Don't exclude people from the Lobster Festival parade

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | May 10, 2018

The Maine Lobster Festival Board should not have voted to ban all political organizations and candidates from the festival parade.

While the festival organization may be a private nonprofit, it operates a community event and the parade marches down this community's streets. This is a public happening, and the First Amendment still protects free speech in this community. Banning any kind of political group from the event runs contrary to those values.

There seems to be an idea that politicians and organizations are "them," but in a government of the people, by the people, for the people, they represent "us." Tim Carroll, who is running for sheriff, isn't some career politician. He has been keeping people safe in our community for years and he served as president of the Maine Lobster Festival. Why shouldn't he walk with pride in the parade and wave to his friends and neighbors?

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is from North Haven. We don't want to see her march and wave to people?

Do the county Republicans and Democrats marching not represent hundreds who will be lining the sides of the street?

What are we afraid of here, that we will hear a viewpoint contrary to our own? There is nothing wrong with hearing differing viewpoints or having one's views challenged. Reasoned debate, and sometimes even messy emotional debate, allow us to consider the issues from multiple angles. If we remain steadfast in our views, the debate helped us polish our arguments and clarify our perspective. If our hearts are won over, the other side must have presented a stronger position.

Jane Karker said something we agree with in a comment on the story online: "In some ways seeing my neighbors from the other side of the political aisle walk down the street waving brings me a feeling of unity, not devisiveness."

The parade organizers have trotted out some lame corporate-speak to try to justify this censorship, saying:

"The Maine Lobster Festival Parade is a non-partisan, secular and neutral private event which celebrates our community, our people and our lobsters. Because of this, we will no longer be accepting political applications. We anticipate and appreciate your respect of this policy."

What part of a parade fits the definition of "private"?

Aside from that, the people who harvest, sell and buy lobsters in this community also vote, run for office and attend local houses of worship. Decisions that affect this industry come before state, local and national lawmakers, and having them take part in the parade and festival increases their visibility in the community and their accessibility.

Since November 2016, many of us have had an argument with a friend or family member that has gotten out of hand, but we cannot let that discomfort discourage us from all political activity.

All the time we hear from local Rockland people that they fear gentrification and "losing our edge." A watered-down, safe, vanilla, politically correct parade does not represent the tough working waterfront town that this is and always has been.

So let's roll back the censorship and celebrate the real Rockland.

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