Last week, I voiced my disapproval of the “Jesus-weeners” — those folks who find Halloween evil and oppose the pagan iconography associated with it. Instead of handing out candy, they believe in passing out Bibles.
While I defended their right to believe what they wanted, I did suggest that instead of putting down others for liking Halloween, they simply turn out their lights and let the holiday pass them by.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t hear from Jesus-weeners on the topic. They are an extremely minuscule group and I’m probably not on the “must read list” for Bible thumpers. What I didn’t expect was to get involved in a lively debate with a reader about my seemingly harmless comment about turning off one’s lights.
Samanthe wrote to tell me it is unrealistic to expect that turning one’s porch light off would provide sufficient cover from people celebrating Halloween in her neighborhood. Her home is close to one of the most popular streets for trick-or-treating.
The residents on this street go all out, decorating their houses with incredible creativity and enthusiasm. I also live nearby and it truly is a spectacle to behold.
Unfortunately for Samanthe, it means dealing with an extremely large group of people driving into the neighborhood for a visit. And as we all know when Americans travel abroad, they don’t always pack their best manners.
“The idealized version of kiddies and adults acting out a character and going door to door gathering candy…and the quietude granted to those who turn off their porch light is just that: an idealized version,” Samanthe wrote. She described witnessing her neighbors’ property being damaged while her husband stood watch outside their home, yelling at kids to get out of their yard.
During our email exchanges, we both reached a similar conclusion — good citizenship and consideration of the property of others rests not so much with the children, but with the parents responsible for instilling values in children.
We also recognized the majority of kids and families out there had good intentions — just as most people in this world have good intentions. This got us brainstorming in hopes of finding a way to make the celebration safer for the good kids and less convenient for the troublemakers.
We started asking hypothetical questions.
We wondered if more of us needed to stand guard like her husband did. Could we give out wristbands so only kids in the neighborhood can trick or treat? Or block off the streets to prevent the horde of outsiders from coming to a neighborhood they don’t care about protecting?
According to Samanthe, the Glendale Police Department apologized to her for not having the resources to respond more quickly. Evidently, similar scenes were being played out in other areas of Glendale and the available personnel were insufficient to cover everything. So we continued bouncing ideas back and forth.
Collect money from neighbors and hire a private security company? Charge a small fee for entry into the neighborhood and give the money to charity? Ask the City Council if they had any good ideas?
Clearly, we were willing to accept any notion.
Samanthe even polled other neighbors, who were likewise fed up by the situation. Make Halloween an invitation-only event? Establish an 8 p.m. curfew to make it unattractive to the older kids? Blast classical music?
Finally, Samanthe sent an email to Glendale police asking for their input. Officer Sue Shine provided some recommendations, including neighbors turning the lights and displays off simultaneously at 8 p.m.
That does seem like a rather simple solution. Of course, there is a more effective answer that doesn’t involve an entire neighborhood altering a tradition because of a few juvenile delinquents.
The real remedy is for parents to instill some values in their kids and lead by example. Instead of wandering into a neighborhood like a bunch of ugly Americans with no agenda other than to take as much as possible, maybe it could be used as an opportunity to remind kids exactly what it means to be a civilized guest on foreign soil.
If more emphasis was placed on those kinds of values, how to deal with the unpleasant aftereffects wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion in the first place.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at email@example.com.