Another Voice: Hateful flag was unwanted but parade remains a joyous event

FLAGS of the United States of America, flown by Radio Tierra, in the July 4 parade, just ahead of the  unauthorized Confederate flag.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
FLAGS of the United States of America, flown by Radio Tierra, in the July 4 parade, just ahead of the unauthorized Confederate flag.

First, and most profoundly, on behalf of the Hood River Lions Club I want to apologize to our community for the unauthorized entry displaying a confederate flag that sullied our Fourth of July parade.

Yes, “our parade.” For nearly 20 years, the Hood River Lions Club has organized, insured, and staffed the parade. As club president, I needed facts from our volunteers on the ground about what happened. During our debrief this week, I learned that several club members had engaged the offending party at the registration point on Eighth Avenue.

He was asked if he intended to take part in the parade, to which he responded, “No, I’m just going to my apartment.”

Clearly, this was not his intent. With just over a dozen club volunteers, we had insufficient numbers along the parade route to stop this person from slipping into the lineup.

So, I am sorry. We are sorry for parade watchers and other entrants who were subjected to this hateful expression. This person’s right to express such views, though potentially protected under the First Amendment, does not extend to the venue of the Hood River Lions’ Fourth of July parade.

For our club – and our community – this is one of the most joyous events of the year. Loads of goofy entries, laughter, kids on bikes, and people dressed as bees.

Unfortunately, a few members of our community chose to use it as a platform to advance hateful views and incite division. In the aftermath, others concluded that it was something we “allowed” and rebuked our club on various social media platforms.

Anyone who knows the Lions Club and its efforts to serve the greater good of the entire community – black, white, female, male, Latino, vegan, paleo, young or old – knows that we don’t discriminate. We serve …

We serve, together in common purpose “to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding” (Lions’ Mission Statement).

Through our volunteer labors, we support screening of the county’s school children for sight and hearing disorders, STEM endeavors in the schools, scouting and the FISH food bank, among many other worthy efforts.

We don’t support the confederate flag nor what it represents. At each meeting, we unite our voices in the pledge of allegiance and a call for spiritual guidance to continue in service of others less fortunate than us.

The Fourth of July is a celebration of the UNITED States of America, a celebration of patriotism, love of country and love of each other. The confederate flag led secessionists against the United States in a Civil War that claimed more than 600,000 lives in bringing an end to slavery.

Still, some continue to embrace it as a symbol of white supremacy and hatred. On behalf of our club, I want to be clear ... we do not and did not condone the displaying of the confederate flag in our Fourth of July Parade. It does not represent the views or values of our club.

If any lesson can be drawn from this incident, it is that we, as a club, need to tighten up our registration processes. We need more parade oversight, too, and are working with members of the community to develop policy to prevent this from happening again.

And lastly, please remember that there is still a lot of good in the world before assuming the worst. Opinions are not facts. I hope this note has added a few facts to some of the heated rhetoric.

Kristin Reese of Hood River is president of Hood River Lions.

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