Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Trick or Treat

I went to the store yesterday and already the Halloween candies and costumes are up and irony that the first day of school has been delayed due to a strike. So focusing on the fictitious "holiday" that costs more than its worth is a good distraction.

I have few and some fond memories of trick or treating and then it turned ugly.  The whole stranger danger kicked in, sometime after I was already past the whole idea of trick or treating.  That and that I have always been very concerned about food, I never drank soda much so candy is something I enjoy but rarely.  I don't do costumes nor care about it today.   I said I wanted to reclaim curmegedon but in reality maybe I am a misanthrope. I am tired of trying to get along and yet I still believe it is possible. So in other words do as I say not as I do.   So when did Stranger Danger become so dominant that even to go outside was a problem?

And then I read the paper and I was shocked to see this editorial in the New York Times that years ago had a very different opinion about the issue of sex offender registry's.
The Pointless Banishment of Sex Offenders

The New York Times
Opinion Pages
SEPT. 8, 2015

It’s a chilling image: the sex predator skulking in the shadows of a swing set, waiting to snatch a vulnerable child.

Over the past two decades, that scenario has led to a wave of laws around the country restricting where people convicted of sex offenses may live — in many cases, no closer than 2,500 feet from schools, playgrounds, parks or other areas where children gather. In some places, these “predator-free zones” put an entire town or county off limits, sometimes for life, even for those whose offenses had nothing to do with children.

Protecting children from sexual abuse is, of course, a paramount concern. But there is not a single piece of evidence that these laws actually do that. For one thing, the vast majority of child sexual abuse is committed not by strangers but by acquaintances or relatives. And residency laws drive tens of thousands of people to the fringes of society, forcing them to live in motels, out of cars or under bridges. The laws apply to many and sometimes all sex offenders, regardless of whether they were convicted for molesting a child or for public urination.

Lately, judges have been pushing back. So far in 2015, state supreme courts in California, Massachusetts and New York have struck down residency laws.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

The Massachusetts ruling, issued on Aug. 28, invalidated a residency restriction in the town of Lynn — and by extension, similar restrictions in about 40 other communities statewide — in part because it swept up so many offenders, regardless of the actual risk they posed. Acting against a whole class presents “grave societal and constitutional implications,” the justices wrote. That unanimous ruling was based on the State Constitution.

The California Supreme Court went further, holding that a San Diego residency restriction, which effectively barred paroled sex offenders from 97 percent of available housing, violated the United States Constitution.

Far from protecting children and communities, the California court found, blanket restrictions in fact create a greater safety risk by driving more sex offenders into homelessness, which makes them both harder to monitor and less likely to get essential rehabilitative services like medical treatment, psychotherapy and job assistance.

Residency laws often lead people to live apart from their families, obliterating what is for many the most stabilizing part of their lives.

If the state wants to block someone from living in certain areas, the California court said, it must make that decision on a case-by-case basis.

The United States Supreme Court has not yet weighed in on residency restrictions, although a 2003 ruling upholding mandatory registration for sex offenders suggested that such laws may violate the Constitution.

It is understandable to want to do everything possible to protect children from being abused. But not all people who have been convicted of sex offenses pose a risk to children, if they pose any risk at all. Blanket residency-restriction laws disregard that reality — and the merits of an individualized approach to risk assessment — in favor of a comforting mirage of safety.

And I thought how far we have come when the paper of record realizing this demonizing and punishing for life anyone convicted of the broad category of sex offenses are not quite the strangers we are in danger of.  Anyone who ever remembers Halloween the gangs of bullies of older kids knocking kids to the ground taking candy was way more dangerous but hey that is my memories.

And to remind myself when this began it was the 70s.  Watching the CNN series the Seventies I recalled the sudden hysteria of crime that began actually in the 60s with the Manson family and then closer to home serial killer Ted Bundy.   Then throw in Adam Walsh and later Polly Klass and  suddenly around every corner was some nefarious stranger intending to kidnap, rape and murder me.  It took 40 some years but it happened and no one gave a shit so go figure.

The below article is a great piece from the Wall Street Journal in 2010 discussing the issue of why trick or treating is now relegated to malls and community centers and not neighborhoods with fun decorated homes, kids laughing and shouting "trick or treat" and the inevitable running out of candy.   Those are good memories. We need more of them.

Maybe we need to remind ourselves about Mr. Rogers and he welcomed you to the neighborhood. Would it not be better to go over and meet and introduce yourself to your neighbor than scanning some vague website?

Stranger Danger' and the Decline of Halloween
No child has ever been killed by poisoned candy. Ever.
By Lenore Skenazy
Wall Street Journal
Updated Oct. 27, 2010

Halloween is the day when America market-tests parental paranoia. If a new fear flies on Halloween, it's probably going to catch on the rest of the year, too.

Take "stranger danger," the classic Halloween horror. Even when I was a kid, back in the "Bewitched" and "Brady Bunch" costume era, parents were already worried about neighbors poisoning candy. Sure, the folks down the street might smile and wave the rest of the year, but apparently they were just biding their time before stuffing us silly with strychnine-laced Smarties.

That was a wacky idea, but we bought it. We still buy it, even though Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, has researched the topic and spends every October telling the press that there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger's Halloween candy. (Oh, yes, he concedes, there was once a Texas boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix. But his dad did it for the insurance money. He was executed.)

Anyway, you'd think that word would get out: poisoned candy not happening. But instead, most Halloween articles to this day tell parents to feed children a big meal before they go trick-or-treating, so they won't be tempted to eat any candy before bringing it home for inspection. As if being full has ever stopped any kid from eating free candy!

So stranger danger is still going strong, and it's even spread beyond Halloween to the rest of the year. Now parents consider their neighbors potential killers all year round. That's why they don't let their kids play on the lawn, or wait alone for the school bus: "You never know!" The psycho-next-door fear went viral.

Then along came new fears. Parents are warned annually not to let their children wear costumes that are too tight—those could seriously restrict breathing! But not too loose either—kids could trip! Fall! Die!

Treating parents like idiots who couldn't possibly notice that their kid is turning blue or falling on his face might seem like a losing proposition, but it caught on too.

Halloween taught marketers that parents are willing to be warned about anything, no matter how preposterous, and then they're willing to be sold whatever solutions the market can come up with. Face paint so no mask will obscure a child's vision. Purell, so no child touches a germ. And the biggest boondoggle of all: an adult-supervised party, so no child encounters anything exciting, er, "dangerous."

Think of how Halloween used to be the one day of the year when gaggles of kids took to the streets by themselves—at night even. Big fun! Low cost! But once the party moved inside, to keep kids safe from the nonexistent poisoners, in came all the nonsense. The battery-operated caskets. The hired witch. The Costco veggie trays and plastic everything else. Halloween went from hobo holiday to $6 billion extravaganza.

And it blazed the way for adult-supervised everything else. Let kids make their own fun? Not anymore! Let's sign our toddlers up for "movement" classes! Let's bring on the extracurricular activities, travel soccer and manicure parties for the older kids. Once Halloween got outsourced to adults, no kids-only activity was safe. Goodbye sandlot, hello batting coach!

And now comes the latest Halloween terror: Across the country, cities and states are passing waves of laws preventing registered sex offenders from leaving their homes—or sometimes even turning on their lights—on Halloween.

The reason? Same old same old: safety. As a panel of "experts" on the "Today" show warned viewers recently: Don't let your children trick-or-treat without you "any earlier than [age] 13, because people put on masks, they put on disguises, and there are still people who do bad things."

Perhaps there are. But Elizabeth Letourneau, an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, studied crime statistics from 30 states and found, "There is zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children in terms of child molestation."

In fact, she says, "We almost called this paper, 'Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year,' because it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day."

Why is it so safe? Because despite our mounting fears and apoplectic media, it is still the day that many of us, of all ages, go outside. We knock on doors. We meet each other. And all that giving and taking and trick-or-treating is building the very thing that keeps us safe: community.

We can kill off Halloween, or we can accept that it isn't dangerous and give it back to the kids. Then maybe we can start giving them back the rest of their childhoods, too.

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