Some pretty ghoulish things have been taking place in our society, and in particular, in our nation’s capital. The terror of economic uncertainty – due in large part to the nightmarish games that are being played by the majority in our government’s House of horrors – continually grips us. We find ourselves in a real-life geopolitical H.G. Wellsian War of the Worlds – except in our case, it takes the form of the death-from-above through drone strikes that have devastated the lives of innocent civilians in African & Middle Eastern countries and the backing of fascist regimes in Eastern Europe.
Ghost and horror stories have been a part of human culture for millennia. At times, it is an attempt to exorcise the demons of our fears about what can go wrong in life; to allay our anxieties about the unknown. Nevertheless, at other times – far too many times – these stories demonize and portray certain segments of our society as monstrous.
I want to drink your funds?
Nosferatu, Asanbosam, soucouyant are all terms – from various cultures – used to define the blood-sucking creature of the night known as the vampire. The right-wing’s equivalent to the being that Bram Stoker popularized are the 47 Percenters: the urban area voters who received “extraordinary gifts” from President Obama and who now has the disdain of Trump and his minions. They are also the poor who need Medicaid, public assistance, affordable housing and so on – those who are perceived to be a drain on the system.
To the hard-right mind, in this modern-day vampire folk tale, it is public school students and their unreasonable need of funding for their education; it is the sick whose inconvenient and expensive illnesses that are causing the sunset of our economy; and it is virtually anyone who is unfortunate enough to need help that may come in the form of governmental assistance.
To be sure, they’ll trot out the tried and true – also disproved and over-generalized – legends of welfare queens and public assistance cheats plunging their fangs into the jugular of the American taxpayer. This narrative is frequently told and re-told while the very real bloodsucking exploits of corporations are overlooked; while the neo-liberal pols, of both major parties, offers up the throats of US citizens. Yes, the smooth and sophisticated corporate Dracula-types are routinely cursed by the masses, but the angry villagers rarely aim the stakes at their hearts – they save that particular privilege for the scapegoated faux-vampire peasants.
The undocumented undead
The story revolves around a U.N. employee who crisscrosses the globe in an effort to stop a zombie pandemic that’s bringing down armies and governments, and threatening to decimate humanity itself. This is the description of the 2013 film “World War Z,” but it could just as well be the ongoing discussion in the right-wing echo-chamber regarding the over 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.
Trump’s anti-immigrant sentiment notwithstanding, let’s be clear: the need for immigration reform is real – it’s far from contrived. It’s in everyone’s interest, especially the undocumented themselves, and would allow them to come out from the shadows. The problem with the horror story that’s passed along on conservative and radio and talk shows; at neo-Nazi rallies and town-halls, is that it actually prevents reform and exiles undocumented immigrants to an indefinite and ambiguous night. We aren’t treated to solutions, but rather a freakish distortion of Hispanics – both undocumented and actual American citizens. Latinos are discussed as if they are a mythical marauding herd of undead parasites who will transform America into La Zombieland.
Trump and his acolytes have started a xenophobic crusade that would make a medieval marauder blush. His evisceration of programs – such as DACA – that helped individuals who, essentially, know only America as their home; they are now, all the more, considered “illegals” and “undesirables.”
The current debate about undocumented workers betrays the terror that they face. In spite of what they actually contribute to society, they live at poverty levels, face exploitation in the workplace and exist in perpetual fear of being discovered. Additionally, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report, unauthorized immigrant women face the additional danger of sexual assault and rape, crimes they often are afraid to report to police because it could lead to deportation.
Presently, 1100 undocumented individuals are deported every day – not all are Hispanic, but the vast majority is. The Obama administration has been deporting about 400,000 immigrants annually. To put that number in perspective, under the Bush administration the annual average was approximately 193,000.
Numerous children of undocumented immigrants are natural-born U.S. citizens. Therefore, the current rate of deportation would include expelling many U.S. citizens as well.
In the movies, zombies are killed by stopping their brain activity, which is the height of irony in regard to immigration reform — because it is usually the cessation of thinking that makes the prejudicial arguments about undocumented immigrants believable.
‘Illegals are here for the welfare,’ they say, even though immigrants earn about $240 billion a year, pay about $90 billion a year in taxes and use only about $5 billion in public benefits; ‘illegals don’t pay taxes’ is the campfire tale used to spook the unthinking, but since illegal immigrants often have fake or stolen documents – this includes fake Social Security numbers – the money they pay into the system is money that will never be withdrawn. A CBO report from 2007 puts the number at about $20 billion from 1990 to 1998.
This is far from the portrait of the unhuman, undead parasites living the American dream painted by right-wing voices, so can we finally pull up the shade on the nightmares of undocumented immigrants?
“Taming” the beast
Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night;
May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the moon is full and bright.
Of all the supernatural creatures, the werewolf is considered to be the most bestial. All traces of its humanity disappear in a hairy, animalistic, homicidal rage. This is not all too dissimilar from how Blacks and Muslims are portrayed. And it is that perspective that makes it acceptable for black males aged 15-34, to be nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement; it is that outlook that makes the surveillance of Muslims by the NYPD tolerable to a right-wing that fears government intrusion and surveillance in their lives.
Murderer is interchangeable with Black; terrorist is transposable with Muslim and so the stereotype of the bloodthirsty hound of hell is nurtured and forwarded. In film, the human alter-ego of the werewolf character is often seen as sympathetic or as being driven by forces beyond their control. As a matter fact, lycanthropy – the belief that one is a wolf or werewolf – has been considered an actual mental condition.
Muslims and Blacks in society, however, are violent and murderous because that’s just the way they are, society teaches us. Animals will be animals and don’t bother reasoning with a mad dog … just put it down. They place no value on human life, so why should theirs be valued?
The problem with the “Islamification” of evil and the “colorization” of murder and crime is that it ignores and diminishes the universality of those things. And what essentially happens is that we end up with laws such as “stand your ground” and statutes like the Patriot Act. While policies such as these are touted as all-powerful silver bullets, they are in reality anti-democratic fool’s gold.
Much of the current racist and right-wing framing of their particular version of an American horror story is, in all actuality, a ghost story. The ghosts in their rendition, however, are bogus conspiracies that are based upon innuendo and conjecture; they are the myths they believe and the lies they’ve accepted and they are the specters of a racist legacy that they desperately cling to because many of them don’t know how to do anything else.
Neo-liberals don’t own a monopoly on character assassination or demonization – we see this in the current crucifixion of Antifa, currently, it appears to be a main plank in their ideological platform. A tale that this writer has always found compelling is Frankenstein. A scientist brings to life a creature that was sewn together from bodies stolen from graves. The creator finds his creation so grotesque that he can’t stand the sight of him. The creature, rejected, wreaks revenge on Victor Frankenstein and all that he loves.
The paradoxical thing about those who traffic in the folklore of race-baiting, immigrant-bashing and religious bigotry is that they claim to be protecting the things that they love. In the drive to ‘protect their way of life,’ they put that very life at risk by the fiends they create. When torture is condoned, we create monsters; when certain classes of people are made to be society’s scapegoats, we create monsters, and when we embrace policies that discriminate and produce what is close to a permanent underclass, we create monsters.
The economically hostile and racially intolerant tales that are a staple of the hard-right, racist and neo-liberal fear machine, is just another way of whistling past the graveyard – a graveyard full of the corpses of increasingly irrelevant dogma and flawed ideology.
*Another version of this piece appears on Mint Press News