Celebrating Independence Day by opting out of the parade
Right now, all over this great land, there are Fourth of July parades, the social civic event of the summer. I will not be partaking. And it feels perverse.
What’s not to like about people cheering, marching bands marching, military vehicles rumbling, emergency vehicles blaring, Corvettes revving, and if you’re lucky men in little red buckets hats and little scooters zipping around for some unknown reason? Politicians stump with stickers, business induce with coupons, and kids huck candy at other kids.
It is this last part that my seven year old son loves best, tuned in at an early age of the blessed thrill of free shit. There’s a life lesson: just show up to win. That was the main reason he urged us to accelerate our western road trip home last summer, a whirlwind eight states in one week in over 2,600 miles, with a wedding as the tent pole. We’d left the wildfires in Rocky Mountain National Park, watched a bull buffalo wedge his head in a cow buffalo’s butt on the hood of our car, then hit Mt. Rushmore on July 3. No more exotic experience could stop the boy from wishing for the Fourth of July parade back in the calm confines of our Midwestern suburb.
So we drove all night, leaving the Badlands before dusk, going through the entire state of Minnesota and its eerie I-90 wind farms without stopping, and made it, funky and dazed, in time for the parade. My parents lived on the parade route, a hypervalued location that caused my dad, who tolerates neither fools nor strangers, to fight off foreigners’ blankets and lawn chairs the night before. It was a nice set up, with a Bloody Mary bar and more baked goods than parade vehicles.
They don’t live there anymore and the parade, the event to see and be seen, does not appeal to me. If, by next year, my kids have outgrown parades, I will not regret this decision. I do not feel, like Teresa in Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being, “that the image of evil was a parade of people marching with raised fists and shouting identical syllables in unison.” Though that is a terrible prospect.
This is not a protest parade or a revolutionary parade, though it is a celebration of them both. It’s Independence Day, a time to celebrate our freedom. My act of suburban familial perversity is an act of freedom. I choose not to parade. But I am looking forward to blowing shit up. I love this country.