#590 – Dick Bernard: The Afton Parade, July 4, 2012

We always go to the Afton parade. It is nearby, and it is the only parade I know that you can watch twice – the units double back down the same street, and pass each other.
Today I went by myself. It was just too hot.
This is a major election year, and this day I was mostly aware of the politics of the parade.
I was looking for one specific unit that had been in the parade last year: a gray-bearded surly looking guy alone in a convertible with a “Don’t Tread on Me” banner.
No such character this year, though he certainly had no reason to do much preparing.
In fact, the always civil crowd seemed even more civil than usual. I had expected at least one Glen Beck disciple prepared to toss somebody into the nearby St. Croix, but none such. The patriot wear was there, of course, but nothing ‘in your face’. Every now and then I’d hear some quiet chatting (“who you going to vote for?”), but this was infrequent. The candidate units that went by were treated respectfully, though there weren’t many in attendance.
It was simply a nice day, albeit too hot.
And when it was over we all went home.
Some photos from the parade, and at the end a letter from yesterday’s Star Tribune, and my (hoped for) published response:

The traditional color guard leading off the parade.

The essential person in any campaign activity: the staff coordinator. Whether the event is small or large, someone has to be in charge. This young woman did a great job. (I was on hand to possibly walk with the Sen. Klobuchar unit, and was willing, but was thankfully spared the duty.)

The WWII reenactors. The driver was proud of his Jeep, noting especially the vertical rod he’d installed for catching unseen wire. He was on a cell phone and we joked about that, and he showed me the old walkie-talkie he’d redesigned to hold his cell phone, so he could pretend more realistically. It occurred to me that I rode in those jeeps when I was actually in the Army. Though I was never in combat, the reality is much different than the fantasy, and as the number of veterans of ‘real’ wars decrease, it is easier for people to fantasize about of the glory of pretend wars. It is a dangerous fantasy.

The Sen Amy Klobuchar unit in the parade. I felt they made a positive impression, though few in number. At the same time, because of the conditions, I don’t think anyone faulted any other candidates for not showing up.
For an election year, there were few political units in this parade.

Local candidate Katie Sieben kicked into overdrive at the end of the parade. They ran. It was impressive, but they didn’t have any competition. You need energy to campaign, but this was over-the-top!
A final note:
Yesterday the following letter appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
As the election season gets into full swing, I am reminded of something my father (God rest his soul) said to me 42 years ago as I was preparing to vote for the first time. He asked me how I was going to vote. I told him I was going to vote a straight Democratic ticket. He told me I was wrong on two counts. First, never tell anyone (especially relatives) how you are going to vote! Second, and most important, was never vote blindly.
He told me to find out which candidates supported my positions. To do my own research. To never rely on just the TV news or written newspapers — each of these organizations have their own agendas.
I still try to do that, as should each and every voter. Don’t be tied to any single issue!
Blindly following anyone is the same as throwing your vote away.
I filed this response. Maybe it will see ink, maybe not. [UPDATE: Published July 9, 2012 as Letter of the Day. Photo below.]
Most of Mr. Achartz’s letter (“don’t be manipulated”) I can agree with.
I completely disagree with his father’s advice, 42 years ago, to “never tell anyone (especially relatives) how you are going to vote”.
In 1970, communications possibilities were very different than they are today; far more primitive, but paradoxically more open and honest than now.
Today people can and do balkanize themselves into affinity groups where they have no need to consider any opinion other than their parochial view.
We have become (to borrow the U.S. Army’s ill-fated slogan) a “nation of one’s”, separated and divided and isolated into little circles more than ever before.
This fragmentation is dangerous to our democracy.
I’m probably a bit older than Mr. Achartz. My wonderful father and mother are both long departed, and to this day I can’t tell you how they voted.
It was their notion. It may have worked then, but it is not good now.

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