Halloween is here, can the election be far behind?

Published 4:34 pm Friday, October 31, 2008

Tonight, the ghosties and goblins and Batmen and fairy princesses and Supermen and lots of new cartoon characters that I won’t recognize because they have been invented since I was a child will come calling to yell “trick or treat” in hopes of getting some candy.

It’s Halloween, a day of magic attributed by many sources to the Irish, a race of which I am a proud descendent, and the night that souls are supposed to walk among us looking for sustenance.

I suppose back when the Druids were the priests, people really believed that and the night could be pretty frightening when something went bump. Today, it is a night of fun for children, one of those days that’s not quite a holiday but is better than the day before or the day after because kids have an excuse to dress up and pretend they are something else.

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Some folks, of course, still take the day seriously. They consider having fun on Halloween to be Devil worship, or something akin to that. Those are thoughts that probably wouldn’t enter the mind of one in several thousand people if it weren’t for the fun bashers trying to make everyone feel guilty about having fun. What once was a serious night of observation in Irish culture before St. Patrick is now made parody and a good excuse for children to have fun.

Actually, for some the real day of fright for many adults comes on Tuesday when we go to the polls to elect a new president and other political leaders. For many, this election is more frightening than most past ones because unknowns are on the ballot, greater unknowns than many have faced before.

On the Democratic side, for the first time a black man leads the ticket as the candidate of a major national party. Even today, 40 years after the death of Martin Luther King, that is a truly frightening prospect for many, and not just here in the South as some would try to have us believe. Those who find the prospect of a black president frightening can’t accept that he’s just another man. Those who want to try to limit the awareness of such a fear to the South, well there are other forms of bigotry than black and white.

On the Republican side, a woman holds the number two spot on the presidential ticket. In other words, if her running mate is elected president then she may become president if something happens to him. To many, including some of those frightened by the prospect of a black president, this, too, is a frightening prospect. They can’t accept that she’s just another person.

There are polls all over the place purporting to show how many among us are frightened by this prospect of that or both, but this time I suspect the polls are even more off than ever.

A lot of folks, not wanting to appear to be “politically incorrect,” aren’t going to offer up their true feelings when asked, especially as it relates to the prospect of a black president. Truth is racism and who wants to appear to be a racist?

Still others are frightened at the prospect of a woman president, even the chance of such a thing happening. There was discussion at the time she was selected that the prospect of a woman president frightened more people than did that of a black president and that was the reason that Barack Obama triumphed over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Again, finding the truth is probably impossible because who wants to be labeled a misogynist, especially if you are a woman yourself?

There are many who are going to enter the voting booth on Tuesday and cast their ballots with a great sense of trepidation because while they believe they are voting for the right person among the choices, some wish there was another, “safer,” choice.

Yes, Tuesday is the true day of fright for many.

I sometimes wish we could go back to the “old days” when fear wasn’t a factor in politics, but then a careful reading of history tells fear has always been a factor in elections. Just read about the predictions of gloom and doom if this person or that was elected president. Realize that we actually fought a Civil War because the South hyperventilated over the election of Abraham Lincoln. If you doubt that, go back and read the hyperbole that dominated the press at the time.

Yes, slavery was the true question, regardless of all the talk about states’ rights. The political leaders of the South feared Abraham Lincoln would deny them and their fellow slaveholders the “right” to own people, and it was that fear of Lincoln that was the final catalyst that brought on a war that the nation had been building up to for decades.

Such unchecked fear is what frightens some of us, me among them. One way or another, we are going to have a “different” person that is elected as either the leader or the number two person of this nation and the free world come Wednesday.

The reaction to that by the most extreme bigots among us is what I fear, so I guess you might say that Tuesday is the true day and night of fright, and not one that will be celebrated lightheartedly by children trick-or-treating.