by Barry Friedman
For the love of the baby Jesus, can we just have a parade?
(First Appeared in The Tulsa Voice)
When last we left Jesus, in the July 2 edition of this column, he was campaigning for two GOP senatorial candidates.
Now he’s back on a parade float where some think he belongs.
Which brings us to “The American Waste Control Tulsa Christmas Parade,” the latest moniker for the downtown parade that happens every second Saturday of December, which has had more names of late than Albertsons.
Not that I’m not glad a sponsor has stepped up so downtown can have its parade, but for the love of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, did no one anticipate the comedy buffet of a holiday parade named for a refuse hauler?
When the “Downtown Parade of Lights” replaced the “Tulsa Christmas Parade” in 2009, all hell broke loose.
Removing “Christmas” from the title was like removing emcee Bob Barker from the Miss America Pageant. It was changed, clearly, to reflect Tulsa’s diversity, but that inclusivity chafed those who felt that, without Jesus, standing in a Best Buy parking lot at 5 a.m. on Black Friday would be a Godless experience.
A group led by Mark Croucher, president of the W.H.Y. Insurance Agency in Jenks and former candidate for Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner and state senate, decided to have its own parade at the Tulsa Hills Shopping Center, called the “Tulsa Christmas Parade,” or as I thought of it, “No Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Taoists, Heathens Parade.”
Consequently, for a few years now, Tulsa has had two parades, and this isn’t the first time I’ve written about them—in fact, Tulsa’s parade debacle was the topic of my inaugural column in The Tulsa Voice . Apparently, like a dental checkup—and just as enjoyable—I am destined to write about it every six months or so.
Last year, downtown organizers offered to rename their shindig “The Tulsa Downtown Parade of Lights: A Celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah and Other Holidays,” theoretically in hopes that Croucher would fold his “Tulsa Christmas Parade” and stop pouting.
Which brings us back, again, to the “American Waste Control Tulsa Christmas Parade.” John McFarland, chairman of the non-profit Tulsa Events Group, LLC, producers of the new event, said at Tulsa Press Club last month that “Christmas” was added back into the name to bring both parades under one roof.
But Croucher said, “We have never agreed to merge nor have we ever been asked for a meeting to discuss the possibility of a merger.”
Coincidentally, McFarland, who was part of the group that founded the parade out South, which included Croucher, Eddie Huff, and 1170 KFAQ, admitted he had no direct communication with his former partner regarding the latest downtown-parade name change.
Huh? Wouldn’t that be the first call you make?
“He’s welcome to do his parade,” McFarland said. “Anyone can start a Christmas parade in Tulsa if they want. We can have 50 parades.
“But our hope and goal is for this to become the main one,” he said.
Why is this a thing, anyway? These two are behaving like 8-year-olds fighting over the last LEGO Star Wars Death Star on the shelf.
Imagine the TV spot, with one of Santa’s helpers pointing at the screen: “’The American Waste Control Tulsa Christmas Parade’ wants to be your Christmas parade.”
It’s not just a name in a parade. It’s Oklahoma’s attempt to change its motto from “Labor Omnia vincit (“Labor Conquers All Things”) to “In God We Trust,” and allowing a Ten Commandments statue to be placed smack dab in front of the seat of government. It’s prayers being allowed at the beginning of city-council meetings. It’s GOP senatorial candidates talking of God coming to them with job openings. It’s Creationism in the public-school curriculum. It’s an arts-and-crafts store using its corporate faith to deny women reproductive freedom.
Some in Oklahoma want Christianity to be the default religion here. All faiths, they’ll insist, are welcome. But in their America, Christians get to pre-board and sit in First Class, while the rest of us are herded into coach. It’s incremental, so it’s easy enough to deny and dismiss those who take offense as snarky, paranoid, Godless liberals.
The point here: we already have one “Christmas” parade.
I said it in the pages of this publication seven months ago, and I’ll say it again: we’re not all Christian, nor want to be. The downtown event, by contrast, should give the rest of us—after all, it still has “Tulsa” in the name—a chance to enjoy a parade without the notion that floats, reindeer, and peppermint bark have anything to do with a virgin birth. This compromise—this capitulation, really—is unnecessary, a waste.