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Thursday, March 19, 2009. The time is 6:55 AM. As my shirt proclaims, this is a special day. I pass my sister as she leaves to catch the school bus and she is wearing the same shirt. I drive to school and find that dozens of my friends are also wearing them. The questions begin to pop up throughout the halls of Cheshire High School. What are these shirts? What do they stand for? Why are people wearing them? …Because this day, March 19, is LOZAD – a day to breathe a sigh of relief and give thanks, to whatever deity, deities, or force of probability you believe in, for the fact that zombies do not exist.LOZAD stands for “Lack of Zombies Appreciation Day.” It is a “holiday” I created on which we celebrate the fact that zombies, arguably the most horrific fictional monsters in popular culture, do not exist… yet! Yes, LOZAD is a parody of other holidays, but that did not deter interest. When I first thought of LOZAD, I asked a number of people if they would celebrate such a holiday and all of the responses were positive. As the date drew nearer, I recruited a group of friends to spread the news of LOZAD. Orders were taken for tee shirts and in the end, the “holiday” was a huge success. When the last bell of the day rang and the halls of Cheshire High filled, people I didn’t even know could be heard wishing each other “Happy LOZAD.”Lack of Zombies Appreciation Day owes its success in part to the widespread popularity of zombie media. In fact, it’s been nearly five decades since George A. Romero produced “Night of the Living Dead” and zombies dominated horror. Since then, it has been common for vampires to be the most popular monsters in literature and movies. Recently, however, the slew of immensely popular zombie-themed books, video games, and movies has “zombiefied” the genre once again. Literary scholars might be horrified to know that the rewrite Pride and Prejudice and Zombies recently outpaced the popularity of Austen’s more sedate Pride and Prejudice, breaking into the top 5 on the New York Times best seller list. Clearly, the zombie craze is at its highest point in history, even more popular than its previous reign in the 1960’s. But why are zombies so popular? How has the zombie deposed the vampire and taken its place on the throne of horror? I believe the answers to these questions can be found by taking a closer look at our society. From Bram Stoker’s nineteenth century Dracula to modern day depictions, vampires are classy, aristocratic, and sexy. This reflects the circumstances characterizing various reigns of vampire popularity; times of prosperity, when people felt good about themselves and about the future. Bright time periods spawned an attractive monster. Now, however, the world does not seem so bright. Global terrorism, economic trouble, and ever-mounting tensions between the East and West have darkened humanity’s horizon. This is not an atmosphere for vampires; it is an atmosphere for zombies. While the bite of a vampire offers immortality, the bite of a zombie offers a nightmare existence of squalor and decay. As the war in Iraq continued to escalate, many Americans saw it as a mindless campaign that devoured resources while hurting the nation. The same can be said of a horde of zombies, a mindless berserker force that consumes all it comes into contact with, gaining strength while those around it weaken. If we go back in time to the first reign of the zombie, we will find a strong parallel. The 1960’s were turbulent times, with a very unpopular war in Southeast Asia, the civil rights movement, and the youth of our nation feeling disconnected and distrustful of the government. Uncertainty, discontent, and an unpopular war plagued the ’60’s and these very same conditions are fueling the social and economic upheaval of this decade. Yes, these are the perfect times for zombies! I love humor and LOZAD has a very humorous side to it. On the outside it’s a great joke, making light of one of the grimmest concepts in literature and movies. However, the “holiday” has a more serious aspect. Zombies represent this generation’s fears. This humorous celebration was, in a deeper way, an expression of fear. Fear of continued pointless conflict, fear that the country may not recover from the damage wrought by the Bush Administration, and worst of all, fear that our world could one day come to an end. We laughed as we joked about zombies, we cheered as we blasted video game zombies, we screamed when movie zombies jumped out of nowhere, and hiding beneath the surface of this was our deep, barely acknowledged fear.As a writer, a huge part of my work is the expression of emotion. While little of my work revolves around zombies, one of my poems does well in expressing the darkest fear that zombies represent. Here is the poem, entitled, “The End.”We did not know.Like children playing on the edge of a cliff,We crawled so blindly toward our own destruction,Never seeing our fate.We did not knowThat in our heart of heartsSomething malign was growing:A parasite feeding on our arrogance.We did not knowThat we were wrong.It was inconceivable;How could we be wrong?We did not knowThat all around us our hate and angerWas manifesting itself:A shadowy army of waking nightmares.We did not knowThat in our foolishnessThe weapons we launched to destroy our enemiesWould be the harbingers of their masters’ undoing.We did not knowThat from the ashes of the eastWould arise irradiated but strong,A plague to end all plagues.We did not knowThat with that plague would come,What we can finally say with all certainty,A war to end all wars.We did not knowThe abominations we could be,For from within the darkness of our soulsOur enemy thundered forth.We did not knowThat with each enemy destroyed by our invincible armyTwo more would be born,For our hate is their elixir.We did not knowThat we could be destroyed,That our leaders could be killed,That we were not immortal.We did not knowThe fury of Hell,But we should have,For we are its architects.We did not knowThat it would come to this:Hiding among burned out ruinsFrom the howling horrors roaming the streets.We did not knowWhat god would do this.But no god did this.We did.So next March 19, smile at some one and wish them “Happy LOZAD.” Be happy “they” don’t exist! Be hopeful that a new optimism, currently in its infancy and born from a newly elected president, will help keep the zombies at bay. Perhaps most importantly, be thankful that we live in a country where there are opportunities for positive change because we are free to express our discontent with our government through humor, the arts, literature, or whatever peaceful means we choose.