The Walking Dead is having a good second half to the season. And I mean gooood… I officially have forgiven the first half for being kind of lame and I’m relishing the hook-ups (Richonne! Carol and what’s-his-face!) and the emergence of a new and seemingly powerful foe; the so-called “Saviors” who are obviously anything but. Because let’s face it, WD’s version of a dystopian society is now really more about the human threats than the undead ones.
The walkers have become a bit…well, toothless, shall we say…as our heroes struggle to survive in an ever bleaker landscape where supplies are low, morale is lower and the appearance of new people means there is not only less for everyone but also presents an evergreen risk of hostile takeover. “Good guys” like Morgan are often seen as weak and a threat to “greater good”; morality has become a luxury they believe they cannot afford. Good people have begun to believe that survival has no room for hope…which sounds a lot like our current political landscape as well.
Previous to the reappearance of Morgan, first Dale and then Herschel represented the “voice of reason”, each arguing for the sanctity of human life and having a rooted faith in the goodness of mankind…based on their fates, things do not bode well for our current hero. Or Bernie Sanders. I have had any number of people tell me that Sander’s belief in the dignity and worthiness of ALL members of society, not just the privileged, is “pie in the sky” politics and that his proposals for universal healthcare and free education, for example, are unsustainable.
Now, we do not yet face a biological threat as dire as infectious zombies, but we DO have politicians like Donald Trump who want to horde resources for the “worthy” and build walls to keep newcomers out. This brings to mind a future America that is run like Woodbury, the Governor’s community on The Walking Dead…complete with cage matches. When we first met the Governor, he presented himself as a benevolent benefactor to all found survivors; we quickly learned, however, that he was actually only out for his own and would annihilate anyone he saw as a threat to his leadership.
Upon reflection, I have realized that Donald Trump and the Governor actually have a lot in common. For example, the Governor was not really a governor. In fact, he had no real qualifications to be the de facto leader, but his charisma got him the job. The Governor treated his constituents as children, to be mollified and lied to “for their own good”.
That is exactly how Donald Trump is treating the American voters; he assumes the average citizen is not intelligent enough to realize that a man who mocks the disabled, belittles world leaders and claims a border wall will solve America’s immigration issues will not be much of a “uniter”, to steal a predecessor’s catchphrase. On The Walking Dead, some characters (like Michonne) got a bead on the Governor’s particular brand of crazy almost immediately. Michonne is our “educated voter”, who won’t be fooled by platitudes and bar-b-ques. Others, like Andrea, actually had to see the heads-floating-in-fish-tanks before she believed. So does this mean Andrea was stupid?
It is tempting to call Trump voters “stupid” if, like Michonne, you were never fooled by him. But Trump has the same weapon at his disposal that the Governor did, and he wields it mercilessly: FEAR. In those earlier seasons on WD, the walkers were still the primary threat and the Governor LITERALLY defanged them for his followers. He kept them in containment areas, he kept them in chains to teach his people “not to be afraid”, as he told Andrea. But was that his real motivation?
Donald Trump says he will ban Muslims from entering the United States to “protect us”. He has identified the undercurrent of fear that has been running through this country since 9/11 and decided to use it to his benefit, just as the Bush administration did. By stoking the fear of terrorist attacks general and Muslims specifically, George Bush and his cronies managed to hold sway over the American people for 8 long years, even though the attack had occurred on his watch! Frightened people are not empowered people, and there were enough media outlets willing to distort facts and brandish lies to keep millions of people in the dark.
The Governor also kept his people ignorant of the truth behind his tactics. He slaughtered innocents if they had supplies he coveted, identified outsiders as “terrorists”, LITERALLY, all to maintain control of the narrative. Once the truth about him was discovered by the people at large, he was deposed and became an outcast. So now you may be thinking—haven’t we seen enough of Donald Trump’s underbelly to reveal his unworthiness as leader of the free world? Well…yes and no. Again, if you saw through him from the beginning, you cannot relate to the kind of voter he has hooked with his lies and fear-baiting. So many people say “he is telling voters what they want to hear” but I, like Michonne, shake my head and think “I don’t know anybody who wants to hear what he is saying.”
But this is because I live a life of relative privilege. I’m educated and have moved around enough to know that every race, religion and social strata is made up of an equal mix of “good guys” and “bad guys”; no one has a corner on either market. I have enough experience and information to understand that any solution that excludes the well-being of any group is no solution at all. I have lived long enough to believe, like Morgan, that even the bleakest of situations has potential for good.
Donald Trump wants to set us all against each other—not just against Muslims or Mexicans—because the more suspicion and fear he can arouse in us, the more willing we are to settle for less. If you take away rights for anyone, you have started down a steep and slippery slope that ends with at the very least the loss of your integrity; at most, it is your own rights you have given away. Woodbury, like Donald Trump’s vision for America, must have seemed a haven for people so lost. But it was built on secrets and lies and came to a ruinous end, burned to the ground by the man who once led there. A leader is supposed to guide you to a better place, somewhere everyone can thrive.
Who would you exclude to get what you think you want? And could you ever then feel good about having it?