Nothing in the worid like a parade in small town America. For a precious hour or two, citizens leave the headlines at home and bring a folding chair to the side of the road on Main Street, USA, to honor the people - war veterans, national guard, firemen, police, - who enforce the rule of law and protect us from natural and man made disasters.
The men in the uniforms might be our fathers, uncles, brothers, or neighbors. They served in WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, and the Gulf Wars. They may be losing the battle to fit into their old uniforms but they’ve won our respect by fighting for us. No matter where you stand on the political divide, it brings a lump to your throat every time a color guard passes and bystanders quietly doff their hats, salute, or place right hands over their hearts.
And when there’s a snappy marching band playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” and other John Philips Souza tunes, we shed, for a few precious moments, the labels of Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, and simply embrace being American.
In the half mile from the Town Hall to Beech Grove Cemetery and then back, a small town like Westport, Massachusetts, takes a giant time out as some sort of benign patriotic fairy dust settles over the parade route. Bystanders appreciatively applaud the small knots of police, fire, war vets- even politicians - who pass along in loose formation.
The folding chair brigades, some of whom have sat in the same spot for generations, holler in delighted recognition when they see their young, in the uniforms of cub and boy scouts, brownie and girl scouts, who are the caboose of this parade,
Smiling into the crowd when they hear family calling their names, kids bob and weave along, kept in some semblance of order by patient and bemused Scout Masters and Mothers. In a generation or two, the veterans in the forefront will have made their last march into the cemetery. The chatty little kids taking up the rear today will be up in front wearing the uniforms of their elders.
One hopes that the campaigns that they will have waged involved filling sandbags for hurricane abatement rather than trying to avoid IEDs in some country half a world away.