Mixtapes for Hookers


Parades Go By
June 5, 2012, 9:54 pm
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This Saturday is one of my favorite local events of the year: the Gaspee Days Parade. It’s part of a month-long festival commemorating the burning of a British ship by colonial insurgents in 1772. According to which side you take, the Rhode Islanders who boarded and torched the Gaspee were either heroes rebelling against shady and unscrupulous tax collectors, or they were drunks who ransacked a ship that had already run aground anyway. Both sides are true, mind you.

In the 21st century Gaspee Days is a chance for little historic Pawtuxet Village to shine; the parade features many, many fife and drum corps—so many muskets, too!–as well as all the usual parade hoo-hah like a 5K and marching bands and politicians and pageant winners and stuff. A bunch of colonial re-enactors camp out along the parade route all weekend, and the day after the parade there’s a hilariously disappointing re-enactment of the burning of the ship itself. (Seriously, it’s so bad.)

Gaspee Days definitely captures my home city at its cutest, and also at its most New England-y, and even though I don’t actually care about the Revolutionary War or waving flags around–and really, there are a lot of flags–it’s always actually fun to watch the parade.

The following weekend is another local parade, one which generally fills me with a mix of apathy and dread: the Pride Parade.

Rhode Island’s Pride is one of the nation’s oldest, and our parade is remarkable largely because it takes place at night and honestly parading in the dark is a lot of fun and something you should try if you can at some point this summer.

The parade itself is a tacky mess, all rainbows and Mardi Gras beads and Bud Light Lime-sponsored silliness. Skinny, heavily shaved boys in glitter and angel wings and little else ride on floats made to promote local bars. In and of itself I don’t have a problem with any one of those things (except for Bud Light Lime which is just a vile beverage.) I’m not such a prude that I hate an alcohol sponsorship, and although twinks aren’t my thing I’m all in favor of public displays of non-hetero sexuality. (The boys at the club and the boys at the underground party aren’t really that far off, either, at least aesthetically.) But Pride was founded as a political thing, and parades are sort of meant to be inherently political (even the mindless patriotic ones.) But the Pride parade is possibly the single least political celebration I have ever encountered. (It’s also one of the most glaringly white, especially with regard to the demographics of Providence, but that’s a different essay.)

That makes me sad, because this parade could be a chance for people to actually, you know, make some kind of a statement about something. About anything. Especially in light of, say, the Ukrainians that tried to have a gay rights parade in Kyiv last month but who were thwarted by both skinheads and a police force that was actively opposed to the idea of protecting the paraders. Half an hour before the parade, the head of a Ukrainian NGO announced that for safety reasons the parade had been canceled; immediately after he was trampled by skinheads. (Video of it is online although I don’t think there’s any point linking to something that horrible.) Maybe we could talk about that? Maybe we could talk about how, now that the police lead the parade for us, we could actually maybe try to take advantage of our privilege to, you know, enact some sort of positive change?

The Gaspee Affair happened 240 years ago and we won that war; Stonewall wasn’t even 50, and the war hasn’t even happened yet. Why should they both be reduced to the same mindless flag-waving?


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