-like themselves, veritable prisoners of their own past.

Outside my office window is a sign with caricature-like images of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. The sign screams out, demands we might say, VOTE 2012. Considering the results of a recent PEW Study and the Economist’s 2011 essay “How Voters Decide,” perhaps we should rethink this blanket demand. Peer pressure is no way to maintain and encourage democratic participation.

Mikhail Bakhtin, in his essays on the novel, argues that we develop ideological consciousness only when we recognize the impact and power of the discourse and voices around us. We come into consciousness in a world permeated by the voices of others. Teachers, parents, politicians, television (in our current world) all exert a power over our understanding of the world. Only when we recognize their discourse as other than ours (or as Other) do we begin to develop our own sense of self. Ironically, I’ve always thought, coming into that sense of identity necessarily places your new self into the cacophony of voices imposing ideology on the world around you.

Certainly, I’m not advocating poll taxes or goofy laws that intentionally (or not) discourage people from voting. We must, though, find a way to recognize our responsibilities as voters. Does this mean we all become experts on American foreign policy or the budget? Of course not. But we can hold our candidates responsible and demand that they understand the complexities associated with the issues. Notice–I don’t expect candidates to understand every issue. I expect candidates to recognize that democracy and government is a bundle of contradictory needs and desires. Our job as voters, nay our responsibility, is to understand the candidates and to elect those people who show the greatest capacity to manage complex issues.

Simply put–we must encourage and elect the best and brightest as our representatives. We must demand that voters understand how government works and that democratic representation cannot be determined based on a politician’s narrow reflection of our desires. Ignorance, in both candidates and voters, threatens the very democracy in which we want participation.

The silhouettes outside my window are shadows, representations of two men, but not the men themselves and we should expect more from our fellow Americans than a willingness to vote for images. Vote, I say, but only after you’ve removed the shadows and stopped the mindless, zombie walk to the polls.

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About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

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Scott Adams' Blog

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