, Newburyport, MA


October 31, 2013

What scares me most

Halloween is upon us — our tip of the hat to mortal fears (though a mere shadow of the Mexican Day of the Dead, which is a serious matter), and turning the end of October into silly witch costumes and another chance to get drunk and score.

Herman Hesse said we live in the realm of the uninsurable, which may account for those who always check behind shower curtains even in homes of friends — more typical of women ages 21-34 and men 45-54. Guys, what are we afraid of at that age?

People superstitiously put socks on one particular foot first and never deviate from that order; something terrible might happen. And there is more than one way to eat corn on the cob, but whichever way is done, the selfsame person can’t do it the other way; the world might come to an end.

May my fears be more substantive. They are certainly more local. But what scares me seems not to trouble the rest of us. With a mayoral election around the corner, absent from voter rhetoric is any concern for what has happened to our schools in the few short years I have lived here: a refusal to allow pupils to hear Obama’s address on education that was directed to the nation’s students; police powers used to lockdown our high school in a silly, futile Keystone Kops search for drugs; and a thinly veiled collusion between the mayor and assistant superintendent in a power play to get rid of a good superintendent.

It also doesn’t scare voters, apparently, that the School Committee, save for a lonely prophetic voice or two, has sat on its blessed assurance and let these things happen. Whoever thinks that there’s no bad blood between the mayor and that bunch is sleeping very soundly or paying no attention whatever. If you don’t watch the proceedings on local cable, please at least read between the lines.

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