Unless you have been living under a rock, you have likely heard of the furor that arose following one float in the yearly July 4th parade.
You can see our article explaining what went down on page 1 as well as the Lions’ discussion of the events (page 3A); here we would like to offer a little food for thought on the bigger picture.
There was an immediate call to action by many following the parade. We’d urge consideration before anyone rushes to judgment or demands new rules and restrictions be imposed over future parades.
In reality who doesn’t object to nudity and obscenity in public, but we need to ensure whatever organizers or the city does, isn’t too heavy-handed. It will be counter-productive and could threaten a longtime and proud tradition of Independence Day activities in Jasper if we wind up with regulations that can’t be managed, invite even more conflict, or bring an end to the parade altogether.
At first it may seem very simple, we don’t want to see anybody not fully clothed, nor any F-words on parade floats. Politicians have long been welcomed at the parade as they often throw the best candy. It would be unpatriotic to not allow politicians at a parade that celebrates the work of America’s founding fathers – politicians every one.
And we are also sure, no one wants to create a system of censorship. If you can’t have freedom of speech on Independence Day, then when can you expect it? However, this parade is a family event and decorum needs to be imposed if groups can’t self police.
Finding that tricky intersection of where public decency and freedom of speech meet is where things get sticker than an ice cream cone at a July 4th parade – just when you think you have it under control, a new stream of melting vanilla starts down your hand.
So here are a few points, some we have culled from the numerous comments in person and online:
• The Lions Club has been hosting the July 4th celebration for more than 80 years. This year was the first where there was a big problem. That is one heck of a track record. Any calls for the Lions to no longer be in charge are both unforgiving and shortsighted. A July 4th celebration is not to be taken for granted. Too much complaining or imposing a bunch of new rules and we might find ourselves with nothing going on that weekend.
• Trying to police float content is not simple. There are already laws against public nudity and obscenity — they didn’t work. Think for a second, what kind of system could be imposed to have floats thoroughly checked beforehand and to make sure no one shifts gears during the parade? The Lions say and witnesses and photos back up their claim that neither the offending signs, nor nudity were visible at the start. As one Lion told us, “everybody had their damn clothes on at the start.”
• We do encourage the Lions to check what’s being registered and what is lined up and to consider, consult, seek advice beforehand on handling misbehavior. But it’s a fine line, without either police or government how do you impose fines or stop a float mid-parade? One Lion told us instead of all the complaints, they challenge anyone to give a legitimate suggestion of what could have been done after the parade got rolling? Can you imagine the national headlines if there had been photos of police officers intervening, the Lion asked?
Ultimately we are better off with a civic club running the event and who better than the Lions? The Lions have handled this for the past eight decades, surely we can give them both appreciation and some leeway to address this issue as they see fit.