A Halloween harangue

President* Trump,

Somehow I doubt DT masks have been flying off the Amazon/Walmart/Target shelves this Halloween season since you continue to be the anti-example for kids and most (seriously, most) US adults can’t stand you. To be fair, I don’t think Biden masks are the rage either; he’s not got an especially interesting look and people would probably have to repeatedly explain who they’re pretending to be.

Stepping back from the political costumes, really the fact that so many people are trying to salvage Halloween this year is beyond me – we’re in a fricking pandemic and the last thing we need is increased opportunities for the virus to spread topped off with an influx of non-foods that compromise our health.

Yes, I’m feeling shrewish. And worried.

I do feel bad for all the kids who’ve been cooped up, unable to see friends, have had to be glued to screens even for school, and who have looked forward to Halloween only to have it be yet another thing that has to be (should be) re-fashioned nearly beyond recognition to keep everyone safe. It’s not fair. But really, not much is fair these days. Plus, kids are pretty resilient and losing a round of trick-or-treating (damn you, I almost said trick-or-tweeting) isn’t going to scar them for life. Losing a parent or grandparent or an aunt, uncle, cousin, teacher, or friendly elderly neighbor to COVID certainly could though.

Someone I don’t know all that well told a bunch of us the other day that the parents in her neighborhood have been getting big long white PVC pipes to slide candy out to trick-or-treaters. She was super excited about how they’re going all out decorating the pipes with tape and stickers and Halloween-y things. There didn’t seem to be much thought given to the fact that the pieces of candy have to be picked up by someone and placed in the pipes for delivery and that kids receiving the pieces of candy are going to want to handle and eat many of them almost immediately. Somehow, my inquiry about this angle got slid over as though I’d not said a thing. Hmm. I didn’t even bother asking how she thought kids were going to effectively social distance from one another while on their candy quests.

I’m probably reading way too much into this, but creative as it might be, this insistence on delivering and receiving sugar bombs that may or may not carry coronavirus via lengths of decorated PVC feels to me like so much American-style magical thinking – magical thinking that’s grounded in entitlement and instant gratification. If we “deserve” some fun and we take some nominal, yet largely ineffective, precautions (in this case, avoiding householders exchanging breath vapors with trick-or-treaters), then, by golly, we can have our candy and eat it too. Now. Not next year. Now.

Yes, I’m feeling judge-y. And worried.

Yesterday we had over 101,000 new COVID cases in this country and nearly 1,000 new COVID deaths (Worldometers; 10/30/20) and yet far too many of us are unwilling to think way, way outside of the box and find alternatives for Halloween that are actually safe, that will keep more of us out of permanent boxes (i.e,. coffins). It’s another piece of data that fits into the pattern that is US – we want what we want when we want it and by god, we are going to do our damndest to have it, on our terms, consequences be damned.

Ok, that’s a mighty tall, tippy soapbox that I launched all that from. I’ll end by saying that I do also, know of families that are re-imagining Halloween (and Thanksgiving and the other holidays that are coming up) with Zoom parties, outdoor socially distanced small gatherings, scary movies and popcorn. So not all is lost with US. And on the way home from the grocery store just now we saw a mom holding an awesome, quite large cardboard airplane that she then fit over her son’s head – it’s basically the ultimate social distancing costume. The wings, tail, and nose of the plane are probably not quite six feet long, but they’ll sure give that kid quite the airspace as he does whatever his thing is tonight. So like I said, all is not lost with US.

May we be safe from ourselves and our insistent desires.
May we be willing to think way, way outside our usual boxes.
May we learn to prize the strengths of restraint and creative (real) problem-solving.
May we accept that most everything has to be different right now.

Tracy Simpson

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