Some sort of weather threatens and the branches of maple and butternut and pine tremble with anticipation. But this morning, the air and sun exquisite, we took a ride to Old Mill Town for the annual 4th of July parade. Sometimes I forget, as I hunker down in the office at Main Street Church, how close the length of Main Street is to farms and lakes. The people gather eager to walk or drive the several miles of parade route: the high school band, the Shriners in their little cars, the gymnasts who tumble along the painted line without falling, the firefighters in trucks of all ages and styles, the Brownies on a float and the Red Hat ladies, too.
A group of older white men walk together behind a banner, and we see them from the lawn in front of the church. We gathered early, and Molly rests on the grass beneath someone’s graciously loaned canopy while cheerful church members provide refreshments to parade-goers, donations accepted.
The words on the banner come clear: "Coast-to-Lakes County Pastors Prayer Group."
"Is that your group?" asks Mr. Life Trustee.
"No," I answer, shaking my head. "They are from denominations that would have a problem with me."
Mr. LT nods knowingly, but disappointedly.
In the parade, all the political candidates for local office, and representatives of the parties, march one after the other. On red, white and blue signs their names appear, almost none listing a party. A truck goes by with signs for many of the Democrats in the Presidential race — Edwards, Clinton, Obama — one big happy family?
A lone woman in a convention straw hat ends the Presidential party, carrying a hand-lettered sign bearing one word only: Kucinich.
I watch the older people seated in front of the church’s wrought-iron fence rise from their lawn chairs each time the flag goes by carried by a veteran or a reservist or a guardsman. A float carries members of the Old Mill Town Vacationlanders, a baseball team in the NECBL. Young, handsome, smiling–how can they be safe in Old Mill Town, playing ball for the summer, riding in a parade behind their Moose mascot while their peers die in the desert so far away?
My boy, the same age, my young man, sleeps safely in a summer sublet and rehearses to play the chronicler of another war. I wouldn’t want it to be different for him, but how dare we be so safe and smug? How dare we?
And yet there are those more smug, who do not care about favoritism, who do not regard the lives of any of these young people to be particularly valuable. They are the ones who make choices that change lives, that lead to death, that caused me to wake up on this Independence Day faced with a choice. Can I celebrate the ideals on which our founders based this experiment in democracy despite the way our leaders ignore them willfully today?
I celebrated this morning, snapping a flag bandanna around Molly’s neck. I celebrated at the parade, holding a flag and waving at the parade. I celebrated driving home and stopping to buy local strawberries, those harbingers in this part of the world for the celebration of nation and of too brief summer, as sweet and as poignant as the berries I will slice and layer in a bowl this afternoon.