2014: Zombies and the Dragon

Drastic changes lurk in year 14 of the millennium. A hundred years back, year 14 dragged its events on until 1946. History leaves a comet tail of slush and stone, and the collective yearnings for Hillary and Bush in 2016 are such. These tail winds (and Kennedy-ism too) will thoroughly disappear in relevance around 2014, and by 2016 the fateful millennium will be upon us.

What’s ahead:

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Dragons: China rises, and Europe sinks into shadow. America faces action and passion across the Pacific. This will define America west of the Mississippi. As the millennium rises, Texas and California will be to America what Virginia and New York were to us in 1776.

This past week the State Department announced that “facilities are to be built that would shift about 5,000 Marines to Guam, and plans are underway eventually to deploy about 2,500 Marines in Australia,” The New York Times reports. The better to hold a line against Chinese aggression. It is a historic moment, a turning from the time when America first rose out of the earth and looked around with the phrase “Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind,” the motto of William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. Soon would come Walt Whitman’s poetic vision. More than passage to India, in a land free of fences, Whitman saw an American soul soaring to “sun and moon, and all you stars! Sirius and Jupiter! Passage to you!”

Perhaps the soaring will stop and 2014 will be remembered for this: America found its western edge in the world and built there a fence between Australia and China.

As Whitman gazed across the universe on our behalf, the universe apparently gazed back at us: Jiddu Krishnamurti, D.T. Suzuki, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Kwai Chang Caine (a.k.a. “Grasshopper”), Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Dalai Lama have since entered our mainstream. And for you Vermont Public Television types, there is Depak Chopra. But now, in the 14th year of the millennium, we come face to face with the Dragon. And for that we will want soldiers.

Zombies: The 20th century rose with naive, operatic visions of rising into the universe: Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Jules Verne. The first movies were of journeys to the moon. They would amplify post-war with Capt. Kirk, Lt. Ripley and Luke Skywalker.

Our own century begins instead with visions of the end, “Lost” and “Jericho,” which present the death of America as we have come to know it. “The Walking Dead” and J.J. Abrams's “Revolution” present an aftermath. The Georgia-based  “Dead” is a post-Apocalypse metaphor for America. America has fallen to zombieism, shadow and false consciousness, a horde mentality bringing the very end of individuation. Only the few, the brave, survive. The survivors are heartland America types, Jacksonian roughnecks with names like Merle and Daryl, mountain people and rural Americans. As “Flash Gordon” did pre-war, it suggests what is ahead through a glass darkly. “Revolution” is similar, but with upscale, urban revolutionaries, '60s-ish types, with nerd scientists caught up in bad Defense Department mojo.

Possibly these will contend internally here in time, but not this time. Who would win in a street fight: an overweight, conspicuously neurotic computer geek with an AC/DC T-shirt who blows up things with his head and a nice-looking suburban girl with a bow and arrow, or squirrel-eating guys in a Winnebago named Merle and Darryl with Glocks and an AR-15s?

James Dickey’s “Deliverance” brings the century’s ascending paradigm. Or maybe it is “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil."