31 October 2006

Halloween 2006

The dog and the vampire marched off to the school parade this morning with their graveyard cake made of whipped cream and graham crackers and crumbled Oreos.

This evening we will, once again, greet trick or treaters with candy. Their neighbors will shower my children with candy and praise because most of the other kids who come to their doors won't be from the neighborhood, while mine, because they often play in the front yard, are known to one and all.

Halloween has become a celebration of individual expression and candy, which is mostly a good thing.

And, who celebrates All Saint's Day? Even hard core liturgical Christians who wear suits to church, are annointed with ashes from the palm leaves of Palm Sunday on Ash Wednesday, go to church every day during Holy Week, light Advent candles in the weeks leading up to Christmas, say grace at meals in restaurants, and can tell you when Pentacost starts and ends don't do that, especially when it falls on a Wednesday. O.K., maybe it gets some token observance at Catholic schools (and maybe even Epsicopal ones). Who knows? There may even be a septegenarian nun left in one of them that assigns Saint reports to her charges, and the day may be noticed by the die hard Catholics to go to mass every morning before work.

Likewise, the only people who take the demonic or satanic dimensions of Halloween seriously are the kind of people who feel a need to ban Harry Potter from the schools, worry that instrumental music in church could send you to hell, and take the Biblical notion that women must submit to their husbands very seriously.

For 98%+ of the population, it is a time for children to dress up and dreaming about what you will be when you grow up. Alas, job openings for wizards, Princesses, and ninjas are rather more scarce than the demand. Parents worried about excess sugar far exceed those concerned about its metaphysical dimensions.

The tricking has declined to very low levels. Devil's Night, always a nervous evening in Deroit, didn't even merit a mention in today's Detroit Free Press. Then again, in the second most dangerous city in the nation, who needs an excuse for crime anymore (incidentally, I lived for about a year and a half in Amherst, New York, which is mostly suburban with a little bit of a main street near a college campus, the second safest city in the nation, the real estate prices there are miserably low anyway, like many very safe suburbs of Detroit it is near the not so safe central city of Buffalo, New York).

As one researcher put it:

Year in and year out, it's a red flag for Detroit. This ranking each year shows that "Sorry, you aren't getting better." I'm sure it's not what people who are trying to improve Detroit want to hear, but it's reality.

Flint, another post-industrial Michigan city is number 3. Twenty years ago, General Motors employed 876,000 people. Now, it has 335,000 and is laying people off (at least 30,000 hourly and thousands of salaried workers). Part of this is due to the 1999 spin off of now bankrupt Delphi, which currently has about 185,000 employees and is also laying people off (more than 30,000 are planned by 2008, including about half of its 50,000 U.S. workers). Ford and Chrysler (since merged into Dailmer Chrysler) have faced lay offs as well and continue to do so. Ford is laying off 30,000 people.

We are a week away from the 2006 midterm elections. Mostly, this year will be a Republican nightmare. But, there are initiatives on the ballot, like Amendment 39 in Colorado, which would be horrific for Colorado schools, forcing them to slash funding on support staff like school nurses and guidance counselors and bus drivers. And, the downticket statewide races are very close.

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