A Tale of Two Illinois Towns and Two July 4 Parades

They were 30 miles apart but the lack of gun safety laws means everything is in our own backyard

Marla Rose


In 1976, novelist, memoirist and essayist Joan Didion wrestled to the ground what compelled her to write in a piece called “Why I Write,” which was excerpted from a collection of hers and published in the New York Times. It’s a great essay. You can find it online. I’m just mentioning it because to me, in classic self-effacing form, Didion described what compels me, and I am sure many others, to write.

It’s not necessarily self-expression, though that is a great benefit. It’s not because we think we have such important, worthy thoughts the world would be missing out on if we didn’t commit them to paper. It’s to connect with our own thoughts, to understand them and ourselves better in the process. She wrote: “Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” I would expand this to include figuring out what I am feeling because that is a very important piece of my motivation but otherwise, yes, spot on. Thank you, Ms. Didion.

So now I am going to try to figure it out. It’s going to be a messy process. These things are. You were warned.

Yesterday morning, I marched with Moms Demand Action in their contingent with the Oak Park, IL Fourth of July parade. I woke up really vacillating about if I wanted to do this; I have never been patriotic and especially with the hard right turn in the US with our rogue, extremist Supreme Court, I have been very much not feeling the holiday, even less than usual, and it was already my least favorite one by a mile or two. But I believe Moms Demand Action is doing good, important, smart work and I said that I would be there, so I found a red shirt as requested (a Wonder Woman shirt I’d thrifted, which felt appropriate if not aspirational), put on my big girl pants (or shorts, as they were) and made my way to Oak Park to meet up with the contingent, already in their place in the parade lineup.

It was a nice march. I know how insipid that sounds. I have marched in a million marches and parades; this was an…