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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Memorial Day in Blue Land

The Parade Here In Ultra-Blue Suburban New Jersey Is An Interesting Experience

First come the very few vets — Korea and Vietnam through Persian Gulf and even Iraq (one man in the chocolate chip uniform) I’d guess. A few cars follow for those who can no longer walk. I hear that there are some 600 vets in our area, but fewer than 20 actually make it to the parade. It is moving, still, to see these men and women — many old, even very old, come by. You feel some of the sense of sacrifice even if, by now, the battering is as much from time as combat.

Then there are the politicians, the high school marching band (from the perspective of the 3-7 year olds I see here on play dates, the kids look huge) — and all of that adds up to one parade. After a bit of gap come the masses of brownies and girl scouts, accompanied by many mothers. This section of the parade reminds me of the public schools — the endless PTA fairs, and bazaars, and Diversity Celebrations. Girls, mothers, activity — which is in many ways the heart of the suburban school experience. Then come the boy scouts — far fewer, no dads, but one boy holding the American flag high and proud — playing the part of the standard-bearer in combat.

The boy and girl scouts are not military, but they are uniform. What follows here is decidedly not — the Peace Coalition (looking a bit post-Woodstock, Peter-Paul-and-Mary-in-retirement, long in the tooth themselves); the musicians adverstising our own local Woodstock, the interpretive dancers all in black, various coalitions for the arts. This section of the parade is not precisely anti-military in that oppositional 60s sense, but it completely outside of the military orbit — it is counter culture now very settled in, domestic, comfortably suburban. And then of course come police, fire, EMT.

So what does it all add up to — a town wanting to feel pride, to celebrate, to share, to honor, but three completely different experiences — military; PTA; counter culture — all somehow together and apart. And, as my older son remembered from last year, they all throw candy to the crowds.