Et tu, Halloween?

Posted 10/30/07

Disclaimer: 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 opinions. Bookmark and Share

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.

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 win.

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.

While 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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