Hate floats; we hope not here
12/9/2021, 6 p.m.
We read with interest a story about the 25th Annual Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade that took place last Saturday evening on the Yorktown waterfront.
Like RVA Illuminates, the Yorktown event attracts families and others getting into the holiday spirit with decorations and lights. In Yorktown, the decorations are enhanced by boats that are decorated, lighted and paraded along the York River to the delight of the crowds. The entries also are judged, with the nonprofit Yorktown Foundation overseeing the parade committee that organizes and runs the boat parade.
But this year’s event turned sour when the judges awarded first place to a boat with the theme “Let’s Go Brandon.” Those words and “FJB” both were in big lights on the boat captained by Bill Berger.
The parade committee awarded Mr. Berger the top prize as fan favorite.
To the unschooled, “FJB” is short for “F Joe Biden,” a deplorable phrase that has spread like wildfire among vile Trump supporters still angry that Democrat Joe Biden won the presidential election more than a year ago.
They also use “Let’s Go Brandon” as a less vulgar code for the same sentiment. That phrase was started after a NASCAR race when driver Brandon Brown, the winner of the race, was being interviewed by a reporter. Some people in the background could be heard chanting, “F Joe Biden,” but the reporter claimed in her broadcast that they were saying, “Let’s Go Brandon.”
Since then, the latter phrase has been used by conservative groups on hats, T-shirts and memes, including by some of the right-wing Republican and divisive members of Congress, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; Rep. Bill Posey of Florida, who ended a House speech with the phrase; Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina; and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who led a crowd in the chant after meeting with former President Trump at Mar-a-Lago last month.
“That is more than a phrase,” Rep. Boebert was quoted as saying. “That is absolutely a movement, and we are taking our country back.”
We expect more of our elected representatives. But that sort of hate filtered down to the Yorktown holiday celebration.
Mr. Berger claimed in one media report that the committee knew of his theme when he registered and entered the parade. But the Yorktown Foundation put the hammer down. The
foundation, fearful of losing its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status by its affiliation with political speech and action, made the committee rescind Mr. Berger’s first place prize and, instead, award it to the second place winner.
Yorktown Foundation director Walt Akers publicly apologized and foundation officials issued a statement, saying the event organizers immediately notified the judges that the boat would be disqualified because its “political statements were at odds with the mission of the foundation.”
The statement went on to say:
“The members of the Yorktown Foundation wish to reiterate that our mission continues to be to unify our community through events and activities that showcase everything that is wonderful about Yorktown, York County and our citizens. While we recognize that political divisiveness is a factor in our daily discourse, we DO NOT want it to negatively impact anyone’s enjoyment of our community events. We regret that this incident occurred, and we will work to avoid such events in the future.”
We bring this to our readers’ attention because Richmond’s annual Boat Parade of Lights is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 11, along the James River. Watching the colorfully lighted boats has been a delight locally for many years.
But we know hate spreads like Southern kudzu and honeysuckle. We just hope it doesn’t find its way onto the James River and detract from this weekend’s holiday event.