I’ve got a question for organizers of the Maine Lobster Festival parade, who announced last week that all things political will forthwith be banned from their annual procession down Rockland’s Main Street.

Was it something someone said?

And if so, who, what, when, where and, most of all, why?

“The Maine Lobster Festival Parade is a non-partisan, secular and neutral private event which celebrates our community, our people and our lobsters,” reads the parade’s newly revised application form. “Because of this, we will no longer be accepting political applications.”

Exactly what prompted this new policy is about as clear as a cup of clam chowder.

Cynthia Powell, president of the festival board, told The Courier-Gazette’s Stephen Betts only that some participants in “The Big Parade” didn’t want to march near – or in any way be associated with – various political groups elsewhere in the parade.

“We want to celebrate the lobster industry, celebrate the community and not necessarily make a political statement,” Powell said.

Translation: If you think those boiled lobsters are hot, try taking the temperature of our body politic these days.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, researchers at Baylor University found that nearly one in five of the 438 people they surveyed “were experiencing high politically focused intrusive thoughts and associated ritualistic behaviors” since the 2016 election.

“Many of the participants reported that they were repeatedly checking news sites and social media for political updates,” reported Eric Storch, professor and head of psychology in Baylor’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “And they were concerned about terrible things happening to the U.S. given the politics.”

They’re not the only ones. Whether you lean left, right or plant yourself firmly in the middle, your button has undoubtedly been pushed by someone across the Great Political Divide in the last year, month, week, day … maybe even minute.

The question is, what should we do about it? And at the same time, what shouldn’t we do?

Turn off the smartphone once in a while?

Good idea.

Watch less TV?

Even better.

Talk about the Red Sox?

Bring it on, Yankees fans.

But ban any and all politicians – the good the bad and, heck, even the ugly – from performing the time-honored ritual of lacing on a pair of too-white sneakers and walking in a parade?

This feels like a surrender. This feels like divisiveness has so overrun decency that a longstanding tradition – current and aspiring elected officials walking the walk, stopping to shake a few hands, presenting themselves as actual humans – must now be shelved simply to preserve the peace.

The Maine Lobster Festival, to be fair, is hardly the first such organization to put the kibosh on all things political.

Take a look at the equally iconic Yarmouth Clam Festival’s parade application form and you’ll find this: “Entries that are political, religious or controversial will not be accepted.”

And this: “The following is prohibited: Promotion of any kind, including business advertising, awareness building for causes and charities.”

No awareness building? So much for protesting the astronomical price of the fried clams.

The problem with the Rockland festival’s decision to fall into lockstep behind Yarmouth is that the vast majority of politicians who march in parades are not there to stir up trouble. They’re there to collect votes.

They’re also – at least those with any staying power – remarkably thick-skinned. If they can’t smile and wave at the occasional heckler in the peanut gallery, they have no business walking down the middle of Main Street in the first place.

At the same time, if someone in the parade feels sullied merely by the fact that a politician with whom they disagree is marching the same route, then perhaps they are the problem – not the guy a few floats down who wants to make America great again.

Yes, the parade is a privately organized affair, albeit in the most public of places. Meaning those who oversee it have every right to say who’s in and who’s out.

That’s a good thing. The Maine Lobster Festival, after all, should be under no obligation to reserve a slot in its parade for, say, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – who, by the way, typically show up at the festival anyway in the form of scantily clad young women colored and dressed like freshly boiled lobsters.

(Go to Google images and you’ll see that the tourists love to have their pictures taken with the PETA protesters. It’s a win-win – the tourists still get to chow down on a lobster while PETA succeeds in … something.)

But I digress.

Parades, at their best, offer communities an opportunity to hold up a mirror to themselves.

From the grinning Cub Scout waving to Grandma and Grandpa, to the toddler staring in awe at the spit-polished fire engine, a parade is a pause button on the humdrum of daily life, a chance to take the ordinary and transform it into something special.

When we exclude politics from that simply because this one or that one ticks us off, we do ourselves a disservice. We tacitly wave a white flag to the rhetorical bomb-throwers and declare political expression, in its entirety, off-limits.

Subscribe – Nemitz

Here’s an idea: Rather than ban the politicians, or agonize over where to insert them into the parade without offending anybody, why not put them all in one section – front, middle, rear, whatever – and have them all march together?

It just might build some awareness.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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