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Social Contracts and Scarecrows

I know Halloween is a few days past, but the whole experience got me thinking about community. Despite the move of many families to the “trunk or treat” concept popular with some church groups, I still have plenty of kiddos at my door on Halloween night. Having had occasion to run an errand just as the festivities began, I noticed tons of families on the streets of my neighborhood- ninja turtles, fairies, super heroes, and the cutest policeman ever on my porch (not that I have police there regularly!). I hurried home and learned that my husband had already had 10 revelers! I was making a delicious French silk pie for the incomparable Debbie Baldwin who is retiring, and he was in the office working on a new play list. The doorbell would ring, and we would both emerge to see who came this time. The children said “trick or treat” and we would introduce them to our dog 11 as we handed them each two pieces of what I call “the good stuff”. Nearly all of them said thank you, and they were off to the next house, and we were back to our activities for a few more minutes.

A couple of my friends texted that they just put a bowl out and turned off their lights, not wanting to be bothered with the constant interruptions. While I certainly respect people’s desire to not participate in this tradition, it is a free country to be sure, I submit that participating in the Halloween ritual is a civic duty. In my mind, we have a responsibility as homeowners to play our part. The children are holding up their end of the bargain by getting into costume, saying the right lines, and being appreciative. The least I can do is open my door to any child – regardless of whether they live in my neighborhood or not, regardless of what age I think they might be- and offer them two pieces of “the good stuff”.

I know we live in an increasingly fearful world, and that Halloween got a bad rap when I was a child for the urban legend (now proven to be false) of razor blades in apples, but I want to do my part for these children so that they see we are all part of the same American fabric. These little rituals mean something. The original social contract between a king and a servant was basically- I’ll give my allegiance to you if you promise to protect me from our common enemies. That social contract led to the common government we share today! This contract between me and the children who stop by on Halloween is a continuation of that social contract, a rededication, if you will, to our belief that living in community with others is what America is all about. We are all in this together!

So, as a United States history teacher, as an American, I implore each of you to reconsider your thinking on Halloween in 2017. We don’t know a lot at all about who will lead our nation or where we will be at that time, but if we continue to do our part of hanging together, then the social fabric we have won’t get too frayed in the process.

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