Parade Turned Political Rally

We have an opportunity to rise above our differences

Montana, and the Flathead Valley in particular, has been our family home for 40-plus years. What drew us here, beyond its resplendent beauty, was having an unquestioning sense that this quiet, friendly and peaceful valley would be a safe place to raise our family … mission accomplished. It’s been a remarkable place to meet people from all walks of life, diverse talents and fascinating life stories.

So, on a whim, remembering the early Polebridge Fourth of Julys, full of whimsy, joyful families young and old, and amused locals and tourists, we decided to attend this year. We assumed incorrectly we’d be sharing a local parade at the gateway to the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park, but I’m sad to say it felt more like a political rally for “Making America Great” or keeping it thus depending on which sign we read. And that’s never what the Polebridge parade was intended to be. A visiting friend was shocked and even intimidated by so many massive loud vehicles, which gave one the feeling we were readying for war. What’s up with this? I am deeply concerned if this is the focus of future parades because I don’t believe this is the time or place. I respect the “rights” of all the entrants but ask that there is more balance in the coming parades, and that the military-like vehicles, fake missiles, etc. come at the end rather than leading off. It felt more unwelcoming to those of us who don’t share the military complex way of thinking. And, we, in our own patriotic way would appreciate working out a compromise thus sharing these special cultural events together since we are all citizens of this amazing country.

Let’s celebrate our peaceful freedom, our local law enforcement and our firefighters who work their to keep all that is so precious protected and safe; our park employees who also do the same; and yes, needless to say, we always hold our vets high in our hearts with respect for their great service. But, equal status, equal status. The Fourth of July is about fireworks, family reunions, concerts, barbecues, picnics, parades and baseball games. It’s a holiday celebrating our united, free and independent states, not our military might. We have an opportunity to rise above our differences in just such occasions as these, be bigger and better than what currently is dividing us. When we can share our differences and give space to the diversity of all who want to keep this a truly free country, we give ourselves the room to grow into a welcoming community that allows and encourages people from everywhere to have hope. And everyone can be a part of this.

Sheila Shapiro