Fear stretches beyond the costumes

Vampires, werewolves, witches and goblins are the glowing images featured
on jack-o-lanterns all through fall. On Halloween, these infamous creatures take flight as haunting flickers of horror. As this season’s eve of trepidation is at hand, it reminds me of all the terrors that appear on Oct. 31 every year.

After my sisters and I went trick-or-treating when we were young, we would create pseudo storefronts, brandishing our candy with pride. We traded with each other, and somehow one of us would get suckered into giving up a Snickers bar or Skittles packet for a Mary Jane or even – gasp – an unnamed treat in orange or black wrapping.

These little economic excursions could only occur after a bit of drudgery. My parents
screened our goodies with utmost suspicion
to be sure all was well for their little girls. Sandwich bags of candy corn and hand-made caramel apples would be discarded, in case they were poisoned or harboring razor blades.

Here’s the rub, though. I have only found two reports from the past 15 years regarding tampered treats, and both of them were single occurrences.

I am not using this as a means to criticize concerned parents. However, it is almost funny to think of middle-aged tandems tag-teaming each other, echoing choruses of, “Honey, do you think this one looks OK?”

In my search for booby-trapped candy incidences, I found more articles warning
parents about the hell to be raised on Halloween. There was more content regarding
the possible negatives in a kid’s batch of treats than anything else. As there have been so few cases, it certainly seems that the facts are on the candies’ side.

However, it is better to be safe than sorry.

And when it comes to a child’s safety, this is especially true. I know that I would love to go trick-or-treating now, ripping off wrappers as I chomp on unchecked chocolate morsels. Being older, I would assuredly sift through the candy myself.

Maybe it is American to be full of unneeded
paranoia. It seems fear is a constant presence in our society, and this national angst could actually be dangerous.Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many Americans
have been afraid to fly on airplanes
and even visit big cities.

As far as highjacking goes, there have only been a few cases of such atrocities in the past. Sept. 11 accomplished a validation of these fears with burning imagery.

But how rational are these suspicious trends now? Throughout the unfolding of the terror plot in Britain, airport security disposed of millions of liquid containers – just in case. It sure sounds like the Mom and Dad trick-or-treat patrol on a larger scale.

Even now, many people have expressed concern regarding terrorism and trick-or-treating. After all, anything is possible. But it wouldn’t be wise if parents really thought the kiddies were bringing home anthrax-flavored boxes of Nerds. It is just not likely.

Whether it is parents censoring sweets or security officials rummaging through luggage, these efforts to ensure safety have ingrained themselves into the consciousness of American life.

Perhaps this undying cycle of primal fear is what perpetuates success. It makes sense to work hard because it puts us in the best position to guarantee security. Fear tends to be an intrinsic piece of everyday
life because it drives us. It is not that we pursue an education and work for a living because that is our dream, but rather because we are terrified of the repercussions should we choose a different path. We have to listen to our fears because if we don’t, we may or may not be safe. We could lose everything in an instant.

There is more to life than fear though. There are all those fuzzy beautiful
things for which we strive, and for most of us, these things are truly important.

The issue is not that this nation is completely driven by fear, but whether or not the public focuses on it. When it comes to Halloween costumes, there is a choice between portraying Dorothy or the Wicked Witch. As for our lives, it is also about deciding on a perspective.

Will the trick-or-treat candy be laced with arsenic? Probably not. But how much or how little you worry is up to you.

Erin Bernard can be reached at
erin.bernard@temple.edu.

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