“I have a lot of soldiers coming to this. You want to criticize the government, go do it any other day, but don’t do it on the Fourth of July,” said LeClair, who chairs the Winslow Family 4th of July Celebration. “There’s a time and a place. This is not the time and place. It’s America’s birthday. This is an event for families.”
And let’s not leave out parade chair David Morissette, who had this to say in a letter to Waterville Area Bridges for Peace & Social Justice, sponsor of the proposed float: “We are all about supporting our troops and our veterans and feel that any anti-war message or protesting is just not good for our parade and our spectators, even if it’s done quietly and peacefully.”
Since peace is not considered a family-friendly message in Winslow, parade-goers were banned from viewing the Bridges for Peace float: a giant grocery bag overflowing with military hardware, accompanied by messages reading (cover the children’s eyes) WE PAID FOR WAR and PEACE IS PATRIOTIC.
The parade wasn’t the only controversy with which Bridges for Peace had to deal during the past year. Last Veterans Day, the group planted some 2000 white flags at a veterans cemetery in Waterville. Five local VFW members were so incensed by what they considered to be symbols of surrender that they ripped them up, and were arrested for their acts of vandalism.
The Waterville situation was resolved when the two groups agreed to plant white flags and American flags side by side. Fortunately, it appears that cooler heads have prevailed in Winslow as well. On June 2, Bridges for Peace and parade organizers met “to coordinate plans for the peace group’s participation in this year’s parade.” It’s a year too late, but it appears that Winslow is marching in the right direction.
Gives student a choice: salute flag or leave
Last January a Coventry High School senior named Joseph Marketos sent a letter to the Providence Journal. Declaring himself to be an atheist, Marketos claimed, “Countless times I have been written up” for refusing to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school.
The Journal followed with a profile of Marketos, portraying him as a young man who disapproves of President Bush and is troubled by such social ills as the low minimum wage. As for Marketos’s contention that he had been punished for refusing to take part in the Pledge, though, all was murk. He said his homeroom teacher had ordered him to write an essay and threatened him with detention, but that the latter punishment was never carried out. The principal, Steven Knowlton, said students are not required to take part in the Pledge, but that he didn’t know the specifics of Marketos’s case. The superintendent of schools, Kenneth DiPietro, said it was his understanding that students were required to stand for the Pledge, but not to recite it.
Enter Raymond Spear, a member of the town’s school committee and the former superintendent, who clarified matters for everyone. Spear told the Journal he would support a policy forcing people to stand for the Pledge, adding, “To thumb his nose at it, or to say I’m not standing up or I’m not recognizing the flag, that’s the same as saying I don’t recognize the United States of America. If you don’t like the United States of America, go somewhere else. Don’t ask us to change it.”