Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween! Halloween! This is Halloween!

Happy Halloween!!!
Yes, Halloween.
Not "Autumn Carnival" or "Harvest Festival" or "Fall Fling."

Living in the big ol' shiny buckle of the Bible Belt, I am constantly reminded of how completely insulated, out of touch, and bored so many of my fellow South Carolinians can be. Today's holiday is one prime example.

Halloween is a hot button issue down here. Christian conservatives in this state spend a lot of time focused on keeping their kids away from all things remotely related to the celebration of this overwhelmingly commercialized, secular holiday. (They do not apply this same logic to Christmas.) To help combat the truly malevolent forces of things like Power Ranger costumes and jack-o-lanterns, you wind up with a lot of schools/churches/community groups sponsoring celebrations meant to take the place of the usual trick or treating. Kids can show up for rides and candy and other fun "fall" stuff. Some of them even permit costumes- so long as said costumes are nice and benign. Lots of angels and kitties; absolutely no vampires or zombies allowed.

This is f***ing ridiculous.Halloween is a holiday with a long, mixed history. Yes, some of it is pagan. And some of it is religious. Yes, some people have used the holiday as a mark for their own dark purposes. And some people use it as a fun, imaginative, silly holiday. People, it is what you MAKE OF IT. For 99% of America, this means kids in costumes inspired by televisions shows who are out to get jacked up on sugar. Letting little Suzie and Johnny dress up as Dora the Explorer and Jack Sparrow is not the gateway to their eternal damnation. Going from house to house gathering a bag full of dental doom will not result in your children joining a cult and drinking human blood for kicks on weekends.

What baffles me most about these anti-Halloween zealots is the amount of energy they devote to the absolute wrong things. There is enough legitimate evil in the world that should scare the ever-lovin' hoo ha out of people with kids. Why do these people insist on seeing darkness where it clearly doesn't have to exist? A couple of costumes from Target should be the LAST thing on a parent's radar in terms of things that could potentially harm their child. This is the insulated, out of touch part. Halloween is an evil they can handle, that they feel they can combat. The really scary things in the world are too big and too complex; so they channel their attempts to be a "good parent" into fighting against something ridiculous like Halloween.

I realize there are elements of the macabre in Halloween. Any holiday for which skulls and bloody severed hands are acceptable decorations is clearly not entirely G-rated. But it's PRETEND. It's IMAGINARY. Kids have a much better grasp on those concepts than we do. Taking things entirely too literally is a skill acquired much later in life. Ghost stories and other entertainment with supernatural/gory themes are part of our history, save for that brief flirtation with Puritanism. They represent our attempts to explain that which we cannot with a little mystery and some shocks thrown in for good fun. For the majority of us, dressing up as a vampire (even with a bunch of fake blood) will not deter us from becoming semi-respectable law-abiding citizens.

And while we're on the topic, can I note some of my own highly unscientific purely anecdotal findings? Let's face it, the kids who grew up in households that forbade Halloween and ear piercing and secular music were WAY more likely to hit the path to sin and degradation running. Seriously. Write down the names of all the kids in your neighborhood and note which ones are coming up in overly-conservative alarmist households. (Extra points for home-schooling for moral or religious reasons.) Tuck that list away and Google those same kids in about 10-15 years. I guarantee you the kids you've got noted from the special families will have been in trouble at a disproportionate rate to the other kids.

So this is my battle call: go forth and celebrate Halloween!! Wear your zombie and mummy costumes proudly! Buy that shrieking graveyard decoration! Take your kids trick or treating and skip that lame-ass church carnival!

Then go home and combat some ACTUAL evil. Campaign against every Republican running in your state.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

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