Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallow's Election

(News-Herald, October 30) This time of year a weekly columnist has a tough choice—comment wryly on Halloween, or make trenchant observations about the upcoming election.

The cheap shot is to link the two with some lame witticism suggesting that the election is far scarier than anything on All Hallow’s Eve. I’d rather not. I find this year’s Presidential race more disappointing than scary.

I don’t find either of the candidates frightening; I just expected, somehow, a better race than this. There was a time when I really respected each of these guys and imagined that we would be spared the usual wretched campaign excess. Instead, the Obama campaign has spent enough money to rescue half of Wall Street, while the McCain campaign has slung enough ugly mud to bury it (and they should know better—one of the things I have never forgiven the Bushies for is their shameful smearing of McCain eight years ago).

Some members of the electorate have raised a level of hysteria that’s just silly. I don’t believe the election of either candidate will signal the end of everything good in the country.

As far as some of some of the “information” circulating—well, here’s a quick memo. This is to those of you who keep insisting that Sarah Palin wants to burn books and hunt endangered species, and those of you who keep insisting that Obama is actually a Muslim and terrorist: You need to shut up. You’re embarrassing yourselves, and the rest of us as well. There are some perfectly good reasons to vote against either candidate; manufacturing stupid ones is unnecessary.

I am equally saddened at some “local” races. Now that John Peterson has retired, awe-inspiring gerrymandering in the Commonwealth has guaranteed that Venangoland will be forever represented by total strangers who live over two hours away. (Gerrymandering, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is the process by which pinheaded yahoos in state and federal capitols redraw districts with no regard for actual constituents, but in order to guarantee certain seats will be safe for certain parties. Computers have greatly advanced this fine art of denying voters real representation.)

Halloween isn’t any scarier than the election, but at least it’s a bit more hopeful.

This, despite the earnest efforts of many well-meaning folks to stamp out or upstage the Great Festival of Junk Food Extortion. I have heard the arguments about the evils of Halloween, but I can’t take them seriously. If Halloween is Satan’s recruitment program, it is the most ineffective one since Uncle Sam started trying to interest young men in a free trip to Iraq. After decades and generations of trick-or-treaters in Venangoland, we should be positively waist-deep in middle-aged Satanists, and yet everyone I know somehow escaped unscathed.

Actually, as an in-town Franklin resident, I’m pretty sure that the “Harvest Festival” in the park has actually increased trick-or-treat traffic. Little masquers carpool into the city, glom up the free food in the park and then head out through town for the traditional non-wholesome stuff.

Beyond that, it should be a quieter-than-usual year in Franklin—the Friday night football game will cramp the style of the usual Franklin Heights egg war. Not so in Oil City.

There’s something a little bit triumphant about the return to evening trick-or-treating in Oil City. Sending the costumed kiddies out after dark is not just a harmless tradition—for Oil City it’s an act of courageous defiance, a night of pride and strength. It was right for the city to take a step back for many years, and now it’s right for the city to take back the night.

Of course, in the midst of all this there is an actual legitimate holiday (no, I am not referring to the new custom of using Halloween to kick off the Christmas shopping season). I’m referring to November 1, All Saint’s Day.

It’s an old holiday—the church first started festivals to commemorate all martyrs back in the late 200’s. Pope Gregory set All Saint’s Day for November 1 somewhere around 740 AD. Many modern denominations have moved it to the first Sunday in November and generalize it to commemorate all the departed faithful, a sort of Holy Memorial Day. It is an occasion that’s probably more deserving of attention than the pursuit of a juvenile sugar buzz. If your church is on the ball, you get to sing “For All the Saints,” one of best hymns in Christendom (take the time to sing all eleven verses).

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