Robert Galvin

Beware the ideology of ordered marching

I marched in a parade once … well, “march” isn’t really the proper word.

It was bitter cold for a holiday parade, for which my church youth group built a float on the bed of a pickup. Those of us who didn’t ride in the truck trundled along after it, singing Christmas carols through chattering teeth.

As fate would have it, we were positioned immediately behind — and I do mean behind — an equestrian club. So our caroling was punctuated with shouts of “INCOMING!” followed by attempting to do the ol’ soft shoe around pungent road apples.

(Parenthetically, why is it always “the ol’ soft shoe”? Is there a “new” soft shoe? The ol’ hangs there in the way folks cite an “old adage.”)

But I digress.

The point is that parades aren’t always worth the braving of the elements — never mind what lies in wait.

For instance, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the doomed homecoming parade at Oregon’s beloved Faber College — when those reprobates from Delta Tau Chi (motivated by remembering when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor) camouflaged an ROTC armored tank inside a cake-shaped float.

And despite Cadet Chip Diller shouting, “Remain calm! All is well. All is wellllllll……” as he was trampled, the Deltas' futile and stupid gesture laid waste to what normally would be a fine, stoic example of forced community pride.

Closer to home, some here at the Muted Trumpet remember the calamity befallen a former reporter who came to visit on a Saturday afternoon … which happened to be the day of the Medford Cruise.

She had maneuvered her ancient burgundy Dodge Diplomat (“It’s between a compact and an intermediate!”) into the parking lot just fine. But when she tried to leave, she wound up — and if you’ve ever seen a burgundy Dodge Diplomat, this won’t surprise you — in the midst of the Cruise.

Whereupon she was cheered by onlookers while unsuccessfully trying to find an exit road for two or three full loops before making it back to the newsroom.

More often than not, though, parades around here go off without much of a hitch. Heck, some folks in Ashland even cheer when jets do a flyover at the start of the July 4th parade.

At least, it sounds like a cheer; it could be early symptoms of a Chemtrail Flu epidemic  … you never know.

And while Ashland and Central Point hold parades that day that couldn’t be further apart in style and approach — each represents the patriotic nature of the holiday by celebrating the freedom to express our independence without threat of double-secret probation.

This week, we’re contemplating what it means that the administration wants to gussy up the troops — at least many of the ones not stationed overseas or continuing a fight in Afghanistan that has lasted 17 years — and parade them down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Those who serve so we don’t have to spur all the support our bones can muster — be that through improving medical care for veterans and their families; assisting with training and job-searches when they re-enter civilian life; and, particularly, not venting pent-up frustrations at them for the political decisions of others — as happened in the days of Vietnam.

It was Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt (that environmental champion of Crater Lake) who is credited with the old adage … aaarrrggghhh!!! … “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Though you’re left to wonder, in this day and age, whether he’d parade it through Washington, D.C., for no other reason than to show how big a stick he carried.

And it was another battle-tested Republican president with a celebrated service record (not to mention a penchant for parades) — Dwight Eisenhower — who came not only to caution against the growing power of the military-industrial complex, but what marked a true a show of strength.

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head,” Ike said. “That’s assault, not leadership.”

Still, times (and Republican presidents) change, and there’s something about the calculus of the idea currently being floated that doesn’t quite add up. Call it a question of unclear motivations.

For, the last thing any of us would want to see is a dog and pony show of troops doing the ol’ soft shoe because some horse’s ass wants to lead the parade.

— Mail Tribune copy editor Robert Galvin, who also writes "The Fourth Wall" column for Tempo, can be reached at

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