Americans do love a parade. We revel gloriously, don't we, in their ambient festivity. We get excited, turning into regular yankee doodle dandies, when we hear the brass band Sousa strains wafting on a summer breeze from the other end of Main Street.
It's Labor Day! Surely that's what this parade was all about today in Charlotte.
Not exactly. Absent from this Labor Day parade were the marching bands with their brass flashing in the sunshine. No Sousa phrases of Stars and Stripes Forever were floating on this uptown Charlotte breeze. We heard no clarinets proclaiming harmonies to complement their sassy trumpet cousins; we felt no sultry saxes. Gone were the young girls spinning their batons and tossing them high into the air to celebrate Americanity, as sequins sparkle and children harken.
No. That Main Street thing was so old school. It was like, Ozzie and Harriet, for crying out loud. I'm here to tell ya that somewhere between Ozzie and Harriet and Ozzy Osborne we got all turned around. Everything now is whoop-fizz, wooby-shooby hip-flip city, not to mention protest. Well, I just did mention it: protest.
That's why today's parade in Charlotte was a horse of a different color, or flag of a different color. What used to be red, white, and blue flapping on the summer breeze is now a kind of shredded rag of tattered and torn ideological fabric, flapping on the sound-bite hot air. What we got now is what the talking media heads have termed fragmentation.
Down there in Tampa you had the red stripes. Now, here in Charlotte, just before the Democrats meet, all the blue stripes have come out in full force.
But this new color-coding of political stripes is backwards. You know that don't you? I mean, back in the day, communists were "reds," and American patriots were true "blue." How did this get turned around?
If you don't believe me, check out that old '70s movie, Reds, starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton as a couple of yankee Soviet-sympathizers supporting the Bolsheviks when the revolutionaries killed the czar and his family in Russia in 1917. Now them was reds, the kind of reds that the John Birchers used to dis when they grumbled, back in the '50s, better dead than red!
But here we are now, in 2012, in Charlotte, across the street from Bank of America corporate headquarters, for crying out loud, in this so-called (in the new newspeak) redstate because of it bein' in the bible belt, and in this red city because of all the republican bankers, and here comes this band of rag-tag bunch of occupiers from every blue state and blue neighborhood in this here nation.
But them's reds if I ever saw one. I mean, the first sign I saw said: Capitalism is holding back the human race.!
I fear this is not your father's parade, booby. I'm thoroughly confused. Furthermore, the Code Pink contingent passing by has totally intensified my redwhiteandblue colors schizoshmizz.
Actually, that Capitalism is sign was the second sign I saw. The first one said: Vote now Jail bank execs Jail oil execs.
And these are definitely signs of the times. They were preceded by no traditional drum and bugle corps. Instead we had a lone drummer at the fore (behind the myriad of police escorts, of course.) He looked like ZZTop. They made him stop beating the drum when the ragtag Occupy Wall Street South ensemble stopped in from of Bank of America headquarters to let the world know exactly why they had come here, by making speeeches and flashing their signs and strutting their stuff.
These days, we fragmented Americans are like birds of a different feather, strutting the stuff. These here are the wispy-wing'ed fringes of the blue flock. I suppose if you went to a Tea Party gathering a while back, you'd have gotten a view of what they're calling the red flock. Tea Partiers don't strut, however; they tend to sit in lawn chairs that they themselves brought from their back porches at home.
These Occupiers, I don't think they have back porches, but more likely, fire escapes.
The last time I saw a parade like this was in the streets of Florence, Italy, several years ago.
There were some similarities with that Italian procession and what we see today approaching the DNC arena. You could just feel, back in the old country, that those old ideological lines had been drawn long ago. The onlookers just kind of yawn, like oh here comes another socialist parade; it must be Friday. The paraders themselves were very organized, not like this bunch I'm looking at now. And those Europeans are more obviously labor-centered, not like here where the unions are just kind of hovering around the perimeter, waiting for their opportunity to organize the occupiers when they run out of steam.
And these fledgeling protest movements in the USA, they're like only a hundred and twenty years old or so, still young and whippersnappin', not like those European ones that seem so mature and classifiable and with their own political parties and stuff.
And I need to mention before I go that the ratio of protesters to police to onlookers was, from my sidewalk perch, something like 1:1:1. Not very efficient, from a banking city's spreadsheet standpoint.
The long, steady stream of fire trucks at the end made it seem a little like the old days-style parade, with hints of orderly garnish, and an official finish, as the coffee-slurpers might say here at Starbucks where I'm now knocking this little ditty out.
And guess what, Labor Day is tomorrow, not today. What was I thinking?