Yahoo News has an odd editorial by Susan Estrich titled "Halloween Horrors." I say "odd" because it is one of those opinion pieces wherein the author feels content to offer a discourse based pretty much on her vague personal impressions without recourse to any real evidence to back it up.
- What happened to Halloween? I mean the Halloween of ghosts and witches, Batman and Robin, devils and fire breathers, and good clean fun? I mean the sense of neighborhood and community, of childhood and innocence, of a special night for kids? It's been years since the first needles were found in Halloween candies, and we all learned to buy the obsessively packaged stuff and sift through our kids' bags to make sure the treats really were that. It's been almost as long since I learned to turn off the lights before the truly scary teenagers hit the streets, the ones you'd double-lock the door upon seeing on your front porch any other night of the year, those who couldn't really be looking for the last of the Hershey's kisses.
The story about needles in candy is an urban myth - no such incident has ever been confirmed. In truth, the only deaths/injuries associated with Halloween candy have been committed by family members trying to cover their tracks by making it look as if anonymous neighbors were to blame.
Further down, Estrich laments the low turn out of trick-or-treaters and wonders whether they were too afraid to come this year and speculates that a generation of kids will grow up belieivng there is no such thing as a safe place to trick-or-treat. Although it is easy to feel sorry that Estrich was left holding a full bowl of candy, one need only read a newspaper to learn that trick-or-treating is actually more popular than ever, with vast majorities of parents allowing their children to indulge in the traditional Halloween activity. (The only exception tends to be minority families living in neighborhoods considered unsafe.)
Finally, Estrich gets around to what really seems to be bothering her:
- There were kids I saw in costume this Halloween, and what I saw was even scarier than the empty streets.
I'm talking about the girls dressed like whores, literally, and the boys dressed like gynecologists (I kid you not), about parents who think it is either funny or clever to help their kids dress "up" as pot doctors and even "orgasm donors." (I promised to protect my sources on this one, but believe me; I couldn't make this up.) Sex sickos aren't funny, and sadly, they aren't pretend either. If it's OK to dress up as one, does that mean it's OK to grow up to be one? If you can dress like a pot doc, does that mean you can go to one?
[...] In one classroom of 14-year-olds that I heard about, it was one of the mothers who took credit for making the lab coats for the sex fiends and the pot doc.
I missed the orgams donors and pot doctors during my travels this Halloween, but it is interesting that Estrich is getting freaked out about pot doctors, who are actually legal in many states. (Yes, I know Federal law trumps state law, but you get the point: we're talking about something that is finding acceptance on a local level, not some fringe, freaky thing.)
I also find it interesting that Estrich references a classroom that she "heard about." Maybe she heard right; maybe she didn't. In any case, one anecdote is hardly enought to warrant despair over the lost innocence of Halloween. What we have here is a sort of first-draft, an initial impression, that might have inspired an interesting article if some research had been done to confirm or deny these impressions and determine whether they really do represent trends.
Anyone can have an opinion, and I'm sure the holiday will survive this tiny assault. Basically, Estrich imagines there was a vague happy time decades ago when everything was wonderful, but the truth is that the criticisms she is making today are as old as the hills - over-cautious parents and stuffy authority figures have long fretted over Halloween. It's the same old stale candy, wrapped up in a new trick-or-treat bag.