The following article is the sole opinion of Arthur Helms. ZWN and it's
affiliates do not influence, endorse nor are accountable for Mr. Helms
Cities all across Florida and other southern coastal
states have enacted measures to seriously curtail and in some cases
eliminate typical Halloween festivities. This is regrettable, though
completely understandable, in many states currently coping with Mortosis
outbreaks and floating undead. However, there are many other areas of
the country that are talking about similar bans and curtailments. Those
of you that follow both my work here at ZWN as well as my previous endeavors
know I am a staunch defender and student of logic, fact and common sense.
Knowing this, you would think I would be in support of such actions
across the board. No one was more surprised than I when I realized such
drastic measures were not entirely necessary.
Now, before you wail and gnash, crying out “Say it ain’t
so, Art!” allow me to explain my position. The United States is,
in comparison to most of the rest of the world, practically an infant.
At just a little over 230 years old, we’re practically the fetus
of the globe. Americans have few traditions and shared cultural experiences
native to our nation. Halloween, at least the way we have come to celebrate
it, is one of those few traditions. Few of us can claim to have never
gone trick or treating, bobbed for apples or, in the case of my misspent
youth, carrying out minor acts of vandalism to neighborhood sticks-in-the-mud
with soap and toilet paper. From California to Maine, from Washington
to Florida and all points in between, somewhere in the last week of
October most all of us at one age or another donned our costumes and
went to parties or door to door, making light of the things that scared
us. And in so doing, we gained power over those things, even if it was
only for one night.
Isn’t that what we all need a little bit of right now? Empowerment?
Americans need to come together and unite behind the few common principles
and shared experiences we have if we are to overcome and eliminate Necro-Mortosis.
Most children old enough to be plopped in front of the TV know at least
something about the plague. If you as parents have done your jobs correctly,
they know as much of the science behind the plague as their level of
development and maturity can handle. Children now know that undead are
real, and they know the plague is responsible for a lot of pain in the
world, the same way they know Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the
Tooth Fairy are real.
“Okay, Art, get to the point.” I hear you. Bear with me.
How do we as adults handle the things that scare us? Typically, we do
this in one of two ways. We either face our fears head on or we use
humor to soften those fears, making them easier to deal with. This doesn’t
mean that in doing either of these things we are guaranteed to conquer
a particular fear. One that is afraid of heights may suddenly decide
to skydive in an effort to quash the fear. Though the act may not completely
conquer the fear, such bold initiatives usually temper it to the point
where it is no longer debilitating. Or, we turn to humor. One only has
to watch late night comedians, sketch comedies or, my personal favorite,
South Park to see that we as Americans are using humor to cope with
the very real danger of global terrorism. The typical American feels
frustration with both of these global nemesis’. And since there
is little we can do about it and few ways to vent our frustrations,
finding humor allows us to bring them to a personal level.
So what does overcoming fear and finding humor have
to do with the impending loss of Halloween? It’s simple really.
We like to be entertained, we like to laugh and we actually enjoy a
good scare now and again. Halloween, when done properly, provides all
these things rolled into a uniquely American experience. And it’s
not just for the kids. There are conventions across this country every
month celebrating our continuing love affair with all things horrific,
ironic and darkly comic. Ask the people of southwestern Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania zombie walk:
Every year, a “Zombie Walk” is organized. Thousands of horror
buffs from around the country come to the mall where the George Romero
classic “Dawn of the Dead” was filmed back in 1978. Volunteers
organize these fans, most dressed in their most horrific make-up and
regalia, into a shambling mass, recreating the final scene of the movie
where the undead hordes finally breach the shopping mall where the film’s
heroes have holed up. National and local news media crews can be seen
everywhere; filming, taking pictures and interviewing fans. Local film
and make-up schools are involved, offering make-up demonstrations and
otherwise helping the participants be more “zombie-like”.
Often, a convention is held in town to coincide with the Walk offering
up all things dead and undead.
As a closet fan and great admirer of Mr. Romero’s films, I can
relate to these people. Some embrace the esteemed writer and director’s
undead mythos for the subtle jabs it takes at rampant capitalism, greed
and the ultimate revolution. Others see the work as stories of humans
surviving the ultimate doomsday scenario. And for each of those, there
are another ten people that appreciate it for their own reasons; the
dark humor embedded in every tale, the craftsmanship and loving attention
to detail in the special effects, adrenaline junkies and those that
just plain like to be scared.
Whatever the reason, the continuing success of Mr. Romero and his many,
many clones, copiers and hangers-on serves as a testament to our desire
to be entertained, to laugh and, let’s face it, to be scared.
Americans have brought terrorism to the level of humor to better cope
with its horror. Some Americans have reportedly been watching Romero’s
movies with new eyes, since the director’s vision of the undead
and the means to re-kill them ring in eerie similarity to the victims
of the plague, using the films almost as resource material should they
ever encounter the dead themselves. Then there are those that watch
these films and other related art for the sometimes darkly humorous
portrayal of both zombies and inept survivors, allowing them to bring
Necro-Mortosis to an individually human and more understandable level
than the nightly news could ever do. But the bulk of horror fans watch
movies, read books and endlessly blog about fictional undead because
they like to for their own reasons.
So where does Halloween come in on this diatribe, you ask? Simple. Halloween
teaches children that it’s okay to be scared sometimes. By becoming
the boogey men they fear, it allows them to gain control of that fear
and brings it to their level of understanding. I understand why communities
currently affected by quarantines and curfews need to limit or eliminate
Halloween festivities. But, to co-opt a widely overused yet narrowly
understood saying, if we do away with Halloween wholesale, the dead
The “Zombie Walk” was held this year, with a record-setting
attendance of more than a thousand strong. The event was properly planned,
regulated and advertised. No harm was done, no one was shot by mistake
and residents didn’t think the mall had been besieged by the walking
dead. And in so doing, Necro-Mortosis suffered a blow to its primary
weapon; fear. Come on, America. Let the kids (and the adults) have Halloween.
Regulate it with community or private parties and use it as a gateway
to discuss the real undead to educate our children and ourselves. We
need our traditions. We need to teach our children to stand together
as Americans and not to cower away from the shadows. And we need to
teach them that it’s all right to be afraid sometimes. Halloween
is the best mechanism we have to do this.
Arthur Helms is a syndicated columnist who has dealt with a host of
social and political issues. His previous syndicated column, “Logic,
Please?” offered commentary on a host of world-view issues as
seen through the cold yet bright light of plain logic, demonstrated
fact and simple common sense.
the academic and political elite often dismissed his commentary as “too
simplistic” for our complicated times, his books of collected
columns and hundreds of national speaking engagements each year attest
to his connection to a readership yearning for simple answers to complex
issues. Helms recently ended his syndicated column to sign on exclusively
with Zombie World News, providing a fresh, logical,
plain-English view of the plague and to bring some common sense to what
many perceive to be a senseless situation.
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