Editor: My family moved to Leesburg in 1984 when I was seven. With a few brief exceptions, I’ve lived here my entire life and am now raising two children in the Exeter community, barely a 15-minute walk from downtown Leesburg. We’ll be making that walk in just a few short days to attend the Halloween Parade, and I’ll be doing it with a pit in my stomach that started forming weeks ago when I realized how short a span separated that tradition from the upcoming midterm elections.
I’ve attended and participated in that parade countless times over the years, as a kid collecting candy, on a float sponsored by my Little League baseball team or Loudoun County High School clubs, and now as a parent. That said, I never enjoyed it less than in 2016 when the first half of the parade was a celebration of the shared underpinnings of our community and the second half was an endless string of political aspirants doing their best to drive us apart.
There’s no denying that our political landscape has changed. I’m uninterested in taking sides other than to point out the obvious; that our affiliations are no longer about the merits of our positions, but instead about the reasons why opposing positions do not deserve to be considered. This dynamic was present under the surface as the various red and blue floats made their way down King Street two years ago, and the thought of how the drastic degradation of our political discourse will manifest itself this year is thoroughly, utterly depressing.
I wrote to the Kiwanis Club the other day. I was wondering what the parade would look like this year, if, maybe, anyone shared my concerns and thought to keep the focus on what this tradition was supposed to be about. I was informed that while they were reiterating to entrants that they were to decorate in a Halloween theme and pass out candy, anyone who wished to participate in the parade must be allowed. I understand their position. I just know what will come of it and wish something could be done.
Sadly, I have no solutions to suggest. I suspect, given our state of polarization, that any efforts to depoliticize the parade would be viewed by one side or the other as an effort to silence opposing voices. It is, however, ridiculous that our political climate has so saturated our daily lives that it would be unthinkable to hold this one, tiny moment sacred. I believe that there remain things that unite us. I’ve grown up with people who love this town, people who share in its prosperity. When we bring our toddlers the children’s reading room at the Rust Library on Tuesday mornings we don’t take turns shouting at the librarian to read Chelsea Clinton’s or Glen Beck’s kid lit. I don’t understand why an event we have staged for the children of Leesburg for the past 62 years can’t be held to the same standards.
Jason Slepetz Purdy, Leesburg