A few years back, a guy by the name of Joe McGrath wanted a flagpole put on the 400 block and he also wanted to have some kind of patriotic Fourth of July celebration. One thing led to another and in 2007, such an event was held. It somehow got worked in with a kiddy parade from the Wausau Center to the 400 block, which is actually a separate event.
So it all seemed very nice and I checked it out, although I admit to always being a little skittish about it. For one thing, the emcee has been Pat Snyder, who does a right-wing talk show on 550 Radio. There is a reason that he is the guy and it has to do with the other players in the cast; the people who organize this thing. It all seemed just a little too partisan to me, although I couldn’t really say that it was necessarily so. Money raised from the concessions was slated to go to the benefit of military members serving overseas and who could argue with that?
It is at this point that I have to tell you that I think I’m as patriotic as anyone is. I never joined the American Legion, although I would be eligible, as a Vietnam era veteran. Nobody owes me anything for my six years in the military. I got a bachelor’s degree, work experience in my field — and frankly, I didn’t have tough duty. I have a lot of respect for all of those from whom much was asked, but I have to be honest and tell you that not all that much was asked of me and that’s just the way it is. Likewise, I’m happy to serve as a local elected official and there is more to that than simply saying the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings. So I believe in our system, I’ve been willing to serve and I’ve had the honor of being able to do that over the years.
Fast forward to 2009 and the handbill for the third annual Independence Day Celebration on the City Square says it is presented by “The American Legion and the Wausau Tea Party Patriots.” The program is pretty much the same as it has been the last two years, right down to Pat Snyder. But there is really no particular reason to consider it as an event without a political agenda anymore because it clearly is exactly that. Don’t take my word for it. Look at the website:
Scroll down. Click on some of the logos and sites like kickthemallout.com and the terminally partisan Wisconsin Family Action, Americans for Prosperity and more. Check out the signs comparing President Obama to Stalin and other ridiculous claims from the far right. These are the people you’ll be celebrating Independence Day with on the 400 block, if you go. If that’s your cup of tea, then have at it.
But I have to wonder if the American Legion is really tuned in to what they’re co-sponsoring, which is a big dose of alienation toward what could arguably be called the majority of Americans and Wisconsinites, based on the way they’ve been voting in the past few elections. More importantly, Independence Day doesn’t belong to political parties and ideologues of either the right or the left.
People have a right to freedom of speech. At the same time, I’m not interested in showing up at an event where my presence can be misconstrued as a statement that I’m truly not making. I’m not interested in being used to up the body count for people like Americans for Prosperity to crow about, as if duping unsuspecting people into joining their Tea Party under the premise of simply trying to celebrate this Nation’s birthday is somehow legitimate. It didn’t necessarily seem like that kind of a statement the last couple of years, but this year, it is.
The Tea Party folks will be on the block from Noon until 4 p.m. I understand the City Concert Band will be playing at 7 p.m. and that should be a good show. Maybe I’ll see you there.