By Joseph Xavier Martin
The rain had spattered lightly on the lanai screens this morning. Outside,
the sky is a brilliant azure blue, with the hint of clouds now blown by. In the
yard beyond, golden oak leaves circled lazily to the bronze and green carpet
below. The temperature is in the low 80s. It is much cooler now, a relief from
the high heat of summer. It is mid-autumn in Florida.
In most years, though not this one, it means that Halloween and election day will both be approaching. The images of brilliantly costumed urchins, roaming the streets in search of plunder, is still fresh in the mind’s eye.
The mystical soon surrenders to a caricature of itself. Is it a coincidence that election day and Halloween usually fall hard upon each other? Or, is it the winsome fancy of an amused electorate? Which one imitates the other?
Certainly, the parallels are there in abundance. Both sets of characters are wreathed in smiles and dressed in costumes, some of cloth, some of rhetoric. The make-up and disguises are elaborate and colorful. It is difficult to know what (or who) hides behind the mask?
Both “trick or treaters” and “candidates” are childlike and effusive as they knock upon your door, or beam in through the television set. Their hands are outstretched, expecting treats from the neighbors or votes from the electorate. Some few, in both cases, are even honest enough to bring a bag, to haul off all of the loot.
There are monsters, superheroes, celebrities and common street bums, all vying for our collective attention. We smile in amusement as they approach, but some can be bothersome in their intensity.
We throw goodies (or promises of votes), into their bags, with arms outstretched. It is somewhat like carefully feeding a school of pihranna. And then, after receiving our treat, they surge away in a swirl of color and noise and pester someone else.
At home, the trick-or-treaters examine their goodies carefully, looking for signs of tampering. Unfortunately for the voters, the flaws in the candidates are not so easily spotted. Damaged or altered goods in both instances can give you a rather serious bellyache, or worse. Maybe we should x-ray candidates, like Halloween candy, to make sure that what we are getting won’t harm us? The airwaves are crowded with annoyingly repetitive messages, urging us to vote for this guy or against that one. Mercifully, the onslaught ceases in a few days.
Election day, like Halloween, quickly passes us in a fast-moving parade of colorful witches, hobgoblins and clowns. The winners smile radiantly, the losers stoically. The greatest on-going shell game in America is over for another season. And maybe next year the unsuccessful will pick out a better and more elaborate costume. For the children, the holiday soon passes, with little more than a tooth or stomachache. For the voters, the headache can last for years.
So, when next you are at a city hall, town council, school board or other meeting, remember the imagery of hobgoblins and candidates pounding upon your door, seeking favors. Perhaps it will be a source of amusement to you when you most need something to smile about.