Despite having lived in Oak Park for 37 years, I witnessed my first Oak Park 4th of July parade last week. (My wife and I are almost invariably at our Wisconsin home for the holiday.) As a consequence, I was able to view the spectacle with “new” old eyes. Here is what I saw: 

What is good about this parade is really good — it is terrific. Oak Park’s diversity is on display in all its variegated splendor. Homegrown enterprises are celebrated. Agencies, governmental and otherwise, which provide us protection and services, are prominently featured. Children are in the parade, viewing the parade, around the parade, and sweets are lovingly strewn among them. What could be better?

Well, some things. I loved what I saw, but regretted what I did not. This year — I gather for the first time in a while — the military was represented by a single military vehicle and two soldiers. It felt like a token representation, but why should that be? Surely this patriotic holiday is as much about the force and sacrifice that, first, was required to form a new country dedicated to liberty and equality and, second, to maintain it over the centuries, as it is about anything. Why should this not be acknowledged and celebrated? Judging by the applause I witnessed to the two soldiers in uniform, Oak Park citizens were more than ready to honor this important part of our heritage. I believe I saw one organization representing veterans. Why not a contingent of marching veterans, those men and women who have served our country at home and abroad? 

I loved the music — what there was of it. Why not more bands?  We have two great high school bands in our town, OPRF High School and Fenwick. Why are they not participants? Are there no drum and bugle corps in the area, waiting to be asked? 

The parade made me proud to be an Oak Parker, as it should. But there is surely a case to be made for traditionalism on the 4th of July — in addition to the celebration of our village’s freedom from old constraints and paradigms. 

Ron Moline

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