It wasn’t the little boys dressed as vampires. It wasn’t the smiling early-teens sporting carefully crafted head wounds. It wasn’t the sweet little girls posing as witches. The scariest thing this Halloween was a little illustrated message of hate and fear, masquerading as a comic book.
Neighbors down the street decided to forgo candy this year and sneakily slip the little booklets into the totes of my 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. My wife, sixth sense always at the ready, asked to take a look as our little ones judged the heft of their loot. Later, we found the story line and images of a man severely beaten by an angry mob of gay-rights activists. The mob was enthusiastically joined by a policeman swinging his nightstick. In the hospital room where the man laid bandaged and bludgeoned, oxygen tubes in his nose, even the visiting minister was actually Satan in disguise. The explicit point: a deviant world has infiltrated society and is out to destroy you; trust no one, especially those who are different.
As I walked down my street this past Sunday to discuss this with the adults of the house, I grew dismayed at the thought of scores of children whose parents perhaps didn’t catch the sneaky delivery of the booklet. I grew furious at the thought of someone using the cover of Halloween to deliver their own hateful message to my kindergartner and second-grader. And I grew sad as I thought of the tragedy of the family whose boy chose suicide just two weeks ago — the latest gay teen in an appalling string of suicides encouraged by unrelenting torment by classmates.
The father with whom I spoke on Sunday was quiet, tuned-out, spineless in his reaction. His demeanor betrayed his intent to deliver his message anonymously, under the radar and under the noses of parents. I explained to him — firmly, yes — that what he had done was hateful. Cowardly. Decidedly un-Christian.
Words matter. And it matters how we, as parents, respond to others who would deliver hateful messages to our children. There are real ghouls out there. But the good news is they’ll often shrink away when we assert ourselves and stand firm that their methods and messages will not be tolerated by good, reasonable people.