When Icarus Fell Out of the Sky
August 7, 2000
When the PRI lost power in Mexico's first nearly honest election after seventy three years, I was in Boston watching a Shriner's parade.
The Shriners convention was here for the first time since 1984. Clearly they lost a lot of men. The old boy survivors bulging with beer bellies and decrepit, jauntily wearing their red fezes, marched to their costumed Arabian band. They had their camels, their horses, little kiddie cars, drums and clowns, and mini-bikers doing wheelies. As always they were unself-conscious about their foolishness, and unconscious of the reasons why as a group they are disappearing.
All white. Not a trace of middle-class physical fitness. And ridiculous. Foolish. Repeating the same parade I’ve seen at fifteen year intervals, in a five-hour spectacle. Like the dinosaurs of Mexican politics: if it ain't broke don't fix it. But it was broke, only they didn't know it.
At the Fourth of July fireworks, standing on the sidewalk among the crowd of 400,000, I chatted with a cop who told me he has a Master's degree in education, was recruited to come to Boston from California, divorced, bought a house in Hyde Park, etc etc etc. I chatted with an older woman planted on the sidewalk on her cane. In my sweet state of grace I chatted with two Shriners escaped from the convention. I was told that the fourth parade flag, the one I didn't recognize (USA, Canada, Mexico) is Panama's. As Mexico is culturally in a fifty-year time-lag behind the US, the Shriners might really catch on there.
On July fifth the Shriners held a repeat of their parade, at a later hour, I suppose for those who missed the first one. It was sparsely attended. Meanwhile I recovered my normal ill-temper and deliberately told a Shriner that two categories of people who never should be fat: politicians and people raising money for charity. I made him unhappy. He confessed they knew they were losing rank and file, but hadn't yet figured out a way to recruit young men.
No looking foolish, I suggested. It's great to support hospitals and burn centers but drinking and looking stupid might not be an acceptable ritual for any but the teen crowd. The hats, the hierarchy, the grand potentate of potentates - uh uh.