The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Gary Grossman

April 14, 2013

The end is unusually near

A month ago, I was gathered around a conference table with five other newspaper publishers to discuss business opportunities associated with the Zombie Apocalypse, a topic rarely discussed in the halcyon newspaper days of yore.

We have technology that charts readership. On digital publishing platforms, we see spikes at the mention of all things zombie.

Don’t worry. There are other – even, truer – ways to spike an audience. But it is difficult to avoid the growing evidence of post-apocalyptical yearnings.

By Wikipedia count, there are 60 post-apocalyptic series on television, many with attractively unkempt characters who face assorted challenges.

There are zombies for “The Walking Dead”, skitters for “Falling Skies”, some problem with the electric company for “Revolution” and full structural and biological decay for the speculative fiction “Life after People”, where everything (except characters, of course) is disheveled, overgrown or rusty.

There are also pre-apocalyptic reality shows (possibly also speculative fiction) featuring ordinary “Doomsday Preppers” and “Doomsday Bunkers”.    

In an episode called “Bunkers, Bullets and Blast Doors”, a family of four in Nebraska invests $450,000 in a subterranean 1,100-square-foot steel box with a living center, sleeping wing and six-month storage space, ventilated through a nuclear, biological and chemical air filter, pumping water from an aquifer 70 feet below, and powered by an encased and protected industrial generator.

To the uninitiated, it has the look of entering an elaborate gravesite.

The last time we were in this mood, people burrowed into their backyards to make fallout shelters.

Iranian uranium, missile tests and Korean antics may have a role again. Also, weather events (floods and hurricanes), interplanetary collisions (meteors) and the all-purpose “stuff happens” seem to motivate these preparations.

How preparation becomes prophecy depends somewhat on circumstances and who is absorbing the message.  It has happened.

In 1997, 39 members of Heaven’s Gate, a UFO religion doomsday cult, killed themselves in preparation for pickup by the passing Hale Bopp Comet.

In 1978, the People’s Temple, which started in Indiana and had moved to California, came to an astonishing end in northwestern Guyana when some 909 members engaged in “revolutionary suicide” by drinking Flavor Aid laced with cyanide.

There are also historic episodes in which whole cultures, under extreme pressure – aboriginal American people and traditional societies in colonial Africa – embraced a messianic and apocalyptical narrative and nearly drove themselves to extinction.

This bleak strain in human nature has been evident in recent weeks in our national discussion weighing the right to possess guns and the right to survive first grade.

Thanks last week to Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joseph Manchin III, it looks as if we will emerge sensibly from that debate with better background checks, endorsed by 89 percent of the American people.

Gun rights may be expanded to include stronger assurances against government registration and broader acceptance of concealed carry permits.

But it does not look as if anything will come of efforts to limit high capacity ammunition clips or restore a ban on assault-type weapons, which are mainly doomsday tools.

Lobbyists and politicians (and the media) cast this conversation in familiar terms about red states and blue states, liberals and conservatives and country dwellers versus city dwellers.

What was not true, however, were implications that some Americans, because of their political leanings, were more or less sensitive to the little lives lost in Sandy Hook Elementary. Republican and Democrat tears are identical.

Something else – not  disrespect for the families of Newtown – was behind the unease about safety and personal security that drove weapon and ammunition sales to all-time highs.

Whatever the source of our jitters, more of us place more faith in personal self-defense and a hole in the backyard than we do in our government to provide for our safety, security, rescue and recovery.

This follows from polling that has Congress in perpetual low regard and the president sinking fast in his second term. But that is not a good message for Washington.

When people finally assemble in good-looking gangs to occupy bunkers against zombies, skitters, and power outages, political players may still be where they are now, on their own.

Gary Grossman is publisheer of The Daily Item and The Danville News

1
Text Only
Gary Grossman
  • Who throws rocks at cars?

    Although we manufacture and deliver a product, newspapering is a service industry. It is appropriate for people in service to show deference and respect for customers.

    July 20, 2014

  • High noon on Mile Post Road

    A fight that ended with deadly force on Mile Post Road this week outside of Sunbury involved the acting police chief, a respected officer, proud family man and solid community member who often opens local ceremonies with a professional and full-throated rendition of the National Anthem.

    July 13, 2014

  • Good golly, Miss Flouncy

    Miss Flouncy Bighair stood out among the several dozen targets brought down by a trooper’s radar gun, assembled that day in a sterile district court off Route 50 in Talbot County.

    July 6, 2014

  • Preponderance of chaos

    Here is the thing about newspapers: We do not yet know what we will become, only what we can no longer be. That is unnerving at times for people who like routine, pattern, tradition and predictability. And who doesn’t, dagnabbit!

    June 29, 2014

  • Throw the book at ’em

    Where population is too sparse to support art galleries, museums, concert halls and stage plays with ticket sales, public libraries are windows to culture and a center for discussion and engagement for many Pennsylvanians.

    June 23, 2014

  • Doctors following orders

    Once upon a time, I worked in a cubicle farm amid doctors and nurses who greatly admired the Veteran Health Administration for its innovative approach to patient safety.

    June 1, 2014

  • Promises to be kept

    Long after the bugles played and the flags were folded, there was the apology. It was 20 years in coming.

    The man was old, 79. It was time.

    May 25, 2014

  • Things weren't picking up

    I once belonged to a Rotary club that adopted a few miles of busy highway in an anti-litter campaign. Wearing luminous vests and work gloves, we would wander the roadside, wrestling Styrofoam cups from brambles and pitching cans and bottles into giant orange plastic garbage bags.

    May 11, 2014

  • Thirsty boots, no more

    Generally, business people steer clear of the big divide, which is race. The same is true of gender, age, religion, political preference and sexual orientation.
    If there is a sure lose-lose proposition for making a buck in America, it is a headlong dive into our national neuroses. We all realize the “one nation, indivisible” is more of a prayer than an oath and always has been.

    April 27, 2014

  • Tom Corbett's 700 club

    The news department has been researching those 700 jobs for Snyder County, much the way we went looking for the 300-job employer who was floated anonymously for public consumption before the last election in Northumberland County.

    April 7, 2014