The Outstater: A Parade for the Times

June 25, 2015

For the use of the membership only (675 words)

THE RECORD-BREAKING two-and-a-half-hour Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade last week was a great success. Aside from the visual interest, it signaled that a new culture had arrived, the old one having been redefined to a point of irrelevance.

Progress, you say, down with bigotry!

OK, but let’s reflect in passing. The event was given above-the-fold coverage by the “Equality Matters” reporter of the Indianapolis Star, which in itself tells you a lot, i.e., newspapers are now creating desk titles from parade banners.

Whatever, parades are no small matter — anything but. Originally meant to demonstrate military power, they have evolved into grandiose, sometimes raucous and always colorful celebrations of what a community believes at its heart, what makes it happy, what it wants respected, honored. Parades are meant to be meaningful.

What about the meaning of the Indianapolis parade? Did it have to do with same-sex marriage and such? Or was it a demonstration of the power of a new culture to transform what we consider — dare it be said —wholesome? If so, the parade served notice of this power, a power to be ignored on penalty of ostracism or worse.

Decades ago, when this cultural revolution was nascent, southern agrarian Donald Davidson addressed it in his essay “Some Day, in Old Charleston.” In his case, too, it was a parade that inspired reappraisal.

The attention of Davidson, writing in 1957, was drawn to a drum major parading through Old Charleston leading the marching band of the new suburban high school. He noted that the position once was purely functional, keeping drill time for military columns so that movements could be executed precisely. The drum major before him, of course, was something else entirely:

“An occasion (the parade) has been exploited for purposes that will not bear examination. The drum major has turned into a follies girl, a bathing beauty, a strip-tease dancer. The baton, once used to give commands to the band, becomes the ornament by which the drum majorette attracts attention to her charms. The band, less and less important, gets along the best it can and becomes, in fact, a jazz orchestra accompanying the drum majorette’s dance. . . . But it is not the bare flesh of drum majorettes in their quasi-march that per se is immoral. It is the misuse of the ceremony of gallantry, implied in all march music, that is immoral in itself and that is symptomatic of a deeper immorality.”

When cultural definitions change so markedly, Davidson expected us to be curious enough to ask what was happening — really happening. He warned that communities accepting without question a “perversion of the beautiful” were in a state of disequilibrium that made them dangerous.

Granted, that is a leap from a seemingly joyous parade on a fine June day in Indiana. Nonetheless, you are invited to follow his thinking and apply his question to our situation: Could the implications of our own parade, and the influence implied by the participation of so many or our largest corporations (200 marchers from Eli Lilly and Company alone), portend social and political turmoil for Indiana?

First, if there is danger projected by the Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade it is unlikely to be limited to one institution, e.g., traditional marriage. The excitement over same-sex marriage is secondary. Rather, the danger that some see is this cultural wave will swamp all institutions in its path.

At which we are reminded that a constitution is a mere institution, one of the more fragile features of organized human society. And can we trust a judiciary, also the subject of cultural pressures, to stop those who would rewrite the oaths taken by our judges, our police officers, our prosecutors? Rewrite them in ways that erode a thousand-year legacy of individual liberty? Can you spell King vs. Burwell? Obergefell vs. Hodges?

A final example: This last week the arbiters of the new culture grew strong enough to declare anathema the historic banner of the Army of Northern Virginia, arguably nothing more than a regional identifier in recent times. It won’t be seen flying in any more parades.

More progress, you say, down with racism!

How, though, should we treat other flags? To what is it proper to pledge allegiance now? The American flag? It, too, has a history that offends many, and for hundreds of reasons. And this is a good place to end — with a thought too pathetic to contemplate further.

— Craig Ladwig



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