Seven trick-or-treaters this year. Only seven trick-or-treaters spent their Halloween walking the dangerous streets of my predominantly white, Mormon neighborhood in Layton. I’ve noticed a gradual decrease in trick-or-treaters since 2010. What’s so peculiar about Halloween now compared to five years ago? Maybe trunk-or-treating has just dominated the scene for these parents, or perhaps there’s just not a lot of kids this year. However, considering the local elementary school isn’t closing its doors, I’d say that’s not the problem. It’s not just my neighborhood either — I looked on Facebook to find other people experiencing the same thing. Then I saw it — the reason plain as day in a reply to these kinds of posts: “I just can’t trust my neighbors anymore.”

The decrease in trick-or-treaters is not the result of some kind of increase in psychopaths poisoning candy. Yet the common belief is that it’s “safer” not to go trick-or-treating, as if the people in the neighborhood have suddenly been replaced with lunatics. The majority of the people in this neighborhood consist of the same people from five years ago. Quite a few of them were real Halloween enthusiasts — some transformed their entire garages into mini haunted houses. This difference is not the result of greater danger for children; it’s merely the result of the perception of such danger, propagated by the news media.

Have the hyped-up warnings about the prevalence of razor blades in Twix bars that consistently show up every Halloween suddenly driven home the hysterical message? Considering that there were six reported cases of tampered candy last year in the entire nation, you could hardly call this a serious problem. Supposedly there have only been a total of 80 incidents of sharp objects placed in Halloween candy since 1959.

Though tampered-with Halloween candy is and certainly has been a fear, it was calmed by parents telling their kids not to eat candy that had already been opened. Simple enough. If you were extra careful, you didn’t eat easily re-wrappable candy like Tootsie rolls. Razor blades weren’t enough to prevent the parents of my generation from letting us celebrate Halloween. This whole “don’t trust your neighbor” mentality has developed separately from Halloween, and the lack of trick-or-treaters is the result.

The propagation of danger on daytime television has become so constant that we’ve become convinced that the “outside world” is a dangerous place. You could say parents have become extremely gullible. The constant fear-mongering on the news has a much greater sense of reality than it did even just a few years ago. We’ve become aware that school shootings, police brutality and all kinds of incidents that we used to think were just isolated issues are appearing with greater frequency. Our old idea was that what happened on screen doesn’t really happen to us. Now it feels like that’s no longer the case.

This inability to trust even your neighbors is fairly similar to the public’s feelings during the cold war. It’s a sign that we do live in a perpetual state of terror, just as our nation did back then. How can we dare trust people we don’t really know when we’re always looking at images of terror outside? How silly is it that our greatest fear on Halloween is the celebration of the holiday itself?

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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