Halloween allows us to face our fears and turn them into fun.
Funny, after 30 years I never thought of it that way.
Growing up on the farm, Halloween was secluded. My brother, Frederick, and I dressed in our costumes — a pumpkin, Dracula, a pirate, Aladdin — and our parents drove us to visit our two neighbors who handed out candy. (One house was my aunt and uncle’s; the other, a family friend’s. There were no strangers, and there were only three “neighbors,” if you can call them that, in all.)
One year, I trick-or-treated with my youngest cousin, Christopher, who lived in a neighborhood. It was more like the trick-or-treating depicted in movies and on television, with excited children shuffling from house to house, collecting candy from God knows whom.
Whether Halloween meant time with my parents and the same two neighbors year after year, or that isolated occasion with Cousin Christopher, the night was about imagination and role-playing. The element of fear never fazed me.
Halloween, at least for me, took a break in high school; I didn’t go to parties or celebrate the season, especially not after Daddy died.
It came back in college, but was more about several volunteers, including me, helping inner city children play carnival games and enjoy Halloween off the streets.
It’s been dormant since then. It probably would return if I marry and have children, but for now, it has no purpose.
Particularly since (as a good communication arts major should), I deconstruct everything.
As the years progress, I increasingly focus on images and their universal meanings, and what they say about people, places or things.
I’ve always strived to live an authentic life. To avoid societal trends and whims. To avoid status quo if it’s for status quo’s sake. To deny the self when possible and practical, so I could feel the pain of those less fortunate, perhaps in other countries. To ignore jokes targeting people with poorer health, means or ability. And to always set a positive example.
During Halloween, it means not wearing a costume that counters my Christian faith or general disposition, whether it’s just to be ironic or because the night supposedly offers a pass for unusual behavior.
Fuddy duddy, I know!
But do you ever look at Facebook photos following a costume party?
The devils with pitchforks, the monsters and goblins, the witches and harlots and their mischievous faces, taken out of context, without audio, send unintended messages.
Perhaps the communications degree forces me to analyze the difference between those more sinister images and video of the same scene that explains, “It’s all in good fun.”
Either way, it’s one of those split hairs that, upon hearing it, either enlightens you or compels you to say, “Geez, lighten up!”
Once you realize the power of visual communication, and universal language, you question everything. Like one reader, who today asks critics of the William Lundy Memorial, with its debated Confederate flag, to consider how sports teams’ mascots and everyday household items also could be offensive.
Now, the News Bulletin has no plans to take a position on this flag debate. It would be difficult to do so because the pro-flag and anti-flag camps are passionate in their beliefs and make points that come from life experiences or racial backgrounds that not all of us share. But I digress.
Noting, as the reader had, that flag critics shouldn’t stop there, and should question, say, any household product that uses the word devil or other sinister names or images is a fair point. Because in all likelihood, that discussion isn’t happening in these households.
It is at the News Bulletin, though. Our advertising team members have routinely suggested how sensitive several North Okaloosa churches are to Halloween’s ghoulish aspects. With respect to them, and because it’s a more inclusive description, since many October events are not Halloween related, we named our fall calendar the “Fall Events Planner.”
I first truly grasped that Halloween is about turning fears into fun from a History Channel documentary I caught late Sunday.
It’s still not my style to go out with a scary costume, even for a day, but if others do it, and that energizes and empowers them, God bless ’em. Leave the overanalyzing to me.
Whatever you do tomorrow night, take editorial cartoonist Ryan Massengill’s advice: “Have fun,” and please add to that, “Be safe.”
Happy Halloween, North Okaloosa County.