Violence is not a joke. Mental health is not a joke.
Recently South Bend high schools have gone on high-alert as the clown threat phenomenon that is sweeping the nation was directly leveled at a local district. The threat to hunt down students and gun down teachers on their way to their cars thankfully did not occur, but police officers were patrolling as a part of increased surveillance. There have been unverified spottings on both Notre Dame and St. Mary’s campuses. Notre Dame, as we all know at this point, sent out an email to assure students and faculty that the threat was a hoax. In Fort Wayne, there has been at least one actual sighting where school children were frightened by someone dressed in a clown suit and then ran away. There have also been numerous reports spread even in my own classes that a man was shot for being dressed as a clown. This however has been proven untrue. Some school districts have taken to banning clown costumes this Halloween.
For the love of God, enough already. Congratulations, you are officially not funny. There are already plenty of things to actually be afraid in our country today, and especially on college campuses. While you might think you’re being hilarious and tapping into the latest Internet trend, you’re not. You’re not cool, and guess what, you’re not even original. Slenderman and the awful punch out game, where a poor unsuspecting victim was hit attempting to “knock them out” in one punch preceeded this new fear tactic.
This week at St. Mary’s, it is “It’s On Us Week,” a week dedicated to raising awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence. Think about it. Sure to you, oh so hilarious punk prankster, these scary clown pranks are funny, clever, a great way to blow off steam. But there are those who are already fearful of their college campus for legitimate and very real reasons. Walking down St. Mary’s Road, colloquially called “Rape Road”, it’s already creepy to walk alone down that road as a woman. Sure, statistically the odds are way against actually being abducted and assaulted on that road and rumor has it that nothing has happened on it for over thirty years. It doesn’t make walking alone any easier. Now comes the additional threat of creepy clowns with unknown intentions. What kind of havoc are we inflicting on people who may already find it difficult to trust the intentions of those around them? Sure I probably sound like one of those “crazy liberals” who wants to protect college kids from everything that moves, but seriously, think about it. Maybe you don’t care about college students, but what about veterans with PTSD who may already feel like they’re being stalked? What about former or current stalking victims? What about surviving kidnap victims?
Look, I get it. We’re young and stuff like this are the modern campsite scary stories. But there’s a major difference between a campfire and a school campus. This coming from the girl who was fearfully fascinated by La Llorona story growing up. Basically, it boils down to the old adage: there’s a time and a place. Ghost stories and Halloween are a great time, and it’s a rather hard thing to say when exactly they are appropriate. But I think everyone can draw the line at making kids so scared that they are afraid to go to school. That’s just plain bullying. Also, Halloween is all about choice. That’s why little kids say trick or treat! Growing up, we knew which houses gave scares instead of candy and we either choose them for kicks or avoided them. But that’s just it, when this becomes something that affects people amongst their daily routine, their freedom becomes restricted.
Is this a minor issue? Yes, probably. Am I unnecessarily worked up? Mostly. But honestly, it never hurts to think about those that may not think your hilarious online joke is that funny. It never hurts to call for a little more empathy. So, please, as preachy as this was, think before you trick.