July 06, 2021
When we arrived at my nephew’s house in Topeka on Sunday they had just got back from a local parade. We were told it was being held in the park near their house and they had all walked over. I envisioned a large city-wide parade with 1000’s of spectators and was not keen on attending. We drove by the park, and it was a small square about half the size of a city block. While the parade could not have been large, we were told it was festive. My son also sent pictures of the parade they had at their beach house. This is a community of about 30 houses and the children had dressed up and decorated their bikes to circle around the park located in the center of the community. The parades were not Gala, just enjoyed.
While parades are a good way to get people’s attention and to honor individuals or events, they are not always the best approach. During the waning months of World War I, officials across the country were being pressured to sell war bonds, or Liberty Loans. On Sept. 28, 1918, Philadelphia city officials refused to cancel their parade amid the Spanish flu pandemic. The decision is now held up by the CDC as an example of what not to do during a pandemic and has obvious parallels with modern-day refusals. The Spanish flu was a new strain of the influenza that gained a foothold among soldiers in the trenches of Europe. It would eventually infect a third of the world’s population and kill an estimated 675,000 Americans and 50 million people globally. Boston had held a parade that resulted in the city’s hospitals being “taxed to their limits.” St. Louis faced the question and chose to cancel the parade rather than face the risks. Philadelphia instead warned people to cover their mouths when they coughed or sneezed. “If the people are careless, thousands of cases may develop, and the epidemic may get beyond control.” Within a week, 45,000 citizens were infected, and the city had shut down.
While I missed the two parades mentioned on the 4th, I was able to participate in a parade at mom’s retirement community celebrated on the 5th (the observed day off). This began with a dedication service for the recently installed flag poles as part of a remodeling campaign for the community. Then about thirty of the residents joined in a parade that has become a tradition, except for last year during the height of the pandemic. The residents decorated the bicycles and golf carts they use to move around the campus and wound their way through the community’s streets. Mom and I stood on the porch and watched the parade go by. It even included the traditional candy toss to the children visiting their grandparents across the street. I enjoyed it.
Thoughts: The three local parades mentioned indicate a resurgence of our need to reunite our local communities. Humans are by nature social animals, and we crave interaction. The parades also illustrate we can come together without large crowds in potential super-spreader events and still have fun. The 70% vaccination rate sought by Biden by July 4th did not happen, primarily because of a parade of people who refuse to do anything unless “my team” says it is right. There are two approaches for achieving the interaction we desire. We can split into competing teams and hope to choose the winning side, or we can unite across barriers to become stronger together. Choosing to cross barriers is harder because it means we need to care for others rather than just ourselves. It is also the only workable long-term solution. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.