We all get it. On the Fourth of July, we give thanks for the heroic sacrifices our soldiers have made to protect our freedom. You can’t argue with that lullaby.
Still, watching the soldiers in uniform wave at us during the parade, it’s hard to muster any pride over the 10-year adventures into Iraq and Afghanistan. Can anyone point to the accomplishments Iraq and Afghanistan have been? The 9-11 terrorists appear to have spawned an Orwellian endless war draining our treasury of trillions of precious tax dollars that could have been our healthcare, jobs, and infrastructure. The enemies shift to keep the thing stoked. We’re fighting the Taliban, right? Or is it Al Queda? No wait, there’s a new Super Team now, right? It’s called Isis? Or is it Isle?
We honor those who serve and protect, and we should. The armored trucks, the confident police officer performing amazing circles on his motorcycle while wailing his siren, the all-white color guard marching handsomely down the street with shiney old-fashioned rifles still carries the allure of a simpler, bygone day when we’re no. 1.
You cannot wave at a politician without a smirk of disbelief that all is well. The fifth largest economy in the United States, the nineteenth largest economy in the entire world; which is Illinois, is about to have its government shut down because the Governor wants to reduce worker’s compensation. It was fitting that the giant air balloon floats sponsored by two of the big-money-bag entities in town, The News-Gazette and Busey Bank, deflated during the parade route and the cute, lovable character sagged and fell over.
An economic sign of things to come?
Champaign County has a significant number of its citizens living in poverty. The Illinois Statistical Analysis Center lists Champaign County as having 40,484 people living at or below the poverty line in 2013, putting our poverty rate the third highest in a state of 102 counties. Watching the sweating kids of the high school marching bands, the mind wanders to the fearful prospect of what the job market is like for a high school graduate. Or how much money you need to pay tuition, room, and books for those qualified to attend a college.
The die has been cast. Champaign County is selling its land to out-of-town investors to build the real estate (using out-of-town employees) needed for a new wave of wealthy international students attending the prestigious university. Locals need not apply.
We are not welcomed to the jobs party on our tax dollar.
And here is where the police step in. Protecting the precious campus from the invaders to the North of University Avenue has been perfected for decades now at The Police Training Institute that our police resemble a military unit. Police have adopted racial profiling enforcement of The Drug War. Cameras will be on and every move will be tracked. The court system punishes poor and African-Americans swiftly and heavily as possible.
Police are soldiers now. Anything can happen. Dylann Roof and Adam Lanza have proved that beyond a reasonable doubt. The parade was probably discussed as a possible target, so no police walked the parade. There were no friendly appearances from Sheriff Walsh, Chief Cobb or Chief Connolly. They were probably stationed at a designated command central headquarters coordinating crowd patrol.
It’s hard to look at police nowadays in the midst of this year’s round of publicity regarding police behavior. Across the 18,000 police departments nationwide, three citizens are killed every day by the police. Most of the slain people are unarmed, most are African-American. We have The Toto Kaiyewu Slaying, and The Kiwane Carrington Murder to remind us how jumpy police have become toward African-Americans. The police presence at the parade tests your faith as to whether these guys are really on our side. Like wishing Big Bird was real, you want to hope police are the good guys. Another newspaper arrives to say different.
Fourth of July in Champaign County (as will be the case with the Champaign County Fair) is a stark reminder that this is a segregated culture and those in charge with money will decide what our culture will be. Few churches entered a float in the parade, few civic clubs, and fewer still were grassroots movements of people advocating for a better America. The parade leaned toward a show of force.
A four year-old walked off the curb and joined the parade with the Green Party.
A flicker of hope remained.