Behind the Mask

Missy loves Christmas, year-round.

She’ll dunk Easter eggs with great energy.

But Halloween – that’s another story.

Heather and I have never really been sure why. But even before we became guardians for our favorite disabled adult, we knew that fact: Missy and the Night of A Thousand Costumed Beggars just don’t mix.

Maybe it’s the incessant ding-dong-ding of the doorbell. Though she certainly enjoys visitors at any other time of year.

Maybe it’s the creepy imagery, the cobwebs and skulls, the looming spiders and leering pumpkins. Yet scary scenes have been some of Missy’s favorite parts in our nighttime reading together.

Heather, long more versed in the art of Missy-ology than I, has her own conclusions.

“It’s the costumes,” she theorized.

Huh?

“You know – people dressing up as something else, being something they’re not. I think that weirds her out sometimes.”

Huh.

Two thoughts crossed my head. One was just how many things I had been over a childhood’s worth of Halloweens. Robin Hood and Hercules, a scarecrow, a ghost … the transformation was always my favorite part, even if I did have to throw a coat over it in deference to a Colorado October.

The second thought was a sudden burst of understanding.

“So that’s why they put Election Day right afterward!”

Think about it.

People going door to door, asking for a small donation?

Folks trying to look like anything but themselves, assuming an appearance that will impress, amuse or terrify?

An atmosphere changed to add uncertainty and nervousness, where neither would be justified in real life?

That’s such a perfect summary of the campaign season, I’m amazed we don’t vote on Halloween.

And it’s why I think a lot of us can sympathize with Missy’s uncertainty.

Ideally, an election should help us learn who the candidates are and what they stand for. But between the handling of their managers and the negative ads of opponents, that seems to be the most difficult thing of all. Back in 1992, when Admiral James Stockdale opened a debate by saying “Who am I? Why am I here?” he summed up voters’ questions in a nutshell.

Who are these guys? Really?

Which is the mask and which is the man?

It’s not a comfortable feeling.

Perhaps the one advantage to a (tediously) long pre-election season is that there’s more chances for the mask to slip: an unguarded word in front of cameras, an overly-honest moment spurred by fatigue. But we shouldn’t need that.

I know, “shouldn’t” is a dreamer’s word. But I can’t help wondering. If our would-be leaders spent as much time showing us who they really are as they now do trying to be what we want them to be (and keeping their opponents from doing the same), what would be the result?

Shock? Disgust? Appreciation?

Who knows?

In the end, Missy had a softer feeling toward Halloween this year. Heather and I smiled across the room as she danced at a friend’s costume party, a crowned princess among the various monsters and heroes.

Tonight the masks were harmless fun.

May they come to be so for all of us.

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