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Friday, October 31, 2008

Tom's Traditional Halloween Rant

Original post 10/31/2005

You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

It’s Halloween -- that wonderful time of year when we as a society engage in our curious annual ritual exploration of our darker natures. Witches and werewolves decorate church halls and schools and ever more grisly horror movies cram the television schedules. The whole “celebration of evil” thing kind of gives me the creeps every year, but I go along anyway like most of us do. I dig out my threadbare spider costume with the extra pairs of arms and spend a pleasant evening giving the heebie-jeebies to the neighborhood urchins that show up at my door to “Trick or Treat” in ever dwindling numbers.

I particularly love all those smarmy Halloween TV specials that try to explain to us what the real “Spirit of Halloween” is.

When I was growing up in a small East Texas town, as near as I could tell, the “Spirit of Halloween” has something to do with scaring each other and ourselves half to death while snagging up all the candy we could lay hands on – sort of a celebration of greed and nastiness. I suppose it’s some sort of collective exercise in facing down the boogey men that haunt us throughout the rest of the year (like old age, illness and Jesse Ventura running for the presidency). Three years ago, I dressed up in a blue pin-striped suit and rubber Al Gore mask and went round the neighborhood creeping out my Republican neighbors. I won’t try that again, though – turns out, my neighbors are more heavily armed than I had even guessed. Hey, maybe all this scaring ourselves is a useful exercise after all. We had an unusually heavy voter turnout in my district that year. Who knows? Maybe I contributed in a small way, I don’t know.

The dark forces of political correctness keep trying to redefine Halloween as some sort of sweetsie-pie Christmas clone instead of the guilty and totally unjustified pleasure it is. But has all this Halloween revisionism has finally gone too far? This year, it seems, the dark forces of political correctness are, as J.R.R. Tolkien put it “growing in the land”. The schools it seems are their first target.

Now, Halloween, when I was a kid, was always about how much candy you could gather in a weeklong orgy of parties and one wild night of trick or treating. You’d stuff all your loot into paper grocery bags and hide it under your bed and eat sweets for the next six months. It was a wondrous celebration of greed and excess. We had big parties at school and dressed up as axe murders, witches, demons and fairy princesses (most of the princesses would later grow up to be cheerleaders, but since children might be reading this, I won’t even go there – too scary). One thing you could always count on, though, was getting a nice pile of hard candy at the school party (the kind that lasts for six months without growing hair and oozing out into a multi-colored puddle of melted chocolate and fruit creams decorated with an assortment of variegated dust bunnies caught in the quagmire).
WELL NOT THIS YEAR! This year, the diet police are getting into the act. TISD elementary school kids brought home a list this year. It is a list of what treats are “acceptable” and what treats are “not acceptable” to bring to the Halloween party. The list is like something Rod Serling would have written.

Acceptable: Popcorn, M&M’s, Reese’s Cups, Pretzels, Goldfish Crackers, Snickers, Milky Way, Three Musketeers, Hershey Kisses, Caramel, Baby Ruth, Beef Jerky, Teddy Grahams and Milk Duds.

Not Acceptable: Drinks, gum, hard candy (jawbreakers, peppermints, etc.), gumdrops, jelly beans, jellied/fruit flavored slices, marshmallow candy, Fondant (Candy Corn, soft mints), licorice, candy coated popcorn, suckers, cotton candy, Fruit Rollups, Twix, Kit Kat, Gushers, Gummy Bears, Pixie Stix, Now & Laters, Red Hots
As a provider of day care services, my organization was concerned that we might be in violation of some new state law, so we gave the school a call for clarification. I wanted to know why the school was discriminating against jellied orange slices and Candy Corn (two of my personal favorites).

“Oh,” the administrator explained to my staff, “That’s because the items on the “unacceptable” list don’t have nutritional value and the other ones do.”

FADE IN: (Creepy Music) “You are now entering another dimension……….. The Dietetically Correct Zone”.
Okay, let me get this straight. There’s some sort of policy lodged in some obscure corner of the school system that says Halloween must be nutritional. Puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeese!

Wanna bet there’s some federal funding at stake if you don’t show that your school is doing something about reducing the number of fat kids in their classes? Somewhere, some skinny vegetarian leftist political correctness vampire bureaucrat has decided our kids need to have a nutritionally balanced Halloween and some poor school cafeteria director has to figure out how to make that happen.

What’s sad is that they’re telling parents that it’s a state law. You mean to tell me that gang of right wing Republicans who ran rough shod through the state house last spring passed a law that passed legislation requiring the public schools to protect our kids from Candy Corn, Jelly Bellies and Jolly Ranchers?

Yeah, right. I’m betting it was some vegetarian in the Dept. of Education myself.

So how does our hapless cafeteria maven explain the list? Let’s see. You can have popcorn and caramel, but if you coat the popcorn in the caramel, it loses all its nutritional value.


And what about the chocolate? Why is some chocolate acceptable and other chocolate is not.

Oh, that’s easy. It’s okay if it’s MILK chocolate.

Well, Halellujah, Three Musketeers has been moved into the Dairy Group.

Now what else can we have? Beef Jerky – one of our favorite Halloween Treats as a child. Usually, we got those from the 90 year old who came to the door after we banged on it for 15 minutes without stopping and woke him up.
“Can’t you see the porch light’s out?” he growled.

“Trick or Treat!”

“I got some Beef Jerky here, kid. Take it or leave it!”

Oh and how about chit’lins and pork rinds? They didn’t mention those. You can’t just leave out those traditional holiday favorites – not in East Texas you can’t! And how about that no “drinks” provision? Sugar–based soda I can see and of course there are all those Internet stories about how aspartame and saccharine are made from toxic waste, so we can’t send diet sodas. But do they really mean we can’t send over festive little bottles of peach schnapps? What is our education system coming to?

I notice virtually everything on the list has a relatively short shelf life before it goes stale. That’s a bummer. That junk wouldn’t have lasted two weeks at my house. That means that, thanks to our ever-vigilant school system’s enlightened leadership, no child will be sucking hard candy for the next six months, right? Thank goodness for the wisdom of the TEA.

So, one more time: You can have popcorn and you can have caramel, but evidently, if you coat the popcorn in caramel suddenly – poof – all the nutritional value is gone. You can have a Teddy Graham cookie AND a Milky Way, but not a Twix or Kit-Kat which are cookies covered in chocolate (but presumably not MILK chocolate which would get them under the “Dairy Group” umbrella).

And I want a recount on candy corn! Halloween is the only time of year you can legally eat that stuff I think and I would feel deprived if I missed the candy corn season. And the candy corn people make those little orange pumpkins too and they’re almost as good. Candy corn and jelly beans, I would argue, should be in the “vegetable” group. Maybe we need to organize a lobbying effort to get Fruit Rollups and orange slices put into the “fruit” group. Cotton Candy could be in the fabric group for all I care and I think Red Hots should be illegal anyway.

We need to do a new holiday special this year. Call it the Grinch that Stole Halloween. We could get Umma Thurman as the evil vegetarian leftist school superintendent that is trying to ruin Halloween by taking away all the candy and forcing little children to take home sacks full of rice cakes, bean curd and tofu-based snack treats instead of candy.I’m just sayin’


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