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
Editor’s note: Xpress 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.