Is the Rose Parade more fun than the First Amendment?
Falun Gong practitioners and assorted human rights activists plan to protest tomorrow's Rose Parade over the inclusion of a Chinese-themed float celebrating the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
They don't like that China sometimes tortures and kills its dissidents.
Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard claims protesters have unfairly singled out the float (and him) for their ire given the complex nature of international relations.
The float, which shows a cuddlier, cuter side of China, will be seen on television sets around the globe - including TVs in China, thanks to recent deals made by parade organizers.
But don't worry, Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian promises politics won't spoil the fun.
“There are a lot of groups who think that this is their moment to get on television. That's simply not going to happen," he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I hate to see something that is a fun, family event that's turning 119 years old go this way. It was never intended to be political theater. But there are people who seem to want to turn it into that.”
Better not let the White Coats catch you exercising your conscience.
Here's what Melekian told the Pasadena Star-News earlier this month: "The only people who have First Amendment rights along the route are the Tournament of Roses."
I guess habeas corpus must be Latin for hibiscus.
But can we really blame Bogaard and Melekian? They are caught up defending a tradition that's built on illusion. The Rose Parade started out as pure boosterism - a rolling advertisement for bountiful Southern California draped in flowers and punctuated by marching bands. It hasn't changed much.
Indeed, I think it's a perfect vehicle for a totalitarian government looking to put its best face forward - nevermind the torture, look at these cute characters!
And it's also ripe for political theater.
Something for everyone.