On Civility, Partisanship, and a Parade

I had the privilege of walking in a Independence Day parade yesterday.

Let me say that again: an Independence Day parade. July 4th. America’s birthday. A celebration of patriotism.

Out of all the days of the year to come together and celebrate our country and our freedoms, this seems to be the one.

But, unfortunately, many people along the parade route didn’t seem to think that way.

I remember not too many years ago when many of our citizens were attacked as unpatriotic for daring to suggest, in well written editorials and opinion pieces and through examining the facts and consequences, that perhaps we as a country should not go to war. This notion was dismissed as un-American. Our President is to be respected in times of war was the mantra. If you don’t then you aren’t a true American.

Fast forward to July 4, 2012. We are still a nation at war.

But it seems that these same people that were not so long ago attacking people as un-American for questioning a President’s POLICY decision are now willing to accept as perfectly American booing a sitting war time President on July 4th during a parade. And encouraging their children to do so. And throwing things!

To relate a particular incident: A child, I would guess 12 or 13 years old, decided that he hated the President so much that he sprayed silly string in the face of one of his supporters as he marched by. Want to guess his dad’s reaction?

Explaining that attacking parade marchers is inappropriate? No.

Explaining that our President deserves respect? No.

Explaining that assaulting anyone is criminal? No.

The reaction: A big hearty high five.

When I suggested that this behavior was inappropriate the dad tried to physically intimidate me and shout me down.

Are we really so partisan that we think the other half of the country is not even deserving of civil behavior? Of being able to march in a parade without being attacked? Of treating our war-time Commander in Chief with boos and disdain?

What happened to civil discussion of issues? Debates and compromise on the best policies to help Americans? Remembering that we are all people deserving of respect and kindness?

Instead, people of the other Party are dismissed as evil and not even worthy of being able to march in a July 4th parade supporting our President.

That doesn’t seem very American to me.


  1. Leonard, Thanks for marching with us yesterday and thanks for the beautifully written message above. What a shame that a child is being taught to be rude and offensive.

    Thank you again for being true to your integrity.


  2. Thanks, Leonard, for this article. It is all about race. Whatever code words they use, they just can’t stand it that one of the people their great grand pappy would have kept in chains now sits in the White House.

    • @Judith…. Please. Silly string is now a racial issue? Talk about making mountains out of mole hills. The truth is the kid was being a kid, th father should have disciplined him, the BOE Chairman should not have reacted…l nothing racial about any of that. Please.

  3. Hi Leonard,

    I am sorry to hear this happened, but I am not surprised. Coming from another country, living in the North for 9 years, and then ending up in this part of the US, I feel we are hardly amongst the enlightened here. I know that is a generalization, but it seems to fit very well.

    By the way, in spite of all that has been happening recently, I fully believe your appointment to the FCBOE is the best thing that has happened in the time I have been here.


  4. Leonard, as you are aware of this Libor thing is very complex.I have a FB friend that is an attorny,that first brought it to attention. This was last week. Things have accelorated since then. At first Dimond was only going to give up he bonus. [;-) NOT! Now they are saying that It is going to be huge , bigger than our own scandal. Elliot Spitzer has a show on Current TV that really explained it in terms that even I can understand. He is going to do a follow up tonight. Last night He has Matt Tiabi of Rolling Stone. A super sharp guy. When are we going to give it up and admit that greedy bankers have been the cause of most every recession we have ever had. Regulations!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. I marched in the parade and could not have been more proud to represent President Obama. He has done so much for this country. President Obama needs our help in order to ensure his re-election bid. It is up to us to carry the banner. He can not do it alone. It was so sad to see the anger and hear the boos from so many mis-informed people in PTC.

    • Sherry, plenty of us disagree with the President because we simply do not like his policies. So many comments here have devolved into racial “speak” when in fact everyone I know how disagrees with President Obama don’t even consider his race. We consider his lack of Executive experience, his movement toward a European economy, his billions wasted on “creating” taxpayer paid jobs instead of removing obstacles for private business to again thrive. Alll this over so,e silly string. I am glad I was out of town for the 4th. This whole thing is ridiculous and SIMPLY NOT A RACIAL ISSUE.

  6. Unfortunately there are many bigots so full of hate in this world it almost makes you want to scream. Don’t let those hateful voices drown out the good in the world. It’s really sad that they have to stoop to such dishonorable displays to make an empty point. It says more about them than it does the president. I am proud to have shook your hand in support as you marched by. Keep it up, Leonard.

  7. I’m very disappointed to hear this. Though I’m not a fan of Obama at all, mainly because I believe his policies and politics have further divided this country by promoting class warfare issues, I believe that regardless of our politics, the continuing failures of this country lie at the feet of those who do not parent their children, wether through inaction as parents or through dispicible acts such as this. Regardless of our politics, respect of one another should be paramount.

  8. Leonard,

    First of all, I would like to thank you for all that you have done and are continuing to do for our countyand community. And we really appreciate you participating in the 4th of July parade with us. Yes, it was disappointing and a disgrace to see adults display such bigotry and supporting their children misbehavior, but I’m not worried, because through history, it has been proven that such behavior suffer consequences and history repeats itself over and over again. I’ve been a resident of PTC for 27 years and have never experience such behavior, but braving through the civil rights era and desegregation, I’m not surprised.

  9. Mr. Presberg,

    I witnessed the “silly string” parade incident along with dozens of others, and we could not believe our eyes when we saw you coming across the street at that little boy on the curb. Several of us that saw you go toward the crowd were surprised by your reaction to the boy’s silly string, and when I heard you were blogging it, I felt compelled to check it out. After reading your story, I have to say that you grossly misrepresented the incident as several of us saw it. You appear to be someone that won’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

    First, let me say that none of us saw the boy shoot anyone from your group in the face as you state, and silly string certainly doesn’t equate to an assault or an attack. In fact, we saw that boy shoot the silly string at the Boy Scouts and the baseball team without any of them charging into the crowd. Everybody laughed and no one got their feelings hurt. By your reasoning, the silly stringing child must also hate the Boy Scouts and baseball.

    And for you to berate the boy’s father is also surprising. If I saw a strange man coming after my son, I would step in front of the stranger also. He didn’t know what your intentions were. None of us did. All he did was shield his son from you aggressively coming at him from across the street. We also heard the man tell you several times to “get away and move on” and yet you stayed within inches of his face. And when you finally took your face away, there was no high five from the concerned father as you stated in the blog. I completely disagree with you on who was trying to intimidate who. Again, that was you that came from across the street at the boy and got within inches of the man’s face as he stood on the curb. You criticized the man for not setting a good example for his children, yet he was the one the demonstrated self-control in a threatening situation that could have become physical. Whereas, you reacted to a child spraying silly string as if it were an attempt on President Obama’s life. Where was your self-control and good judgment? It is too bad that your own children or the children in your Post didn’t see your actions in that moment of you trying to intimidate a child after a benign act. I am sure they would have been proud. It was priceless to the dozens that saw it.

    Now all this business about partisan politics. Did you really think that the Peachtree City crowds were going to applaud your group? Did you really think that the crowd would see President Obama as a symbol of American greatness? I think not, and you marched with a chip on your shoulder. Because it sure looked like it when you got in the man’s face. That’s like Newt Gingrich doing a rally in San Francisco and expecting a love fest from the cross-dressers. And like an anti-Newt crowd in SF, the people in PTC have a right to peacefully express their feelings toward you and your candidate without being called “racists, bigots, and unenlightened”. You claim to be a “free-thinker”, but your actions illustrated your true nature. It is a typical struggle for those on the Left to understand that opposition to their agenda can be motivated by something other than hate and bigotry. The ignorant comments to your blog by those who did not see your actions are proof of that. Accept the fact that many who disagree with your politics are not stupid and most that disagree with this President are not racist.

    I can understand why you are now trying to lie about this incident- crisis management. Too many people saw you acting stupid. Picking on a child. Trying to garner support from people who didn’t see the incident. We all saw what happened (and what didn’t happen), Mr. Presberg. Are you man enough to face the facts? Stop trying to blame someone else for this incident.

    • I appreciate the comments Angela. It’s always good to get a outside perspective of something you were involved in.

      There is no doubt in my mind that what I witnessed (and you apparently did not) was very different than any playful spraying of silly string that may have occurred with other parade groups. A parade walker who was not looking in that direction was sprayed in the face. The reaction of the sprayer, the sprayee, and of the sprayer’s father left no doubt in my mind that this was an attack, not playful fun. This was confirmed by me when I spoke with the victim the next day.

      After witnessing the incident I crossed to the street to say “Hey, that was rude and not cool” to the kid who did the spraying. I find it disturbing that you saw my actions as hostile because I certainly did not intend them to be. I feel like as a member of the community, an educator, a parent, and a holder of an elected office, when a child acts so inappropriately, it is my duty to point it out in as friendly a manner as I can. I never attacked or picked on the child. I never yelled at him. I barely got the beginning of a sentence out of my mouth when the dad became extremely agressive and got right in my face.

      I honestly was scared of being physically attacked at that point. Should I have left the confrontation sooner? Probably. But after the verbal and physical attacks that our group received throughout the parade prior to that point I perhaps made a poor choice to continue speaking with the father for as long as I did. The combination of being so upset at the hatred directed upon our group, at being hit by thrown objects, and at being tired and hot in the 100 degree heat, caused me to prolong the confrontation. I tell my children that you really have to remember to count to 10 and not deal with upsetting issues until you have emotionally calmed down. I, unfortunately, forgot this rule in the heat of the moment. I hope to use this as another learning experience so I don’t again give off an impression that was not intended. My intention was to be educational, not confrontational.

      I was, honestly, disappointed with how rudely a sitting president was treated during a July 4th parade. And I certainly know that most people in PTC will not be voting to reelect our President. But I never referred to the crowd as “racists” or “bigots.” I never tell people who don’t agree with me that they’re stupid. I always try my hardest to get along with everyone. I have many friends and supporters who do not see eye-to-eye with me on many (most?) political issues.

      And that, I think is my point. We have reached a point where we all feel that when someone disagrees with us politically that we are being attacked. Our defenses go up, we cease to listen, and we act poorly. We think that it’s OK to attack people who think differently. We think its OK to call people names. We think its OK to mischaracterize the other side’s arguments so we can discount them. We think it’s OK to call people liars when really all they have is a different perspective.

      I don’t think it’s OK to do that. And the consequences for our community, our country, our democracy, and our planet are dire when we demonize the other side.

      If, for a time during the parade I forgot this, I sincerely apologize.

      • Mr. Presberg,
        You refer to yourself as an elected official. When exactly were you elected? Please do no
        t say the BOE elected you; they voted to appoint you. I am looking forward to the day I have the opportunity to vote for you…or NOT!!
        M. Guesterman

        • Sorry for the confusion – I was referring to the office, but I have corrected the language to be more precise. Thanks for reading.


  10. Interesting Roshomon…

    Angela, a grammatical observation: Primarily quotation marks “are punctuation marks surrounding a quotation, direct speech, or a literal title or name” (Wikipedia). While you quoted Mr. Presburg, “racists, bigots, and unenlightened”, I didn’t actually read this phrase in his post above. Did I miss it? Where did you see this phrase?

    I substantially discount the veracity of individuals that are not able to read 405 words, then, provide an accurate account.

    So maybe, in this case, after all, one narrative is true and the other is not.

    • Ok, this really is devolving into the absurd. Really, you have to take someone to task over inappropriate quotation marks? My guess is everyone understood the point.

  11. I am 16 years old and even i know that fighting back and forth ONLINE like this is childish.

  12. Leonard,

    As you and others who participated with you in the PTC July 4th parade found out, there is a lot of hatred for our president in Fayette County. Some have forgotten that on the night he was elected two historically Afro-American churches were shot-up, to date, no arrests have been made. Please do not forget that we live in the South, and Georgia is a solid red state. I know that you and your fellow marchers felt like gladiators in a Roman arena.

    Thanks for your effort. Continue to be “Fired Up and Ready to Go”


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