This slogan from a Pride event sign reminded me of an old Andy Rooney commentary in which he really summed up the problem with the country’s culture warriors. “I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong,”Rooney said, “but I do know who I’d rather invite over to dinner.”
I thought about Rooney’s observation yesterday, when I attended Indianapolis’ Gay Rights Parade. It was a huge affair–a far cry from the very first one, which I also attended, and which consisted of perhaps six floats and an audience of a few hundred. Over the years, the parade and audience have grown dramatically, and yesterday there were thousands of people cheering what seemed like hundreds of floats.
What struck me about the crowd–both those marching, and those crowded onto the sidewalks lining the route–was its diversity and good humor. There were young people and old, black and white, gay and straight. There were parents pushing strollers and people sporting tattoos, buttoned-down preppies and female impersonators. I saw colleagues from the University and waiters from local watering holes. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.
In a pleasant departure from previous years, the grumpy culture warriors didn’t send representatives with signs warning of eternal damnation (at least I didn’t see any), but they had issued their usual dark warnings about moral depravity and the End of Western Civilization as We Know It, accompanied by sour descriptions of the “debauchery” sure to be on display in what they characterized as a celebration of “deviance” and sin.
As usual, they were wrong. What was actually being celebrated was love, inclusion and human equality.
From the elderly Veterans for Equal Rights, to the numerous churches participating (this year, I think the United Methodists and the Episcopalians outnumbered the Unitarians, and there were at least two United Church of Christ congregations represented), to the banks and businesses and neighborhood associations, the message was clear: we value all our fellow citizens.
All three political parties were represented. Indianapolis Mayor Ballard, a Republican, was Grand Marshall. Joe Hogsett, the Democratic candidate for Mayor, walked with a large group of supporters, and Chuck Brewer, his Republican opponent, had a contingent. Bill Levin, who recently established the “Church of Cannabis,” rode atop the Libertarian Party’s large float, and a number of other politicians–from City-County Council candidates to Congressman Andre Carson–were prominent.
The impressive list of parade participants aside, it was a grand party. Everywhere I looked, people were smiling, hugging, cheering…just having a great time on a sunny day with lots of other people who had come to support their neighbors and friends and to promote lovingkindness and civil equality.
Given a choice between the judgmental scolds thundering about (their constipated version of ) Godliness and Righteousness, and the people at the parade, I think I know who most of us would prefer to invite to dinner.