By now, most of us have heard of the Wicked Witch of North Dakota. https://twitter.com/mlucerobertson/status/395934324588949504
She is a woman who has taken it upon herself to judge her fellow “villagers” in the Fargo, Moorehead, and West Fargo triad. Evidently, she feels parents are not doing a good enough job of taking their children’s health in hand and has decided to take matters into her own hands, thoughtfully choosing Halloween to make her stand. How considerate of her.
Without going down the road of the origins of the holiday or arguing who should celebrate what, let’s look at contemporary reality. For all practical purposes, our western Halloween observances are centered on children. We encourage them to enjoy their imaginations on this night over all other nights of the year. We tell them that, on this night, you can be anything you want to be. Superheroes, doctors, astronauts, robots, faeries. On this night, preschoolers toddle down the street, holding the hand of a loved one while wondering at the lights and decorations. They practice saying thank you to the friendly neighbors who smile and give them Tootsie Rolls. Older children spray imaginary spider webs while saving the world one grimacing jack-o-lantern at a time. The grandma next door admires a princess’ tiara and everyone hits the house on the corner because they give out “the good stuff.” Do I even need to pull out my The Great Pumpkin wildcard?
Unfortunately, for some children, thanks to the WWoND, the dream will be cut short because, instead of the candy their “slimmer” friends receive, they will be handed a slip of paper. The friendly pumpkin on the corner will serve as a temporary distraction from the cruel message it precedes. Some younger children might not be able to read the words, and some might not understand. But others will. Say, the ones 6 or 7 years old and up. The words will say something like, “You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.” But the message…ah, now, that will say something much, much more.
To the child who receives such a letter, the message will be many things. Things like, “There’s something wrong with you.” “You don’t deserve to have the same fun tonight as your friends.” “You’re not good enough.” You’re not pretty enough.” “You’re not athletic enough.” “You don’t live up to my expectations.”
Labeling. Judgement. Cruelty. Injury. Harm. Brokenness. Legacy.
Some of these children and their families may have the ability to laugh it off. And, I say, more power to you. But, for some of the children who will receive such a note, on a holiday that is supposed to lay all children equal, the effects can be devastating, lasting far into their lifetimes.
For several years, there have been increasing reports in the media of children and young adults who have taken their lives due to being overwhelmed by bullying, cyber-bullying, and general harassment over their physique. Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short. These little souls had swords of words driven into them by people who were thoughtless and cruel. Those acts crushed their self esteem and tore their hearts asunder, and somewhere on a table in a house on a street in North Dakota, a woman has a stack of paper daggers aimed at the hearts of the children of her city.
I do not know her name. I don’t know her address. I don’t know her. But, I have felt the pain she is willing to throw at the innocents of Fargo, and there is one point that we agree on. It does take a village. It takes a village made up of a nation that is willing to stand up for its children. To protect them from cruelty. To protect their innocence. To protect their dreams and their futures by pouring so much love and encouragement into them that the harsh words of a stranger fall feebly to the ground and blow away with the wind.
And so, to the children of Fargo, and their parents, I stand with you. If you knock on a door or ring a doorbell and find yourself face to face with the WWoND, and she hands you a piece of paper, be strong and know this. She is secretly more afraid of you than you are of her, all bullies are.