4.3 min readBy Published On: March 19th, 2014Categories: News9 Comments

Amid much controversy the annual St. Patrick’s/Evacuation Day Parade went forward on Sunday with revelers lining the streets and for those in attendance, at least while the procession lasted, the usual sense of mirth hung in the air.

With the event now in the rearview, perhaps we have time for reflection about the how poorly the last several weeks have been handled and ask ourselves, have we learned anything from all the foolishness, name calling and exchanges of incrimination?

There is plenty of blame to go around both on the part of Mass Equality and on the Allied War Veteran’s Council and both are guilty of behaving badly. However from all the back and forth some strands of truth emerged that need to form the basis of the discussion going forward.

First we have to be honest and the main reasons the AWVC and their apologists cite as to why gay groups shouldn’t be allowed to march in the parade is
pretty thin.
The first is usually “this is a family event.”  It’s clear that if this were the case the creation of “family zones” would never have been necessary.  Reckless consumption of alcohol, fights, open containers and public intoxication mark the day.  I know not everybody partakes in this manner but these are dominant aspects of every parade and are not something most of us would consider family oriented.

The second reason is usually, “this parade is about Irish heritage.” This is true, sort of.  There is a sea of green, lots of catholic marching bands, a float with Saint Patrick and numerous bagpipe companies to be sure. But what’s Irish about Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers or the Shen Yun Chinese dancers or any number of other floats that participate in the parade? There’s nothing wrong with these participants and I’m happy to see them marching down the street but they demonstrate that “being Irish” is not a prerequisite for participation.

We have to also recognize that the parade isn’t just a St. Patrick’s Day parade but also commemorates Evacuation Day, which is a significant part of our local history and imbues the day with an appreciation of our veterans as well.  Veterans organize the parade and march in the parade, as do historical re-enactors dressed as Minute Men and ROTC groups. It’s not clear to me why a gay veterans group could not march.  Could a gay Irish group march?  Coulda group comprised of gay, Irish veterans?  It would seem that any of the above would be germane to the spirit of the parade.

Gay groups have been allowed to March in St. Patrick’s Day parades in Chicago and, of all places, in Dublin.  Why not Boston?  Wacko Hurley stated
it plainly in a recent Boston Herald interview. Gay groups cannot march in the Boston parade because, “I said so.”  I do not know Mr. Hurley and therefore refrain from calling him a bigot (unlike many others who also do not know him but unfairly presume to do so).  I do object however to Mr. Hurley and other members of the AWVC playing the part of a self proclaimed
moral arbiters on this subject and unlike others who have written to Caught in Southie and tried to glorify the AWVC “standing their ground” would ask that the parade organizers put their egos aside and do what’s best for the parade.  Stubbornness in defense of a bad cause is not a virtue and
failing to change along a changing world results in obsolescence and eventually extinction.

Coming out of the closet is a terribly difficult thing for many gay men and women.  And the stipulation that if a gay group wanted to march they had to effectively go back into the closet and hide that part of their identity should have been recognized as grossly insulting and a non-starter as a
negotiating position.  The AWVC has every right to be selective of the gay groups it lets into the parade, it can ban chaps and leather whips if
that’s what it (incorrectly) imagines a gay group would try to import into the parade.
 But most of all it needs to recognize that things have reached a tipping point where the real price of exclusion far exceeds any hypothetical damage they think might result from inclusion.

Civic leaders boycotting the parade, sponsors pulling out at the last minute, negative national headlines, the endless, mind numbing stupidity of comments to be found all over the internet in support of both sides of the issue all led to a particularly joyless atmosphere surrounding the run up to parade day with feelings of anticipation largely being replaced by a desire to just have it done with already.  The parade is supposed to be a celebration for an entire community and this year’s controversy sapped it of much of that
aura.
 We need to recapture those positive feelings.  The parade needs to again be something we look forward to and not dread. That starts by letting it be a great day for the Irish and for everyone else as well.

Sincerely,

Sean P. McNeill

9 Comments

  1. Joseph March 19, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    So this whole letter slams our veterans but never once mentions the lies and deciet used by Mass Equality. You start off saying  that it was mishandled by both sides, your opinion, then list why only the veterans” misbehaved”. The bottom line to all of this is that The Allied Veteran’s Council DID allow gays to march.  It was the decietful radicals from Mass Equality that were banned. For this they should be praised and supported as they continue to hold firm and do so next year and beyond as well. 

  2. Alex OC March 19, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Well said. The parade should be fun and include everyone. period.

  3. Anonymous March 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    This particular parade is organized and run by a private group. I don’t think it is anybody’s place to say what the parade “needs to be” – that is for the organizers of the parade to decide. Imposing your own view on what something “must look like” flies in the face (in my opinion) of every virtue the gay community has said they stand for. If this parade isn’t what you think it should be, simply don’t partake in it. There are parades all over the country for this that and the other–causes and special interests that run the spectrum of beliefs, lifestyles and literally everything under the sun. This country allows for people to express what they want to and also what they do NOT want to in a private parade. Even if you think it is ‘the bigot parade” (which it is certainly not) they still have the right to run the parade as they see fit.  If this one doesn’t pass muster for you-then you should organize one yourself and run it the way you would like. 

  4. Kevin Conroy March 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Mr. McNeill’s letter struck me as another lecture to anyone who would question or oppose the allownace of openly gay groups to march in the parade for the sole reason of proclaiming the sexual preferences.  The whole contrived controversy was something that could’ve been avoided easily.  All Mass Equality, et. al. had to do was agree to obey and observe the same rules every other contingent did. This was something the media in the area totally lgnored.

    I agree with his statements regarding the behavior of people whose only reason for coming into our neighborhood is to drink themselves silly.  Somehow this is used by people and the media to define South Boston.  

    When this subject reoccurs next year, please remember that there are a set of rules for participants.  Those who choose to aide by them will march.  Those who don’t, don’t.

  5. Anonymous March 19, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Congratulation, Mr. McNeill.  This is the best writing and most sound reasoning I’ve seen anywhere on this subject.  Can I nominate you for Parade Marshall next year?

    I can only hope that “the powers that be” in South Boston are listening and taking notes.  If not, further denigration of the South Boston, Boston and Irish-American brands can be expected.

  6. Anonymous March 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Saying the letter “slams” vets is a stretch, the writer pretty clearly goes out of his way to avoid insults.  Saying somebody is wrong isn’t the same thing as slamming them…

  7. Slippy March 19, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    I don’t know you, but I’m comfortable stating that you don’t know what you are talking about. There were at least two “gay” groups marching in the parade and numerous “gay” people watching the parade. Also, the disrespect for Veterans by you, and the numerous posts and stories on this site disgusts me. Why don’t you write a letter about the lack of “gay” groups in the Scituate St Patrick’s parade?

  8. A parade watcher March 19, 2014 at 9:41 pm
    How ’bout if we leave declarations of sexuality where they belong…in the bedroom. I don’t care who you sleep with…do it in the privacy of your own space. I’m not standing along the parade route wearing a sign that says “I’m heterosexual and proud.” Why do we have to have someone’s sexuality announced publicly?
  9. Mikey March 20, 2014 at 4:30 pm
    “I do object however to Mr. Hurley and other members of the AWVC playing the part of a self proclaimed.”

    I object to them too. I could understand why they wouldn’t allow my NAMBLA float because that’s only “North American”, (wink wink..,) but then, despite my offer of a huge donation, they hung up on me when I suggested representing Ireland’s neutral status in WW2 that would include some representative WW2 uniforms of the Brits … and the Third Reich, (both wearing some green of course!). Insensitive bigots – that’s what they are!

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