Scarier than Halloween? Try US politics for starters
All Hallow’s Eve descends upon us all next Wednesday. Halloween experienced in New York City is a vast cry from the neighbourhood adventures of my youth in New Zealand. First, it’s colder. Second, the costumes are better (I suspect New Yorkers contribute substantially to the estimated US$9 billion to be spent by Americans on Halloween in 2018). Third, trick-or-treating is mostly vertical. My daughter and her friends (likely a bubbly caravan of Elsas from Disney’s Frozen) will roam the corridors and elevators of our highrise next week, plastic pumpkins clasped firmly in sweaty toddler hands. Apropos of the season, it’s been a week of masks kept and masks slipping, of costumes and of cover stories. We’re still wading through updated versions of events from Saudi Arabia on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (who may have ordered the murder) vows to bring the murderers to justice. The fallout from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test, ostensibly to prove her Native American heritage, has continued. Supporters believe she’s put the matter to rest. President Donald Trump hasn’t stopped calling her ‘‘Pocahontas’’. NBC morning host Megyn Kelly stepped into a Halloween nightmare of her own making after defending blackface as an appropriate choice for next week’s costumes. In fairness, Kelly was talking about her own childhood, when kids didn’t know any better. But her commentary should have acknowledged that blackface, first used in the minstrel shows of the mid19th century, was a derisive practice whereby white actors created stereotypes of African-Americans – casting the ‘‘black people’’ as inferior, stupid, or both. Halloween aside, it’s been a genuinely scary week. At the time of writing, Florida resident Cesar Sayoc has been charged with sending 13 packages containing rudimentary but functional explosive devices, and in some instances, a white powder, to two former US presidents and a number of other highprofile Democrats, including former vice-president Joe Biden, former CIA director John Brennan, and former attorney general Eric Holder. But in the midst of this domestic terrorism, the mask of one public figure has not slipped – because, despite a career built on branding, the Trump presidency is very much ‘‘what you see is what you get’’ (which is, of course, why some people love him). The president is clearly incensed that news of the attempted bombings is problematic for his party ahead of the midterm elections. And he has vacillated from calling woodenly for unity from a teleprompter to unvarnished tweets in which he blames the media for acts of domestic terrorism, some of which were perpetrated against themselves. Now that Savoc, a registered Republican in possession of a van covered in Trump and GOP paraphernalia, is in custody, the next two weeks are going to be full of finger-pointing and angry rhetoric. More focused on the campaign than governance, it is unlikely the president will do much to quell the unrest. After all, the ‘‘them versus us’’ game is how he maintains his base of support. Speaking of them versus us, the caravan of trick-ortreat parents traversing my building on Wednesday will dread, like me, the post-candy collection negotiations over how much our children can actually eat. They will also undoubtedly don their share of costumes and masks. My daughter has asked me repeatedly what I’ll be for Halloween. At nearly 38 weeks pregnant, and with little that fits with the exception of black leggings and tank tops, I have assured her I’ll still have a costume. ‘‘I’ll be the night,’’ I tell her.
It’s been a week of masks kept and masks slipping, of costumes and of cover stories.
Donald Trump doesn’t need a mask, because he’s built his presidency on the idea of ‘‘what you see is what you get’’.