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I was disappointed with Juneau's Fourth of July parade this year. Specifically, with the three participants who mocked the president, questioning his National Guard service and his support for veterans. I wrote a letter to the editor expressing my opinion that the parade should be an enjoyable family event, not a venue to ridicule the president, or, for that matter, any political candidate. The political season was nasty enough; why not let the parade be a respite from the harsh partisanship? I questioned whether such acts really raised the level of discourse, or just turned people off.
A series of letters to the editor followed - most in favor of the aforementioned parade participants. It was quite revealing that none of those letters addressed the points I raised. Instead, each of them railed against the "suppression" of free speech and the "assault" on the Constitution. The problem is, that was never the issue. Of course those three people acted within the law. The issue was, and still is, do we want our parade to become a series of ad homonym attacks on one another's political beliefs? And, by the way, did the "anyone-but-Bush" contingent really believe such stunts would help their cause?
Soon, the parade committee announced that in the future they would not allow such a "volatile political entry." That was followed up with some real comedy when some of the more dramatic citizens of our community contacted the American Civil Liberties Union. The mayor would later chime in with a letter of advice to the parade committee suggesting they reverse their decision. The letter was sufficiently persuasive, and the exhausted committee complied.
Well, I now see I'm in the minority. My point of view lost out - but I can take it. No one is forcing me to go the Fourth of July parade next year. I'll find something else to do. You win.
Still, I continue to wonder whether these events encouraged thoughtful political discussion, or if they just served to further polarize. I know what I think, but I'll keep my opinion to myself. I know when I'm outnumbered. Suffice to say, the "anyone-but-Bush" contingent prevailed. They delivered Juneau for John Kerry. Congratulations. You win.