Leftovers: Halloween in poor taste

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Last Halloween, this column was about two junior thugs who were out trick-or-treating in Portland, dressed in brown with fly fishing wading boots, a handkerchief necktie and slicked-back hair. I had thought their get-ups were supposed to reference game wardens from the TV-show “North Woods Law” (as seen in reruns on Animal Planet) until one giggled and said they were Eagle Scouts. 

When they turned away with full-sized Snickers bars intended for kids young enough to believe in universal good, I saw the black armbands. Positively reinforced with smiles and candy, these teenagers were ringing doorbells dressed like Hitler youth.

Natalie Haberman-LaddWhen the recent (yet not exactly new) antics of Ye (a/k/a Kanye) West blew up with anti-Black and anti-Jewish negativity, I promised myself I wouldn’t give the guy an inch of my tiny soapbox. He’s imbalanced for sure — and isn’t the mainstream doing enough to condemn his actions? 

Yes, we are hearing plenty about Ye’s shocking statements and many celebrities have come forth with declarations to distance themselves from the bad PR. And, yes, Ye’s business partners weighed the profits versus the cons and many dropped him like a hot latke. But that isn’t enough.

I’m not going to list the numbers and tiers of statistics broken down into physical assaults, vandalism of synagogues and cemeteries, or propaganda pamphlets, all illustrating the rise in anti-Semitism. They’re glaring and at an all-time high but still thought to be underreported. What I will share is a broad look:

A  2021 Pew Research Center poll estimated that 2.4 percent of U.S. adults are Jewish. Globally, there are 14.8 million Jews, which is 0.2 percent of the 7.95 billion worldwide population. To put this in perspective, Ye has 31.7 million followers on Twitter alone. 

Jews are “consistently the most targeted religious community in the U.S.” and constitute “over half of all religious-based crimes” per FBI data, according to a Anti-Defamation League study in January. 

Some experts say the awareness of overt antisemitism brings 2022 into line with most of Jewish history. “To me, it’s like we’re coming back from a 50-year vacation,” Mark Oppenheimer, co-host of the Jewish podcast “Unorthodox,” said in a story published last week in the Washington Post. “We’re back to ‘Keep your head down; no one has your back’,” Oppenheimer continued. “It’s not that we’re back to real estate bans; it’s more the old ‘It’s a little unseemly to be Jewish.’” 

This last comment irks me. I’m unseemly for many reasons but being Jewish isn’t one of them.

Just as I wasn’t going to pay Ye any mind, I surely didn’t plan to mention an emboldened Nazi sympathizer in a New York City bar on Saturday. His costume was frighteningly authentic and takes me back to last Halloween right here in Maine. This leads me to a not-very-fun fact about our state. In 1923, Milo was the site of the first daylight Ku Klux Klan parade in the U.S. The predominant issue was French-Catholic immigration, which seems almost foolish today. 

For those who didn’t read the Halloween column last year, I actually turned off my lights, blew out my jack-o’-lantern, and called the police when those guys left with their Snickers. Unsure what I expected, the dispatcher wasn’t surprised.

“Wow,” she said flatly. “Those outfits aren’t illegal but they’re definitely in poor taste.”

(If taste was the subject at hand, I’d be talking instead about the stunning meal I had with BFF at Leeward last week. I’d love to go full-on restaurant fan girl and rave about their attention to detail and understated elegance, the impact of fried rosemary and the unsung praises of dry curacao in a cocktail. But that meal was a brief escape in a world given permission to fire up an old, deep hatred.)

So, speak out and stand up for those of us who are secretly fearful, no matter how good our outward presentation and everyday costumes may appear. After all, everyone, each of us, deserves the full-sized candy bars of life.

Natalie Haberman Ladd is an award-winning columnist, freelance writer, and Portland restaurant veteran. She loves Boston sports, California cabernets, and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. Reach her at [email protected].


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