Saturday, October 15, 2011

Halloween, Politics and Parkinson's Disease

Halloween is approaching so elections must be right around the corner.
When I was growing up the nearest city lights, such as they were, could only be seen from my family’s farm as a distant glow in the western sky.  Back then, Halloween was a major event in the lives of my friends. However, we had discovered that no matter how many O Henry bars, red candied apples, caramel popcorn balls or homemade taffy chews you ate that night, you actually lost weight. That was because trick-or-treating was a dark and sometimes dangerous walk between spreadd out houses just to extract a rather small supply of goodies. Long, muddy driveways, small, homemade snacks, dogs with questionable pedigree bounding and barking out of nowhere and, worst of all, no subdivisions, all led to a meager haul. Treats were literally few and far between. Trick-or-treating bore no resemblance to today's chauffer-driven, hundred-houses-in-an-hour, mad excuse for pillaging one's neighborhood on October 31.
However, for we young lads who, whether it was day or night, knew the countryside like the back of our hands, Halloween became an invitation to engage in widespread terrorist treachery; trick and treat. We were like the mujahedin waging an unholy jihad by plundering the easily frightened pilgrims of limited progress. Surprising as it may seem by today's standards, most groups of costumed youngsters werevulnerable, unaccompanied by any phalanx of protective adults. We knew what we wanted and how to get it. We were marauders in a frenzied but fixated state, armed with bandoliers of firecrackers. We launched "cherry bombs", "Tom Thumbs" as well as full packages of "red devils", "canons", and "ladyfingers", fuses lit, in the direction of our quarry. There were none of those “adults only, stand back, careful of your eyes and then say ooooohhhh and aaaaahhhhh" fireworks of today.
The fact that we teenage tyrants were disguised with blackened faces, and dressed in dark clothing when we laid siege, was, in hindsight, probably of questionable benefit. Everyone in our community knew everyone else. Anyone could identify the walk, the voice, the mannerisms and clothing of each member of our gang without much trouble. Nonetheless, we knew that the hapless targeted children were scared and more than willing to drop their bulging pillowcases and run for the nearest porch light. It only took a few of those Robin Hood raids before we could neither eat nor carry more booty. Thereafter, we limited our strategy to high grading each goodie bag. In this way we considered ourselves merciful, leaving the less desirable spoils well within sight of our victims, having only taken only the most sought after chocolate bars and other treats. Shocking juvenile delinquent behavior? Probably. But it all seemed to be part of a game back then. We neither meant nor caused any actual harm. We may have even saved a few trick-or-treaters from a night of terrible tummy aches!
Many of those seeking public office are selfless, community-serving, honest folks, not armed home invaders. But it seems that some politicians who knock on our doors with their hands out are really simply disguised as benefactors, glibly promising to serve the best interests of our communities. They come polling for popularity rather than standing up for principle. It is literally a modern-day trick-or-treat process at times. Those hapless voters who hand out the treats are more likely to avoid the tricks. But like Halloween, elections seem to come once a year. The days leading up to the event are filled with frantic activity in preparation. And when the voting is over, the masks come off, the candy is eaten, and life returns to normal.
Unfortunately, Parkinson's disease, like many other "causes", plays a role in politics. Profile and promotion, the endless appetite for press coverage and photo ops can often drive the plight of PD into the waiting arms of the press and politicos. It seems to me that we, the people with Parkinson's, must avoid being pawns in the game of partisan politicals. I  know, Governments, often under-informed, seem to be necessary partners in funding the pursuit of answers to the Parkinson's puzzle.  But, to continue the metaphor, we must remember that the hype of each Halloween dissipates quickly amidst the pressing priorities of what follows. Then it is the people with Parkinson's who are left, alone and unable to remove their masks.

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