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The float prompts a logical enough question

By Sean Hyland, Alfred Station NY

As some of you may have heard, the Andover Fourth of July parade has taken on a shade of controversy this year for a certain float. The float in question depicted a large cage filled with prominent Democratic figures: Joe and Hunter Biden, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Fauci, etc while a Trump cutout seemed to lord it over them exultantly outside the cage. 

I was at the parade myself with my kids, as I am every year, and I have to confess that I was, at first, befuddled with disbelief at the tackiness of the float but that quickly changed to shame and anger as the reality sank in. This is no partisan feeling since I’m far from a Biden (or Trump, for that matter) supporter and I would have been equally angered had the Allegany County Democratic Party marched a manacled and prison jump-suited faux-Trump in the parade as a cheap political stunt.

Nor is this a matter of free speech per se, though many people have brought free speech up as a justification for the float. For free speech to function in a free society it must be tempered by a measure of civility and respect. A parade that should have been a shared celebration of the birth of our nation is simply not an appropriate forum for something that is nothing more than a sharp partisan stick square in the eye of Democrats. What will a float like that accomplish other than to send the message that nothing is above the political obsessions of the current news cycle and that our entire nation’s history and populace can and should be myopically boiled down to who wants to see Biden and Fauci jailed? It drives a wedge, asking the viewer of the float to choose sides: are you going to chuckle and cheer or not? Which side are you on?

I’d like to think that I’m on the side of treating my neighbors with respect and dignity regardless of what their partisan beliefs may be. I think it’s possible and even necessary to speak honestly and with conviction on contentious issues while still remaining civil. Regardless of political disagreements,  I want my friends and neighbors to know that I respect them as people and that they are more to me than the sum of their politics. The float prompts a logical enough question. If Biden or Fauci or Chuck Schumer have been deemed jailable by the court of public opinion, then what about our neighbors who support them? Should they be in that cage too? 

If we can’t rise above inflammatory political posturing in something like our Fourth of July parade than what are we even fighting for? Is this what our grandparents would have been proud of or a legacy we want to pass onto our grandchildren? It matters because divisive displays like that float have become the political norm and these attitudes tend to bleed into daily life, breeding distrust and  teaching us to view our neighbors as enemies if they aren’t on “our” side.

But in conclusion, I feel badly for the Andover Fourth of July Committee since they did a great job with everything for Andover’s Bicentennial and so much focus has been placed on the controversy caused by this ill considered float. The parade was really wonderful and my kids loved it, especially my four year old son for whom fire trucks, motorcycles, and candy throwing must constitute a magical trifecta of awesomeness. The car show was also a blow-out success with a lot of really fantastic entries and it also must be said that Andover always manages to punch far above its weight class with its fireworks display. Hats off to the people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make all that possible. In the end, that kind of selfless civic dedication is what has really always has and always will make America great!

Contact Sean Hyland at ConvivialContrarian@yahoo.com

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