Letter: Asheville Downtown Association should reconsider holiday parade parameters

Graphic by Lori Deaton

We in the Only One Earth Coalition were surprised to hear from the Asheville Downtown Association that our application for the 2023 Holiday Parade was denied. Having been very well-received last year, our group of 15 local peace and justice organizations had been looking forward to once again walking to bring messages calling for working together for a better world.

Last year, we had over 80 people in our contingent, including representatives of Sunrise, Veterans for Peace, BeLoved Asheville, HealthCare for All, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Land of the Sky UCC, Circle of Mercy, Reject Raytheon and the fabulous Brass Your Heart marching band. We carried a giant model of Mother Earth, gave out peace stickers and were even accompanied by Buddhist monks from the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda.

This year, we are told that we somehow violated the parade’s policy of “no politics.” In particular, three signs among all of those displayed by our diverse group were said to be against their rules:
1. Stop (W)Arming the Earth
2. Green New Deal for Asheville
3. Ho, Ho, Ho, Nukes Have Got to Go!

But the first two signs had explicitly been approved in our application, and the third was a lighter version of a message about nuclear weapons that had been submitted and approved.

It seems the parade organizers consider calling for solutions to the climate emergency, endless wars and the threat of nuclear weapons “political?” Is calling attention to the existential crises facing humanity off-limits in the season of peace on Earth?

It appears that our messaging didn’t fit into the committee’s notion of “fun community members showing their holiday spirit.” But if Only One Earth Coalition is deemed too political, then what of the corporations, big hotels and other commercial interests that sponsor the event and are prominently featured in the parade? Private commercial advertising is deemed OK, while messaging for the common good is not. And what of ROTC units that are included, despite their implicit promotion of warfare just by their uniformed presence? But promoting human survival on this planet is too “political.”

We believe that the holidays are a fitting time to highlight the efforts and messages of those working to improve and protect life on Earth. From Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, our popular culture has taken this season of giving to make us more aware of the inequities and injustices in the world. And the various sacred traditions — Christian, Jewish, Muslim and others — have always connected the season’s greetings with a call to heed the golden rule in deeds, not just words. Despite the ubiquitous commercialization of the holidays, the “reason for the season” calls us to put our faith into good works for the sake of all humanity. And the Indigenous worldview reminds us that we must live in harmony with Mother Earth or perish.

The Asheville Downtown Association should reconsider its definition of “political” and move beyond the narrow confines of having a “fun” event. It should embrace our hopes for a better future for those very children who come to the parade in such numbers. Doesn’t the public deserve to see that there are people in the community working to make those hopes a reality for our kids?

We think it is a sad commentary about those promoting and organizing this annual event that they cannot see that the groups in Only One Earth Coalition are a vital part of our Asheville community and deserve to be celebrated and raised up, not excluded.

— Ken Jones
Retired professor

Editor’s noteXpress reached out to the Asheville Downtown Association about this letter and the others in this issue about Only One Earth Coalition’s holiday parade application, but Executive Director Hayden Plemmons declined to offer a response.


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12 thoughts on “Letter: Asheville Downtown Association should reconsider holiday parade parameters

    • Susan

      No one had such banners in 2022.


  1. Curious

    Should the One Earth Coalition adopt Groucho Marx’s attitude:? “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

  2. Mike Rains

    Christmas is about a lot of things: Religious of course but in general about joy, the joy of giving, peace on earth, and I think most importantly to me: The innocence and magical thinking of childhood.

    As a society of course, we’ve totally screwed most parent’s ability to provide a real childhood for their children: Reasonably free from adult problems and cares. Still, I think it important to keep trying.

    I don’t know what else was in the past Christmas parade, but it sounds to me that the criteria of the parade committee aligns more with our children than our adults. I think that is a good thing.

    • Susan

      I guess I don’t see ROTC marches and fake missiles bigger than a car as doing much to preserve childhood innocence. Or child entertainment.

      • SpareChange

        Simple then — oppose the inclusion of those symbols or participants in the parade, rather than using them as a justification for further politicizing the event.

        • Susan

          I believe in free speech, even if I don’t like it. But I was responding to the claim that the parade is for children. Clearly it is not.

      • Mike Rains

        I would oppose ROTC and fake missles as well. Nothing Christmas about those either; just filler.
        I plan to attend

  3. Prop Joe

    Unfortunately, we’re living in a time where your message is a dangerous one. I wish that weren’t the case but it is. Nuclear deterrence is saving a lot more lives than nuclear weapons are taking. Your message fell flat over on watchdog so now you’re here whining to the public about your exclusion. Maybe ask Bill to pretend he’s Edith Vanderbilt in the next letter, that way we can at least get a chuckle out of your “creativity”.

    • indy499

      yep. There is a tiny band of old farts who spend their time writing basically the same letters over and over. I used to think they were harmless and naive. I still do and add dumb to the mix.

      • Bill Branyon

        Wouldn’t you like to be in a group of committed people like Reject Raytheon hoping to attain the noble goal of peace on Earth rather than a cynical snipers trying to squelch that hope. And one so successful that its generated protests, teach-ins, an extensive library and other things that educate Buncombe County as to what is happening to our economy for over three years of steady events.
        Whereas you I guess are a young fart, one of whose main goals in life is to be as cynical as possible towards others who have found a fervent meaning in life that hurts no one? Don’t you wish you had such a cause? Such a hopeful, genuine, transcendent goal that occupies a big part of life rather than a big part of your life being one of hounding others who have found that?
        So Reject Raytheon is successful at getting its message out and feel its worthy of repeating from many different angles. That seems to be the main part of your complaint. Reject Raytheon’s goal is to keep trying to prevent nuclear war, ever increasing and more dangerous conventional war, and hatred and anger and violence between people often promoted by an arms industry drooling to make a few dollars more.
        But if it makes you feel better, then have at it. At least you’re only writing it instead of building weapons to promote it. I congratulate you for that. Nevertheless, you’re swallowing the propaganda of the Military Industrial Complex makes you a part of the war making machinery. Should war come to the US mainland, or nuclear war come to the world, you can congratulate yourself on accomplishing your goal of making war an accepted part of human society.

    • Susan

      I don’t believe nuclear weapons, even if never used, save any lives. We have people dying every day from lack of healthcare here in the USA, and we certainly have the money to address that – but instead we spend it on weapons that we can NEVER use.

      If we were to use them, or even half of them, we would end nearly all life on earth.

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