Of all our holidays, Halloween is the least romantic or sentimental. Indeed, it is the night when we allow our worst demons out to roam the streets in full costume. Ghosts, vampires, witches, goblins, and Sarah Palin. But why is this…?
Psychiatrists tell us it’s a necessary purging of the libido, that dark and menacing current which runs like a secret torrent through the chambers of our hidden hearts. Well, I’m okay with that. Putting faces and figures onto our worst fears does seem to allow us to laugh them away. But what of the days and nights after Halloween?
During those 364 sunrises and sunsets that same libido harbors fears we can’t put into handy costumes to laugh at. What then?
Fear not, for there are always fears at hand throughout the year. Fears we can anthropomorphize as needed. Every age has their favorites. The Persians had Shedu, the Jews Mazzik, the Hindus Butahs, the ancient Greeks & Romans their gods of the underworld. Later the emperor of evil: The Devil.
However, these are only the furies-of-fear that come to us from our respective cultures. The greater of these are the ones we create ourselves. But so as not to frighten ourselves too much, we create them in the form of fiction. In the East one of the favorites has been Godzilla and his many derivatives. In the West there have been classics like Dracula…Frankenstein…King Kong…the Wolf Man…Mr Hyde.
Leaving fiction for reality, in our own times the West has had a great run of actual monsters to fear. To hate. And in time to destroy. There were such as Attila…Napoleon…Hitler…Stalin. For others there was Jefferson Davis….FDR…Clinton…Bush…the Pope…and now Obama. It is always fiercely fulfilling to find a monster in whom our worst fears can thrive, rage, and eventually conquer.
Often we get our fears and terrors exactly right. There are few who will step forward to defend a Hitler or a Stalin. Indeed their own people have experienced the consummate purgation by hating their own monsters more than anyone else. But then there are those who are simply monsters-for-a-day. The political and religious monsters of the moment who — once defeated and/or dead — can hypocritically conjure up lyrical epitaphs from even their greatest haters.
Just one more feature of that remarkable existential phenomenon known as the Human Condition. It is just so enormously human of us humans to fear something and someone all the days of our life. As little children fear the sounds that go bump in the night, all the way to the gnashed-teeth protestors spilling their hate into the streets, the pulpits, and later this summer in our two political conventions.
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