Halloween Humiliation

There’s this big Halloween parade in our town, and I’d never been until today. First, I was too adult, then Klara was too little, then there was icy rain the day of. Finally, we decided to go because the event is legendary.

Folks, it was horrid. I haven’t felt this humiliated since I stopped working at Cornell. I’m writing this right now, with my cheeks burning in shame. Here’s what happened.

I thought, a Halloween parade, right? Costumes, fun floats, what else could it be? And maybe there was all that but I couldn’t find it in myself to stay beyond the first 8 minutes.

The beginning was beautiful. Veterans walked with flags, everybody cheered. A wonderful moment.

And then the important people in luxurious vehicles drove in a procession. First, the Chamber of Commerce, then the Mayor, the administrators at my university, the owners of a McMansion here in town, a big law firm. As they drove, they threw candy into the crowd and plebeian children crawled on the ground picking it up. If at least the fancy vehicles were decorated for Halloween or the people in them wore costumes, maybe this would feel differently. But no. I was particularly struck by the teenage son of a local millionaire who wore a fancy suit and threw candy at children crawling in the dirt with a look of mild disgust.

That’s when we left. Thankfully, Klara doesn’t get the hype over candy and didn’t mind leaving. I never limit her access to sweets, so she wouldn’t bother to pick a piece of candy off the ground.

I’m particularly struck by the symbolism of the contrast between the veterans starting the parade to remind us of the sacrifices made for our freedom and people crawling in the dirt for meaningless handouts as if the concept of dignity were non-existent.

As they say, this explains a lot. Learn as a child to crawl in the mud to entertain your social betters, and what won’t you do as an adult?

15 thoughts on “Halloween Humiliation

  1. Hey, chill out a little. Take my word for it, it isn’t worth the emotional cost to feel personally humiliated by the public actions of people that you aren’t responsible for and have no control over.

    Happy Halloween!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Throwing candy is a pretty common feature of parades. The big “candy parades” in our town are the university’s Homecoming parade where all the student groups throw candy from their floats and the Labor Day parade where all the unions march. Some have floats, many don’t, everyone throws candy. When I marched in it with the faculty union, one of the unions early in the parade passed out toy hard hats and along the parade route we saw kids using the hats to hold all the candy they were collecting. The 4th of July parade does NOT have candy-throwing — not sure why.

    I suspect if you had stayed you would have seen more egalitarian candy-throwing. I’m sorry you had a bad time.

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    1. I’ll never get it. Why is it necessary to have people crawling around like bugs? Anybody can afford to buy large amounts of this junk.

      Everybody was so nervous that a kid would end up under the wheels of a car and the kids were so hyped for candy that I don’t think anybody would have noticed costumes.

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      1. I think they stopped throwing candy at our parades after a kid (not sure if it was our town or somewhere else in the state) really did get run over by a float scurrying around picking it up. Haven’t been to a parade in a long time, but last time I went, anything being passed out was done by costumed people who walked along the edges of the road handing it (flyers, toys, candy, whatever) to people who reached out their hands. We never had a Halloween parade, though. It was mostly the Christmas parade.

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  3. This was very moving, and insightful, and tinged with sadness. I would call it “An American Tragedy”, were it not for fear of sounding melodramatic. I suspect the reason why most of your fellow citizens might not see it the way you do is because they are American. You still sound a European at heart and this is why I understand you.
    Then again, as a European, I might have totally misunderstood this Halloween ceremony and its cultural significance within US society.
    Over the past few years here in Italy many people – not just young children, but parents and adults, too, up to age 40 or thereabouts – have started to celebrate it, but purely in its Carnival-like, Hollywood-import incarnation. And yet, there are hardly more powerful and clearly visible signs of the cultural colonization of Europe by the US. Call it harmless, sad or tragic, it all depends on how you see the world.

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  4. “threw candy at children crawling in the dirt with a look of mild disgust”

    Doing it wrong. As mentioned throwing candy is a pretty standard part of American parades and when I was there did not devolve into class-based horror.
    The idea is for the thrower to toss a few each time in such a way that most/all of it can be caught in the air. There shouldn’t be so much thrown that crawling around makes any sense at all…
    Candy should be thrown to those standing, not to those picking candy up off the ground.
    The idea is a small bit of fun (trying to catch a piece of candy or two) added to the parade experience. The catching was more important than the candy itself (usually super cheap garbage candy).
    But the modern US has turned all sorts of small pleasures into gross and disgusting displays of degraded and degrading materialism (Black Friday used to be more or less normal shopping day with a bit more people than usual rather than zombie prole fights over big screen TVs).

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  5. I have very fond memories of a Halloween parade like this when I was a child, and I have no memories if it being degrading. After reading cliff’s expansion, I understand why, we were catching the candy in the air (I’m sure we picked some off the ground but that wasn’t the main method of acquisition.)

    I was defensive of candy throwing (still am!) but now that I can see that what was going on here was different, I can really imagine the sight of many children crawling on the ground for candy and see how unpleasant that is.

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    1. Maybe if those were people in costumes it would feel differently but the very first vehicle was the Chamber of Commerce. Imagine Chamber of Commerce guys in suits throwing crumbs to the children whose future they are destroying. I can’t get over the symbolism.

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      1. “throwing crumbs to the children whose future they are destroying”

        Another difference with the past. The elite in the past were far more civic-minded and far less predatory and acquisitive than is the case now….

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Gosh, I didn’t know there were Hallowe’en parades, that sounds like it would disrupt Hallowe’en … I mean, a civic parade with dignitaries, that’s ODD, out of character, off topic, according to me.

    But you know, there are very hierarchical elements to the Mardi Gras parades, with kings and royalty and knights on horses all throwing coins to the multitudes. The torch bearers, typically Black, used to be people brought out of jail for the evening, I’m told (in a night parade, this is when they have torches), and would get pelted with coins they’d scramble for. So yes, you’ve got the faux kings and all, the world upside down, but at the same time everything is a reproduction of hierarchies, in even more ways that I have indicated, but still with a magical atmosphere

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