Every family I grew up with had something weird about it. One kid’s family might be Buddhists; another might not watch TV. One of my neighbors ate fish for Thanksgiving, and one family only ate food served on homemade pottery, which they made on a wheel in their basement.
My family was no exception. Our peculiarity became known at school every Halloween. We weren’t allowed to collect money for UNICEF.
I first learned of this in fourth grade after moving to the suburbs from New York City. I came home with my bright orange Trick-or-Treat-for-UNICEF box, and was shocked to see my kinder-than-kind father shake his head upon seeing it that night.
UNICEF, it was explained, gives money to communist countries. And the money props up their leaders, prolonging the misery under which millions of people are forced to live. We don’t support that. We don’t collect.
To a nine-year old that’s heady stuff. I’m not sure I even understood it, or explained it well enough to my teacher the next day, because I returned home from school holding another bright orange box.
“Surely your parents don’t understand,” she said handing me the thing. Surely you don’t understand my parents, I thought.
That box went back, too, with a new message: If you’d like me to collect money for Catholic Charities this Halloween, I’d be more than happy to. They’ll send it to nice countries with children in need.
Roars of laughter from my classmates — and genuinely funny looks from the teachers in the hallway. I could swear I heard them whispering to one another: “did you know the O’Reillys are kooks?”
As I got older, though, I began to see wisdom in this singular protest. Money given to tyrannical regimes does prolong suffering. And isn’t freeing people enslaved by tyrants the greater humanitarian goal? Besides, much of the money gets siphoned away into arms purchases. Why would we fund the arsenals of our enemies?
I was thinking of my Trick-or-Treat-for-UNICEF trauma when reading last night about another emerging situation in North Korea. The Hermit Kingdom is reportedly having a food crisis again, with as much as a quarter of its population facing starvation beginning in May.
This is 100% the fault of communist collectivism and the midget egomaniac, Kim Jong Il, whose personality-driven regime has turned 24 million of God’s creatures into automatons. A satellite snapshot taken over the Korean Peninsula tells the whole story: one half of the land mass is bustling and bright, the other half is all but dead.
But not dead dead. And that’s the issue. Does the world let things in North Korea gets so bad that people have no choice but to revolt and hang Kim upside down from a yard-high barstool, a la Mussolini? Or does the world feed his people and bail out the little prick again, knowing full well that he’ll probably pour the value of that magnanimity into his nuclear program? Why should he spend money feeding his people when stupid Westerners are willing to step in and do it for him?
I moved back to the suburbs from the city three years ago with three children in tow. I was relieved to see them arrive home on Halloween Eve empty handed. I don’t know that I have my parents’ strength.