Gay Parade: a Conservative Take

So, last Sunday was Gay Pride Parade downtown Santa Cruz. I am all for parades in general. It feels good for people to march, no matter the cause. In this case, I am a little perplexed at first. I don’t know what the marchers are addressing. This is Santa Cruz, after all, where no one is ever judgmental, except against those who are judgmental. Where is the potential gain in tolerance, I wonder?

The parade does not even succeed in browbeating me by making me feel “what it’s like to be a minority.” After all, most of the women in the parade are a lot like me. They like what I like. We may have been rivals once but I was not even aware of it until my wife brought home – in all innocence – an obviously lesbian admirer. My wife is from India. She was young then. There were many things she did not understand. Also, she was striking. Of course, I threatened the woman with beating her up with my big fists. No, I was not acting intolerant. I treated her the way I would have treated any sexual rival. I treated her equally, you might say. (Yes, she quickly vanished.)

The Santa Cruz parade is puzzling in other ways. One small tight group carries two signs. The first shows a Star of David in several colors. The second sign shows a small number of abstractly rendered fish in the same colors. I can’t bring myself to believe that this is a plea for support of Jewish homosexual fish. Yet, I have no other interpretation. The Santa Cruz parade also leaves me a little frustrated because it’s frankly scruffy, overall. I feel parade envy vis-à-vis the flamboyant and perfectly groomed San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. I am not sure but I think the difference is due to the fact that the Santa Cruz event is dominated by lesbians. Many (not all) lesbians make it a point of pride to wear sloppy t-shirts, like guys. Some aspire to be male rednecks and are fast getting there.

Toward the end, I enter into a conversation with two older woman, one costumed. It turns out they are leaders of the local Medical Marijuana Alliance. One is a retired nurse. They both like guys, one of the biddies reassures me unhelpfully. They are there because there is an alliance between the Alliance and lesbian and gay organizations. They support one another politically. This is good American politics at work. Mutual support is set up peacefully, without acrimony, to gain influence over rules and over how public funds are spent. I often complain about the policy results of such coalitions but I can’t think of a better way, in the short term, that is.

I still dislike taxation and I dislike even more large segments of law and order. I detest above all the so-called War on Drugs, a true catastrophe for this whole society. In the short term, though, I don’t see the path forward to doing away with these gross limitations on individual freedom. So, I rejoice in every item of evidence that we could do worse.

The American Parade

In the United States, a strong indigenous form of theater has not developed (middle-brow and high-brow forms were both imported from Europe when already mature). Had a specifically American variety of theater arisen, it would probably not have become tied to locality because of the high geographic mobility of the population. So, instead of theater, Americans have invented their own, strikingly direct kind of identity-enhancing performance: the parade.

In lesser American towns, parades are often a disorderly or downright messy mixture of military spit-and-polish, of crass commercial advertising, of ideological propaganda, of politicking, and of public declarations of self-satisfaction with one’s hobbies. In one very small, prosperous town on the West Coast, the last 4th of July parade included, among other attractions, the Kazoo Club, the Folding Lawn Chairs Marching and Drill Team, Zero Population Growth, the local Democratic Club, a grassroots group intent on gaining school district autonomy, and two old car buff clubs. These were followed by a lone couple (a pair) of tap dancers. There was also a moms’ club, whose sole purpose appeared to be Momaffirmation. (They did not seem to be bragging either about themselves or about their kids, who incidentally, were not even dressed up for the occasion.) Of course, there were several musical marching bands – at various levels of proficiency, from the superb to the pathetic – all much and equitably applauded. Continue reading