I smiled when I saw a recent headline “Harvard: July 4th Parades Are Right-Wing.” I’m a product of Middle America, not quite a TV sitcom from the fifties, but my dad worked hard at a commissioned sales job, and my mother was a stay-at-home mom trying to corral three over active boys. Probably by today’s standards we were borderline lower middle class. We didn’t know it, and I really don’t recall any of us complaining about our station in life. Politics were never discussed. My dad, a highly decorated World War II bomber pilot who flew forty-three combat missions and was shot down once, never voted, until recently. My mother, who is now deceased, typically voted Democrat but was more of a sound bite, feel-good lever puller. I recall her once saying she wouldn’t vote for a particular candidate because he looked like his feet smelled…she had the gift of discernment.
All this to say, every 4th of July for more than a decade, was the same. Following breakfast, we grabbed the lawn chairs and hiked several blocks to the main drag in our neighborhood and plopped down to watch the annual 4th of July Parade. It was a big deal in our suburban community. Boy Scout troops, Brownies, the local dance club, the high school band, selected youth baseball teams, the service club floats, all passed in review. On several occasions our team was selected to march down Brandt Pike and wave to the adoring fans. It was always fun and at the very least provided bragging rights for the year if your team was picked. It was a time of sparklers, cherry bombs, and yes, home-made apple pie. We saluted the flag and admired those servicemen from the local Air Force base who marched in formation. The Grand Marshalls were usually people I didn’t know, typically some local politician, but I recall one year it was Rita Moreno who was appearing in a locally produced stage play. I didn’t know who she was until years later when she had a recurring role in Rockford Files. Then, somehow she became important to me.
I don’t recall any specifics or highlights. It was just an annual ritual and part of growing up in Ohio in the fifties and sixties.
The political ramifications on our family…my dad now votes Democrat, both my brothers are staunch Democrats, as are their children, and me…I’m the lone Republican in a family who attended more than a decade of 4th of July Parades. I served four years on active duty in the Marine Corps and twenty-six years as a street agent for the FBI. My son is a Marine on active duty so I guess maybe those right-wing parades somehow impacted both of us.
Winston Churchill said, “Statistics are like a drunk with a lamppost: used more for support than illumination.” I know the Harvard researchers never contacted me, and I seriously doubt if they contacted anyone in my family. I’m just glad I grew up in a town where we didn’t worry about politics on July 4th but celebrated freedom. Happy Birthday, America.