By Gabe Meline
With healthcare reform chopped up and slashed so many times that it hardly resembles the change we were promised, and with millions of people in the country staggering around, diseased, with no safety net of a single-payer system, it was only a matter of time before two cultural phenomena combined like viral strains of the undead. That's right: zombies and healthcare reform. This weekend, Santa Rosa's Courthouse Square will teem with the pale-faced and bloodied in a protest / dance party / concert called "Zombie Action for Healthcare Reform," and it may be the most unique and, let's face it, pretty dang funny way to make one's primordial grunt heard.
"I will admit that the connection is somewhat tenuous," says Michael Houghton, organizer of the zombie-healthcare gathering. "The joke that I've been making is that we're people who were denied healthcare and are coming back for revenge."
Recent zombie-healthcare protests in Los Angeles, Chicago and Minneapolis have made headlines, with the undercurrent that if the healthcare debate doesn't get resolved with a public option soon, we'll all turn into the living dead (one sign aimed at legislators read "Use Your Brains or I Will"). Though zombie flash-mobs have cropped up here and there—a bit of whiter-shade-of-pale foundation, an oozy mix of red food coloring and corn syrup, a bunch of dirt and twigs in the hair, and some ripped up old grubbies—this is the first recorded zombie protest in the North Bay.
"It's a comic take on what is really a dour and heartbreaking subject," Houghton explains. "Some of us feel like our representatives have been zombies up to this point and are finally waking up and doing something."
Houghton himself knows firsthand the failures of the current healthcare system; his medical bills last year reached $18,000, despite a healthy middle-class income and "the best insurance available." He's been paying attention to the action on Capitol Hill, ruing the absence of a completely universal single-payer system but pushing hard for the public option, and gawking at the absurdity of trying to smash five different bills together in a grand reconciliation between concessionary Democrats and immobile Republicans.
"A lot of people are bogged down by what a complicated subject it is," says Houghton. "This can give them something fun to absorb it through—or to use a healthcare metaphor: a little honey makes the bitter pill go down a little easier."
Bring Grandma! Bring the kids! Zombie Action for Health Care Reform, with several local bands and a syncopated "Thriller" dance, takes place on Sunday, Oct. 25, at Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa. 1–5:30pm. Free. For more info, see www.zombieaction.com.
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