Yorktown, Virginia held its annual Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday night, and one 50-foot vessel won the coveted “Best in Show” title with a colorful and artfully designed display of lights, plus people dressed as Santa Claus and Old Joe Biden yelling “Merry Christmas” to the crowd, topped off with a pair of American flags at the bow. A splendid time was had by all, but there was one fly in the festive ointment: the winning entry was also bedecked with a sign reading “FJB Let’s Go Brandon” in white lights. Within hours, the Yorktown Foundation, which sponsors the event, had abjectly apologized and stripped the offending boat of its title. An “overt political message,” you see, is not allowed, or at least isn’t allowed now that this has happened.
York County Leftists are still reeling from this all-out assault on their sensibilities. A York County resident recounted that she was thinking, “How blessed am I?” during the evening’s festivities, but then came the Boat of Hate: “It just breaks the spirit that this happened. It was disheartening…That sentiment on that boat lit up in lights — F Joe Biden — was the antithesis of the Christmas spirit.” Another derided the boat as “a mean-spirited stunt” that had “nothing to do Christmas spirit, holiday spirit, family togetherness, uniting us,” and added: “I just felt kind of brokenhearted that that kind of hyper-partisanship had intruded in such a crude way.”
Many other spectators stated that they liked the boat, but you know who counts in this sort of controversy. Faced with the copious flow of Leftist tears, the Yorktown Foundation, which sponsored the boat parade, was quick to act. The Foundation’s Walt Akers said that giving the prize to the boat’s captain, Bill Berger, was a “huge mistake,” and added: “We profoundly apologize for what happened, and we deeply regret that this happened at all. And we’re going to take actions to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future….We’ve asked the Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade to provide us with a list of the steps that they’re going to take to ensure that this will never happen again.”
The Yorktown Foundation explained: “As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Yorktown Foundation (our parent organization) and, by extension, the Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade Committee, are apolitical and must remain outside of politics.”
Yet the Foundation had apparently not ever made the ban on political messages clear to the entrants, or even to the judges. One of those judges, York County Board of Supervisors Chairman Chad Green, recounted: “I showed up, and I was given a sheet of criteria on which to vote for.” These included “lights, spirit, and the wow factor,” but not political correctness. Said Green: “I did my job, I walked away, and then suddenly there’s all kinds of controversy. But I feel that my judging was fair and open and honest.” He said he was “certainly not going to abridge free speech…I might not agree with it, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.”
Another judge, York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs, pointed out that Berger’s boat won both for being the best-decorated boat and because it was the most popular “crowd pleaser,” a telling detail in blue Virginia. “It was the winning boat,” he said. “And let me put it this way: If there had been a boat out there with some kind of content that I personally didn’t like, do I penalize that person because they were exercising their free speech, and I just didn’t like it? The answer is no.”
But for the Yorktown Foundation, the answer is clearly yes. Their protestations that political messages are incompatible with their 501(c)(3) status are reasonable enough, but it’s hard not to wonder what might have happened if the winning boat had been festooned with a sign reading, say, “BLM” instead of “FJB.” Would the Yorktown Foundation have then overruled popular opinion and bowed to the protests of those who claimed that the boat’s message was contrary to the spirit of Christmas? Would it have hastened to apologize and assure the public that safeguards were being put into place to ensure that this sort of thing never, ever happened again?
You know the answer. The Left today still owns the popular culture, although its hegemony is being challenged on more fronts every day. When a message showing opposition to the agenda of the political and media elites is expressed outside the diminishing reservation that those elites allow for that sort of thing, that message must be repudiated and apologies issued. But if the Yorktown Foundation had given its award to a BLM boat, it would be enjoying plaudits all around today for its “courage.”
Meanwhile, the fact that Bill Berger’s FJB boat was the most popular among the crowd is a small indication of the way the wind is starting to blow. The cultural reflexes that we saw at play in this incident may not be the default reaction in such controversies for much longer.