Halloween: a relief from real-life horrors

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Halloween is big, brash business today. Houses are strewn with cobwebs; human hands reach out of front lawns; bloody limbs hang from trees. By late September, huge candy displays fill the store shelves. YouTube features pumpkin carving techniques. Dozens and dozens of kids ring my doorbell on Halloween night. I bought 250 treats this year.

My own theory is that Halloween has become more important as the world has become more terrifying. We like Halloween because it offers us a manageable dose of scariness. We can sublimate our free-floating anxiety and control just how scared we want to be. Alas, we cannot do the same in the world at large.

What scared me silly this month? Coincidentally, the month of Halloween is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Three friends were diagnosed this month. How’s that for a mean trick?

On a more global level, North Korea has an overgrown teenager with his finger on the nuclear button. Iran either has or is about to have nuclear weapons. The wars we fought in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to yield ever-diminishing and increasingly violent returns. Also, a mega-meteor just missed Earth by a nano-hair.

Congress is a Halloween howler if ever there was one. Dysfunctional, mean-spirited and incompetent, our elected officials have done the worst — they have actually caused harm.

I’m afraid of school kids who walk into their classrooms and start shooting. I’m also majoring in a fear of spinach, with a minor in romaine, red leaf and Boston Bibb.

And these are just recent concerns, adding to my underlying fear of another terrorist attack, or a plane crash, or sabotage of our electrical grids or reservoirs.

Life has become a perpetual House of Horrors. Nothing we invent can possibly compete, for real action and terror, with what we face every day, filling our cars with gas and riding through tunnels and getting on airplanes.

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