- Greggory Moore
If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. –Jesus Christ (as quoted in John 12:47)
FACT: Jesus created the first zombie!
Okay, it’s not a fact. It’s not even clear to what degree Jesus himself is a fact (it’s not clear to me, anyway—you believe what you want), let alone whether there was a guy named Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead—never mind whether resurrected Lazarus staggered around like an extra from “Thriller”, moaning, “Brains, brainnnnns!”
But it would have been a funny thing to say to the two protesters who claimed a spot in the middle of the north crosswalk at Broadway and Pine Ave. on Saturday night. They had a serious bullhorn and a homemade cross, plus a double-sided sign on a stick. “Faith in Jesus Saves,” said Side A.
But it wasn’t an urge to testify their faith that brought the pair out to Zombie Walk this weekend. Side B let you know where it was at: “God Destroys All who forsake Him.” As far as these fellows were concerned, those inside the perimeter of Zombie Walk were forsaking God. Repent, ye ignorant sinners who think white foundation and rubberized wounds aren’t a one-way ticket to Hell! The occult is no laughing matter!
Perhaps a few people inside were annoyed with the rhetorical fire and brimstone that broke through to the event whenever Mr. Moonshine (the band onstage when the preaching began) was between songs, but nobody, it seemed, took our poor proselytizers seriously. No matter. The pair chugged ahead in the hopes of saving our souls, or at least letting us know that we’re damned.
Every now and then, out of amusement or annoyance, a Zombie Walker or two would make their way into the crosswalk and get into the protestors’ physical space. The first, a tall fellow looking like something between Pinhead and a clown, sidled almost in between the pair, giving them his back, a passive-aggressive shunning sort of protest against their verbal variety. They preached on as if they didn’t even notice, and who knows how long the three would have remained like that were it not for a pair of police officers who came up to the protestor protestor and told him to move along.
Similar scenes were to follow. For as long as I watched, no-one actually confronted the religiosos, instead simply coming close and standing near, tacitly indicating disapproval or posing for pictures or just gawking. Each time the police response was the same: if the passersby chose to linger, officers would approach and get them to go on their way, leaving the protestors to pontificate in peace.
I can get my libertarianism on with the best of them, and perhaps an argument could be made that the police had no business telling others to move along while leaving the protestors to stand there as long as they pleased. (Pine was closed between Broadway and 3rd St., so vehicle traffic was a non-issue.) But that is not an argument I care to make. My feeling is the opposite: the officers handled this exactly right.
Within the first 35 words of the Bill of Rights, our Founding Fathers sanctified our inalienable rights both to speak freely and to peaceably assemble. Obviously, a peaceful protest is a textbook conflation of these two First Amendment guarantees. And no matter whether the police watching over Zombie Walk had the Constitution on their minds while they sedately shooed away those who were, if not actively interfering with the protest, at least looking to provide an irritant, or whether those officers simply regarded it as common sense not to let anyone stay in anyone else’s face, in effect the Long Beach Police Department was protecting and serving everyone’s rights by their little acts of intervention.
It’s not that I think those who approached the zealots were really doing anything wrong. The whole scenario was pretty amusing, actually, with none of the zombie-friendly revelers engaging in behavior that could land them on the wrong side of an ACLU lawsuit. But ultimately it is the unpopular sentiment, the minority opinion, that needs the protection of law and that must be guaranteed—not only in word, but also in deed.
In downtown Long Beach this weekend, these men were in the clear minority. The majority opinion, acted out all around our humorless picketers, was that being undead is a fun way to live, at least for a day. Costumery, clown punk, alcohol, simulated gore, grotesque burlesque—it was all in good fun. Whoever disagrees is free to voice that opinion, loudly and publicly, just as zombie-lovers would be free to celebratorily commune even were the two guys with the bullhorn speaking for the majority of Americans.
And something tells me that’s just how Jesus would want it.