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A SWAT for sucking the fun out of everything

Submitted by on Thursday, 28 October 2010 No Comment

I was about Big Guy’s age when apples again became the forbidden fruit.

I’m not sure where it happened, but I can guarantee you it wasn’t  in our town. I didn’t spend my childhood in Mayberry, but it was dang close. I don’t remember seeing a police cruiser in our neighborhood in the 10 years we lived there.

But someone, somewhere slipped a razor blade into an apple on Halloween. Unlike so many urban legends this one actually has happened, but only about 80 cases since 1959.

It was enough to cause parents to panic, and keep in mind that this was long before the Internet and 24-hour cable news. Heaven knows how the word spread so efficiently in those days but it did, and soon hospitals were opening their emergency rooms on Halloween to x-ray candy.

And the came the poisoning scares in the 1980s. Most of those were untrue as well, though in one case a kid died after eating his uncle’s heroin stash and in another a boy’s father poisoned him and the rest of neighborhood as well in an attempt to cover up the murder-for-insurance money plot.

By 1985, pollsters found that 60 percent of parents feared that Halloween candy would injure or kill their children.

And now the stories are dredged up every year. It’s reached the point where a simple trick-or-treat bag carries a list of seven “safety reminders.” Always trick or treat with a grownup. Don’t wear loose-fitting costumes. Carry a flashlight. Talk about the ultimate warning label.

The best “safety tip,” though is that trick or treaters should visit only from people they know. Hmm … that’s what the two kids who died did. And it also overlooks the fact that family members account for 82 percent of the kidnappings in this country.

If they were written according to statistical reality, the safety tips should read never accept candy from your uncle or father and go around the neighborhood with a total stranger.

But where’s the fun in that? Better to warn parents to be “extra vigilant” and to remind them to be nervous. Nervous? Really? I have reason to be nervous – I have a kid who’s ragingly allergic to half the candy he’ll collect. But I’m not nervous at all.

You know what really scares me? Parents who let kids swill soda in their baby bottles. School lunches. The notion that there’s no such thing as an accident, that all risk can be micromanaged out of life.

Pollsters, “safety tip” pushers and other fear peddlers should simply Stop Wasting America’s Time with their annual hype about the “dangers” of what used to be a day for kids to have fun. They have enough to worry about these days what with cramming for standardized tests by the time they’re 7. Give them a break.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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