I live in a little town called “Scaggsville.” I know what you’re thinking. But really, it’s a great town, nestled in the Patuxent Valley—in the last sliver of green between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md.
Our little neighborhood has put together its own July 4 parade for the last few years. So on the fourth at 11 a.m., my wife and I will walk down the street with folding chairs to the parade route. We’ll sit on the sidewalk under a shady oak as a few dozen kids come riding by on their bikes, decorated with streamers and such. We’ll cheer and clap and laugh with our neighbors, ooo-ing and aaah-ing as if it were the Rose Bowl Parade or Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade or something big and special. Because for us it is.
There will probably be a couple of fire trucks and a couple of pickups—one of which may, if we’re lucky, contain some kids putting their music lessons to good use playing patriotic songs. I think we had a unicyclist last year, and one year somebody rode a horse, which was really exciting to see. Lots of people will have flags and some will evoke Mardi Gras by throwing candy to us spectators—who number, by the way, slightly fewer than the marchers because it’s a small neighborhood and its so much fun to march.
There will probably be a few stray dogs barking and running rampant, plus other dogs on leashes. You really have your choice in this parade—you can be a spectator or join in at any time. The local sub shop (best in the world in my opinion) will give a prize to the house with the best decorated mailbox … or maybe it will be for the best parade-participant, or both, I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter really: the whole thing is a delight, the closest a lot of us will ever feel to a small town parade.
I think I’ll especially enjoy this year’s parade because like a lot of people, I’ve been pretty disappointed by what’s on the news lately. If you haven’t noticed, our government can’t seem to get much good done these days, whatever the party, whatever the binary leanings. The whole big top-down system feels like it’s reached that moment in the Wizard of Oz when little Toto misbehaves and inadvertently blows the wizard’s cover.
Our little neighborhood parade feels more like Dorothy and her ragtag companions, kind of clueless but completely sincere. Our parade represents bottom-up democracy … people coming together in a neighborhood to do something simply because it’s good for the kids and therefore good for us all. Shoot, I might even pump up the tires in my old bike, and if I wave a flag, it will be first and foremost to celebrate Scaggsville-style people-power. God bless America, and God bless all the neighborhoods that, like Scaggsville, know how to pull together for the common good—including the common good of good times.
Brian McLaren (brianmclaren.net) serves as board chair for Sojourners/Call to Renewal. His next book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, will be released in October.