Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Parading the Fourth

My first Independence Day in the US. We went down to the in-laws’ in Danville, who took great delight in teasing me about how the day celebrates “throwing off the English oppressors”.

I didn’t really have the heart to tell them that the Declaration of Independence is much more significant to Americans than to Brits. To Americans, it marks the birth of a nation. To Brits: just another colony lost. And we had plenty to be getting on with besides America: dealing with Napoleon, subjugating India, and trying to hang on to South Africa. Losing America? Most of us, these days, are more miffed about wasting all that tea.

We walked into downtown Danville for the parade, a big event, but a little odd in some ways. Compared to carnival parades in Britain, there’s a lot more political self-aggrandisement: lots of open-topped cars carrying local government officials—from city council members up to the local congressman—with placards proclaiming the occupant. More kids’ sports teams. More guns: the parade ends with a continent of riflemen who stop every hundred yards to fire blanks into the air.

And more commercialism: a lot of floats are sponsored by, or directly entered by, businesses. All very well when they’ve put some effort into decorating a float, or when they hand out decent samples (Dreyer’s icecream; Andronico’s peaches; Ghirardelli chocolate). But a note to car dealerships: simply driving your inventory along the parade route does not quite cut it. I was annoyed enough to email the parade organiser and the dealership:

I was a bit puzzled by the Berkeley Honda entry. Five cars, with no decoration except the name of the dealership. This seemed to me a bluntly commercial advertisement, with no effort made towards the spirit of either the day or the event. Couldn’t they have tried a bit harder?
Meddling in other countries’ affairs: it's the British way.


> Meddling in other countries’ affairs: it’s the British
> way.

That was a few centuries ago - others have taken over now...