Friday, November 02, 2007

Scared Witless

Manuel Ramos

My contract with La Bloga says that I get to rant once a year. Here it is for 2007. Written on Halloween. I had intended to write about the differences and similarities between Halloween and Día de Los Muertos but I didn’t quite get there.

In this week’s episode of The Reaper, the Devil said: “I hate Halloween; it’s the only night when no one fears me.”

Halloween allows us to collectively celebrate evil, to turn irrational fears into over-the-top fantasies so that we can laugh at them, maybe with the hope that such confrontation minimizes the very real nightmares stalking the planet: war, famine, genocide, torture, abuse and murder of children.

The pagan feast has been commercialized almost beyond recognition, but that’s the nature of the beast, no? Halloween has become a multi-billion dollar industry feeding off the natural craving for escapism, the money-making potential of sexual titillation, and the oft-repeated goal, by an economy driven to extremes by the profit motive, of “party hardy, dude.” The people of the U.S. spend more on Halloween than any other holiday except for Christmas. Total Halloween consumer spending for 2007 is estimated to be more than $5 billion.

The average consumer will spend $64.82 on Halloween compared with $59.06 one year ago. Apparently, the housing crisis, the oil and gas miseries, and the unforgivable eternal war policies coming out of Washington, D.C., have not dampened the country’s mood to dress-up and pretend to be someone else. Or, could it be that assuming another identity is just what we need at this time?

Why not be Wonder Woman or Captain Jack for one night? Maybe that will take our minds off the mind-numbing, orchestrated presidential campaign. -- Hey, the election is only a year away. The choices have already been made for us, so what’s the big deal anyway? -- We are a country desperately looking for heroes. There’s even a popular TV show (do I watch too much TV?) with that name that candidly and directly speaks to the collective need for rescue from the mess we’ve inflicted upon ourselves. My problem with Heroes is that the answer to our need appears to be a super-race with superpowers – the everyday, common human being just ain’t up to the task of saving civilization.

But I’m not one to denigrate pop culture, mythical saviors, and make-believe, fantastic scenarios. After all, I’ve been known to write what is called “genre fiction.” I read comic books about superheroes, although I lean to the grittier tales in graphic novels where there are no heroes. I admit I got caught up in the fever around the “heroic” Colorado Rockies (a “band of brothers on a magical ride;” the “Miracle of Blake Street”) even though the organization and some of the players try to come off as holier-than-me (apparently “Christian” and “character” are synonymous); and there’s no denying that I can be moved by a sentimental appeal to good old-fashioned romance (is there anything more romantic than skepticism?)

And yet, there's no escaping the reality that the death toll continues to climb, and because we don't stop it we all share the responsibility. Día de los muertos, indeed.

Back to Halloween. It’s cold and damp, a Denver Halloween tradition. We’ve bought many more bags of candy than we will ever give away. The cards to all the grandchildren have been mailed. Tonight I’ll be at a party where I plan to toast a local writer’s success with his Chicano-flavored vampire/private-eye stories. I guess I’m close to my allotted $64.82 for Halloween expenses. I feel like part of the club. Where can I get an Optimus Prime mask?

Now there’s a hero.


[Day of the Dead Tribute to the Rockies by Jerry Vigil.]


Anonymous said...

Given the fluidity of your prose, the incisiveness of your imagery, and the overall goodness of your words, I'm thinking we should amend your contract to allow for more of the Ranting Ramos.
Buen hecho!

Anonymous said...

Keep on ranting, Manolo! You made my Halloween and my Dia de Muertos.