A More Eloquent Anti-Halloween Screed

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I meandered yesterday about my disdain for the upcoming festivities. (And also the runup to the festivities, which seems to have been going on for the past three months.) But Barton Swaim, being a professional writer, took to the op-ed page of the WSJ yesterday to express things much better than I: Down With Halloween’s Ironic Death Cult.

I’ve never been a fan of Halloween. In recent years, as celebrations have become darker and more gruesome, I’ve started to dread its onset.

Part of my aversion arises from my own hidebound premodern Calvinist outlook, in which death is no laughing matter and necromancy is forbidden by God (see Deuteronomy 18:9-13). Forgive my Puritan sensibility, but I find the whole spectacle ugly and offensive and vaguely sinister. What sort of “holiday” deliberately terrifies children with images of murder and ruin and treats torture and death as a joke? I look forward to the day when this ironic nonholiday goes the way of Flag Day or Michaelmas.

I am of course speaking only of the way in which All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is celebrated by Americans in the 21st century. I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, when Halloween consisted of trick-or-treating, jack-o’-lanterns, apple-bobbing and maybe a viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

Halloween has since become a kind of industrial cartoon death cult. Its appurtenances—candy, costumes and yard ornamentation, including giant skeletons and faux cobwebs for the shrubbery—hit the shelves long before summer ends. In early October homes in affluent neighborhoods start competing with each other for the most ghoulish exhibitions—much in the way those in working-class neighborhoods across town will, a month later, vie for the most brightly lit lawn and the most garish nativity scene.

Real life is often dreadful enough without piling on gore and death. Just keep the candy. The good stuff, please. None of that… well, you see the Amazon Product du Jour.

Also of note:

  • A good question. And it's from Mr. Jeff Maurer, who asks: Why Is Homelessness a Municipal Issue?. But first, a thoughtful couple paragraphs about "rights".

    What’s a “right”? After taking umpteen college courses that pondered that question, my position became: Who cares? It barely matters. You can declare rights until you’re blue in the face, but it’s pointless unless you have a way to deliver those rights. To wit: The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is admirably thorough, but it remains inadvisable to walk into a police station in Myanmar and say: “Article 20 of the UDHR gives me a right to peaceful assembly, so where should I hold my ‘The Government Can Suck It’ rally?”

    Is housing a right? Maybe, I don’t know…it doesn’t matter. I’m going to skip the pontifi-bation about whether housing is a right and just say this: Housing is good. It’s in all of our interest for everyone to have a safe place to sleep. A civilized society should strive to make shelter available to all, and the United States — a country so rich that our house pets enjoy a quality of life that a mere century ago was known only to sultans — should be able to make that happen.

    I can only recommend that Jeff read "Two Concepts of Liberty" by Isaiah Berlin. Which (I dimly remember) distinguishes between positive and negative liberty.

    Negative liberty is what we nasty libertarians are for. Leave us alone, as much as possible. Treat us as adults, at least those of us who are adults.

    Positive liberty is that housing stuff. And a host of other goodies. Which a rich country, as Jeff points out, "should" be able to provide.

    But speaking of housing, I was amused by this op-ed in my local paper yesterday. It's from Rebecca Perkins Kwoka and David Watters, and it's a hearty, if unsurprising, endorsement of Democrat Joyce Craig for Governor of New Hampshire.

    Try not to let your forehead hit the keyboard too hard as you read…

    Our state is in urgent need of a leader in the governor’s office who will be a partner for communities across our state. Throughout our work in the legislature, we’ve been proud to achieve significant wins for Granite Staters, but our progress has been slowed by leaders who haven’t understood the urgent needs in housing, education, and community services that our cities and towns face. Joyce Craig is a leader who understands that to grow our economy and help working families, we have to tackle our state’s toughest challenges.

    We hear calls from our constituents and business community that the biggest need is affordable housing. When Mayor Craig took over as mayor of Manchester after a decade of Republican leadership, there was no vision for the development of housing, and economic growth had stalled. After she was first elected in 2017, she got to work right away to put Manchester on the right path — and it’s working.

    OK. How well is it working? A recent article in nhjournal says:

    Manchester has struggled for years with its homeless crisis. In 2021, the city had about 360 unsheltered people, according to the NH Coalition to End Homelessness annual report. According to city officials, that number has jumped to about 540 people this year.

    I think there's room to doubt the Kwoka/Watters sunny optimism.

    But what really stood out: the word "housing" appears in this 462-word column eleven times. Overuse? I think so.

Last Modified 2024-01-10 5:55 AM EDT