Some people get really excited about Christmas. I get excited about Halloween.
For me, it was a holiday that my parents were not fighting over which set of grandparents we were spending it with and less awkward extended family time was required, giving my father less time to burn bridges with even more family members. It was an especially fun time for a fat kid that loved candy, cheesy horror movies, and fun decorations. My dad was often in a terrible mood and opted to keep to himself most of the time rather than interacting with me, so having almost a month of him being happy and engaged felt like Christmas must have felt for some kids. He bought the full sized candy bars and we had a fully decorated house with skeletons, bats, and vampires. I’d stay up late with him and watch black and white monster movies and invasion flicks.
Racially appropriative costumes were never a thing because my parents never presented them as a choice. There was no blackface, yellowface, or redface. No disrespectful noses other than big, green, warty witch noses. The worst thing that came from us was a poorly imitated Eastern European accent for Count Dracula and Vampira. I don’t see what’s so hard about understanding that people and cultures are just that, and not fodder for costumes.
This week, Wal-Mart was under fire for selling an “Israeli soldier for kids” and “Sheikh Fagin nose” at their monster retail stores across the world. The name “Fagin” is a direct reference to a Jewish character in Oliver Twist, which further provoked anti-Semitism in the writer’s time. Since Islamaphobia is in vogue now, though anti-Semitism is still casually thrown about in conversation and rampant within the demonization of the state of Israel, this particular Wal-Mart character has an Arabic twist.
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) October 28, 2015
Middle Eastern culture, like African American culture, is exoticized and fetishized. Few from outside cultures want to fully embrace it because it would mean that we would have to accept that we have contributed a great deal to the destruction of cultures, political systems, and the safety of folks living in that region. Ancient buildings that have been around longer than our language have been destroyed in the name of wars the U.S has contributed to, and we have silently sat and watched while merely commenting on Facebook instead of actively protesting the atrocities.
While I have mixed feelings about the historically complex relationship between Palestine and Israel, I can say that it is horribly inappropriate to dress children as soldiers of any variety. I recognize that this relationship is much more complicated than I understand and, therefore, cannot comment on at this point. However, I can honestly say that I am bothered by seeing any child wearing the costume of a soldier or a police officer for that matter. I’m willing to go as far to say that I don’t believe soldier or cop costumes should be sold for children, period.
I do not disagree with folks when they say that we have to stand by soldiers. They are brave beyond words, doing things that I have neither the physical or emotional strength to partake in. However, I do not want my children or anyone else’s child, to dress in a costume without understanding the full scope of the ravages of war. If you are unwilling to show your child the images of other children who have been affected by war, do not put them in the fucking outfit. Do not trot them around dressed like a tool of destruction if they are not even remotely close to an age where they can understand the consequences and destruction of war.