Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013 | 2:03 a.m.
Did all the fussing and feuding over raising the national debt limit convince you that the United States is hopelessly polarized and we face a future of endless political gridlock that eventually devolves into chaos, ruination and entropic desolation? Well, cheer up. Nothing brings us together like a good war.
And the good news is that the political right and left have finally found one that they can agree on: the war on Halloween.
Unlike the wars on drugs, Christmas and women, all of which have been decisively lost (especially the one on women, who’ve grown in numbers until they now compose 50.8 percent of the U.S. population), the war on Halloween is going pretty well. Journalist Nick Gillespie, freshly returned from the front, provided a morale-boosting list of glorious victories last week in Time magazine.
In Mechanicsburg, Pa., Sporting Hill Elementary School banned Halloween costumes because “safety is a top priority” (never underestimate the threat from those lethal ballerina costumes). A hundred miles away, in Philadelphia, administrators bravely stood up for separation of church and state by banning Halloween celebrations because of their “religious overtones” (never underestimate the threat from those massive Wiccan conspiracies).
Gillespie, a typical mainstream-media nattering nabob of negativism, wrote with the defeatist perspective you’d expect from a reporter. “We are a society that is so scared of its own shadow that we can’t even enjoy ourselves anymore,” he concluded sadly. He completely missed the heartwarming note of national unity provided by a war in which everybody from all points of the ideological spectrum can join with equal bloodlust:
• Christian fundamentalists can do battle with Satan. “Halloween is Satan’s night,” televangelist Pat Robertson told his audience a couple of years ago.
Robertson, however, is practically a conscientious objector compared with Jacksonville, Fla., evangelist Kimberly Daniels, who warned parents that “most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.”
• Liberal champions of egalitarianism can fight back against plutocratic 1-percenter children. Maryland Elementary in Bexley, Ohio, outlawed Halloween costumes because some children can’t afford to buy them.
The cutting-edge pedagogues in Bexley apparently never heard of two of the popular costumes of my childhood — cutting a couple of eyeholes in a pillowcase as a ghost, or magic-markering whiskers and a dark nose onto a kid’s face to turn him into a cat. (I mean, make him look like a cat. Only the Wiccan priestesses in my neighborhood can actually turn kids into cats.)
• Conservative culture warriors can take a stand against the rising tide of child sexual degeneracy. A Mormon church in Sandy, Utah, generously invited neighborhood kids to its Halloween party but added a stern asterisk: “Please no masks or cross-gender dressing.” Woe to the little girl trying to sneak in wearing a Mr. Potato Head costume!
To be fair, there are some unenlightened pockets of resistance out there. Three years ago, when other parents criticized a Kansas City mom for letting her 5-year-old son trick-or-treat as Daphne, the girl detective in the Scooby-Doo cartoons, she fired back: “If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. ... I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja, so back off.”
• Progressive educators can get in some licks against the dread cultural biases that lurk in practically every corner of human knowledge. New York City’s Department of Education last year tried to outlaw questions with any reference to Halloween from tests because it’s associated with “paganism” and might “appear biased” or “evoke unpleasant emotions” in students. Also banned: dinosaurs (yucky associations with evolution theory), birthdays (Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate ’em), creatures from outer space, homes with swimming pools, computers, vermin, junk food, abuse, terrorism, divorce and any references to disease and holidays.
It occurs to me after that last one that you may suspect I’m making this stuff up. I’m not, but I don’t blame you for wondering. The sheer dementia of these attacks on a holiday devoted to making pretend and eating candy, the two most treasured kid activities of my childhood, is so unreal that it sounds like parody.
That’s why you can read, all over the Internet, blasts at Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann for demanding an end to Halloween, which she said amounts to nothing more than “sucking on Satan’s candy bags.”
Except she didn’t say it; the quotes were made up by a satirical website called the Free Wood Post, which now has presumably learned that reductio ad absurdum ridicule doesn’t work very well when reality itself has turned absurd.
Glenn Garvin is a columnist for the Miami Herald.