I love a parade!
“Back in the olden days”…when I was a little girl… my hometown staged a parade on Memorial Day. I don’t remember who exactly was marching, but surely there were military units with their wonderful bands; troops of scouts, always a bit out of step; cars, usually convertibles holding waving town officials, a few pristine antique automobiles; and then, the veterans—the men who had fought in World War II and Korea—proudly sporting their VFW caps, with pins attached; some would wear their uniforms, or proudly display their service ribbons and medals on their chests. There would be speeches as marchers and townspeople alike gathered when and where the parade ended—always at the town cemetery. The grown-ups would listen attentively. We children would wander away, chasing each other among the gravestones, stopping to read an inscription on the tilted dark slate antique stones, or to stare slack-jawed at the elaborately carved family monuments, the most notable of which was topped with a weeping angel and a glass enclosed photograph of a little girl. Thus, on that day, we would honor the men of our community who had fought for us and for our country.
In nearby Boston, Veterans Day parades were ever-so-much better with many, military units marching smartly, bigger bands that played more loudly and, yes, more skillfully; pipers and drummers with their swirling kilts and fancy headgear; drum and bugle corps from several high schools; crowds cramming the sidewalks, balloons and souvenir sellers, walking up and down, and mounted police—calmly overseeing all. My father worked at Gilchrist’s department store, then on the corner of Summer and Washington Streets (now known as Downtown Crossing), and so my younger brother and I were lucky; we “went to work” with our father on parade days and were brought to a large, second-story corner window, where we had bird’s eye views of crowds, the color, the cacaphony
As a young woman, I attended a ceremony upon the occasion of my father-in-law’s retirement as a Sergeant Major after 26 years of service in the United States Army. The highlight was an incredible “pass in review.” The memory, to this day, moves me to tears. This profound demonstration of honor and respect helped me understand the unspoken bond that develops among military personnel over time.
Most memorable of all the parades I’ve seen was the one held in Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1975, marking the bicentennial of the “shot heard ‘round the world,” and the first battle of the American Revolution. On that day we were thrilled to shake the hand of President Gerald Ford.
In recent days, there has been much talk of a “Grand Parade” in Washington, DC, “like the one in France.” I have been trying to figure out why I find this idea so off-putting. A cynical friend will no doubt suggest it is because I “hate” Trump and that “the Press” has swayed my opinion with all its unfair negativity regarding the President. Yet I know this is not the reason. Admittedly, I am not a big fan of President Trump. Yet the fact is: I love a parade. Why not this parade?
It has taken me a while to figure it out. It’s because I love parades that celebrate our country, that honor our heroes, that mark great occasions, that are a continuation of longstanding traditions. But a parade for the sake of a parade? Where is the emotional anchor that will make it meaningful? What’s worse: knowing that the President has asked for a parade “like the one in France” brings an element of showboating and competitiveness into the endeavor. We are the greatest nation on Earth. Why do we need to become a copycat of France? Or anybody? I think of the ominous displays of weaponry routinely dragged through Red Square for as long as I can remember, and I cringe. Unfortunately, the bizarre proclamation via Twitter that “my nuclear button is bigger than his nuclear button” echoes in my brain. An event staged so President Trump can say “My parade is bigger than your parade”? I am a person who loves a parade. But you know what? No thanks!