​Defining Evil on Halloween in NYC

I can hear the sounds of Halloween from next door as I write this. No, not the sounds of kids trick or treating, but rather the unmistakable music and dialogue from John Carpenter’s original, 1978 classic terror film. My wife is watching it on TV in the bedroom. And here comes that haunting piano riff that provides a musical motif throughout the film. Yes, I’m old enough that I was of legal drinking age when I saw it the first time in it’s opening run in movie theatres, so I was then able to head quickly to a local watering hole to calm my nerves with a few cheap beers.

The boogie man is one of the themes that Carpenter plays with in Halloween, from the taunts of schoolyard kids to the film's actual boogie man standing in the path of one of those grade school bullies. And one way you can think of Mike Myers, the film's psychopathic slasher, is as a version of that personification of a kid's tale of evil. The boogie man.

What do you say then to the children in that yellow school bus on Manhattan's Lower East Side who were rammed by a truck driven by what was certainly a crazed, ISIS-inspired maniac who drove down a bike path and killed close to 10 people by the latest count? What do you tell those kids after they've been checked by the doctor or paramedics and released from hospital? What do you tell them when they overhear the news of the man that drove the truck that killed innocent people on a Halloween afternoon in NYC?

How do you explain evil to them? Or do you do your best to shelter them from the horrors of terrorism and pray that they won't be too traumatized by what fate had them live through?

We can debate endlessly about how pagan All Hallow's Eve in fact was when it entered the Christian calendar, but it was indeed a Christian holiday in its origins - a tribute to the saints by those of us living on earth. Hallowed indeed. And those ghosts that now inhabit our current celebrations of Halloween are older and go deeper than most realize.

But that's so old-fashioned isn't it? Halloween is all about diversity nowadays. Look at Google's charming 2 + minute long doodle for example. Makes you want to hug everyone right?

Nice, but what about evil? What do we do when it's not a screen character that delights us with it's implacable malevolence, like Mike Myers still does almost 40 years later? Here comes that haunting piano riff again. Evil lives, and Carpenter was right. There is something seemingly indestructible about true evil, until we finally find a way to defeat it.

And to do that we have to define evil, something that has been one of humanity's great challenges over the years. How do you define evil?

Start with school kids in a yellow school bus on a NYC fall day, wondering what hit them.

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