A July 4th memoir: Right where they want us to be
by Barry Bright
July 8, 2001
With other work to do I had not planned to attend the July 4 parade in my hometown this year. But a friend wanted me to help photograph some of the events for his local
After nabbing a few shots at the basketball competition and the car show, where I barely escaped a man whose universe seemed to be centered on his 64 ½ Mustang, I headed to the staging area for the parade.
This might have been a perfect day for what I have considered at times, doing some “jaywalking” of my own, such as we see on the tonight show, where people’s answers to Leno’s questions are simultaneously roaringly funny and frightening. But I was just there to get pictures and names, of the little misses and little misters with their crowns and coached smiles.
It was all there, the movie “Americana” - classic green John Deere tractors, one with a modern touch: a placard reading: “She thinks my tractor’s sexy;” grandpas with little girls on tall horses; kids on bikes and fourwheelers and motorcycles; those guys in the funny burgundy hats; a real big dog, a mastiff, repping the local “Big Dawg” country radio station; local churches promoting their vacation Bible schools; local businesses showcasing their products. Even Amazon.com had the home town flavor with a paper mache float made by local employees. They did have a big globe though.
Thousands come to this event every year. Usually the governor is the grand marshal of the parade, since Campbellsville hosts what is probably the biggest Fourth of July celebration among the small towns of Kentucky. This year it was the Lt. Governor since he can run next time and the present governor can’t. Flipper we call that one, because his stance on the issues is as changeable as the average politician’s. Some say it’s from that night he spent in the Lincoln bedroom.
I wanted to smile, and did sometimes, as I walked along the route, looking for photo ops. Sometimes I frowned simply because I was thirsty. Inside I didn’t know what to feel. A small contingent of Confederate re-enactors waited in one spot along the route.
“Finally,” I thought, “someone’s flying a real flag,” as I strained to see the circle of stars.
After taking longer than I remember, from being clogged at the beginning and too strung out toward the end, the waving and smiling and fire truck sirens wound down. Then it was time for the speech making.
In years past I have seen a crowd stand in front of the speakers, listening, temporarily clogging Main Street. It was like standing in a stream this year, trying to photograph the “officials”. A few people sat on the bleachers and stood on the sidewalk across the way. But most ambled through, toward the doodads offered by vendors.
A few times I heard the words ‘patriot’ and “patriots” thrown out by the speakers, and how our Democratic speaker of the State House was working with our newly elected Republican State representative on a new road plan. I saw an older man in the uniform of a Marine captain give the invocation and the pledge of allegiance. I stood silently during that, mouthing the part about “under God,” leaving out the word, “indivisible,” as is my habit now.
His words have appeared several times in the letters section of the local paper, decrying the condition of our republic. Yes one of the speakers even used that description as well. I don’t remember hearing “democracy”. Maybe it slipped through my ears and away.
Maybe this was a day for just being thankful for what we do have. And it is better than what is found on most of the planet, but for how much longer? In a rural community like this one you’d think they’d know no good farmer gives his livestock bad food. Still our national cancer goes largely untreated. We use salve when the cure calls for extrication.
Maybe I was partly trying to forget what I know, that so many of these people don’t. I wondered what exactly made them walk so blindly past the stand. Do they simply know better now than to listen to the politician’s words? Or do they just no longer care?
Later, as a real gully washer came and drowned out the tractor pull, we all stood under the eaves of the old depot. I thought how a friend of mine had worried that the refurbishing of the old depot in Bowling Green had been so they could “ship us out”, the dissenters to the New World Order that is. How surreal. There are huge warehouses all over the country with rail spurs. Besides, they don’t need to ship us anywhere. We’re all right where they want us to be. Our physical locations mean nothing.