A Fool’s Paradise: The Parade of Political Embarrassments in Severna Park

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The Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce Independence Day Parade has been a staple in the life of Severna Park residents for over forty years. Each year, generations of residents gather along the main streets under tent canopies. Small children in patriotic outfits ride bicycles on closed-off parade routes as they anticipate the sights of American flags, sno-cone trucks, marching bands, dance troupes, and muscle cars. It is quite an idyllic setting in which to watch Severna Park’s Americana — or, perhaps, the stage of a fool’s paradise.

Current politicians and political hopefuls alike march in such parades, and this year’s was no different. District 33‘s delegation, of which Severna Park is part, was present along with many other familiar figureheads from Anne Arundel County. Given the current political climate and the very own words and actions of some of these politicians, this year’s parade felt more akin to watching the famously fabled naked emperor strut about in his “new clothes.”

Notably in attendance was Delegate Tony McConkey (R), who slouched as he walked down Benfield Road in his snug yellow t-shirt adorned with his campaign logo. On May 15th, McConkey told a Severna Park town hall audience of his stance on climate change, “I don’t think the science is definite yet. We talk about 12 feet by the end of the century, but to date there has been negligible change … I’m not convinced, I’m sorry.”

Delegate Sid Saab (R) walked his small dog along the parade route. Following his entourage of supporters, Saab was just out of earshot of two young boys leading his crew and yelling to the crowd, “You have no choice! You have no choice! Vote for Saab!” Even the hint of voter intimidation coming out of the mouths of those too young to comprehend its meaning was beyond distasteful in these modern times when voter suppression of the African American and Latino vote has become commonplace. Saab may have been too far away from these youngsters to correct their behavior, but other adults on his team were nearby and still failed to address it.

District 33 Delegate Sid Saab with his supporters at the Severna Park parade on July 4th. Saab is an immigrant from Lebanon who lobbied against legislation last year that would have protected immigrants in Maryland.
District 33 Delegate Sid Saab with his supporters at the Severna Park parade on July 4th. Saab is an immigrant from Lebanon who lobbied against legislation last year that would have protected immigrants in Maryland.

Delegate Michael Malone‘s (R) crew walked past. Malone claimed defeating the Maryland Trust Act as one of his personal legislative successes in 2017. (It easily passed the House, and Malone had nothing to do with the fact that the bill died in the Senate.) The Trust Act was a bill proposed by Democrats to ensure basic public services, such as safety, health care, and food assistance, be made equally available to immigrant communities by insisting they not be asked their immigration status during the use of such services. All four District 33 representatives claimed the Trust Act made Maryland a sanctuary state and enabled the release of dangerous criminals into our communities.

Parade onlookers called to D33 Senator Ed Reilly (R), “Hey, Ed! Big Ed!”. In a typical display of old-fashioned parade politicking, Reilly sought out the attention givers in the densely populated section of grass near the high school to shake hands.

Candidate for circuit court judge and former legal counsel to Governor Larry Hogan, Judge Mark Crooks (R) was accompanied by one of the larger groups of supporters. These marchers, the majority of whom were not old enough to vote, sported “Elect Judge Crooks” t-shirts. Crooks recently made headlines when his endorsement of District 3 Republican county council candidate Nathan Volke appeared in a campaign flier, a probable violation of the Maryland Code of Judicial Ethics.

Supporters carry a banner in the Severna Park Independence Day parade supporting the election of Judge Mark Crooks to the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Anne Arundel County Sheriff Ron Bateman strode down the center of Benfield Road confidently waving to parade watchers. Bateman was acquitted just under a year ago of assaulting his wife, Elsie Bateman, after she invoked her spousal rights not to testify against her husband.

Anne Arundel County Sheriff Ron Bateman in the staging area for the July 4th parade in Severna Park

There were no shortage of antique cars this year, proving for some a momentary trip to a bygone era. One car, however, took viewers back to a shameful time in our nation’s history by its owner’s display of a Confederate battle flag stuffed dice on the vehicle’s rear view mirror. A small adornment to some, perhaps an oversight to others, but to this onlooker a blatant offense to all that has recently transpired in Anne Arundel County and the issue of racial discrimination. The Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and oppression of African Americans. It is a painful reminder of the Civil War South’s fight to protect what they felt was their right: to own other people. To this day, the Confederate flag signifies terror to persons that continue to be oppressed by systemic racism and racial violence.

In the last two months, two nooses were purposely hung in Maryland: one at Crofton Middle School and one in Montgomery County. Additionally, the alleged murderer of Bowie State graduate Richard Wilbur Collins III was from Severna Park, and belonged to a Facebook group called “The Alt-Reich.” In light of these events, the county council passed an Anti-Discrimination Resolution on June 5th. Subsequently, County Councilman Pete Smith (D) called on County Executive Steve Schuh (R) to enact a State of Emergency on Race Relations.

Parade organizers and participants, please insist on respecting the freedoms of all parade watchers to sit and enjoy a 4th of July parade. A swastika would not be allowed on a float at a 4th of July parade; neither should a Confederate flag.

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave; resisting legislation that would protect immigrants and denying science does not exemplify freedom or bravery. Indeed, no politician is perfect, and opinions will undoubtedly differ, but can’t we do better than this delegation? Yesterday’s Republican political parade cast a dark shadow over the small-town charm that was intended. The lot were not worthy to follow the footsteps of the war veterans with whom they shared the parade route – the veterans that fought for our country when the world was threatened by Fascist ideals, prejudices, and discrimination and prided itself on being welcoming to immigrants.

All of these politicians have a right to their opinions, but in a community of scientists, educators, engineers, business owners, government contractors, IT professionals, and public servants, how can we elect officials that deny science, commit domestic violence, and violate judicial ethics codes? The 2018 election is coming. Do better next year, Severna Park. Eliminate any displays of the Confederate flag at your parade. Reconsider parade themes like this year’s “The Fabulous Fifties,” a theme sentimentalizing an era fabulous only for a few. Be a town worthy of your idyllic setting and the American ideals so proudly extolled every July 4th. Elect brave politicians of great moral character and intellect who will fight for all people to freely pursue liberty and happiness, politicians worthy of parading down the middle of your streets.

Brenda Wintrode is a freelance writer from Anne Arundel County.

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