Like many towns across the fruited plain of this great country, the small town of Norfolk, Neb. had its annual Fourth of July parade on Friday.
One float the denizens of Norfolk (pronounced “Norfork” by many locals) saw featured a blue flatbed truck carrying a zombie-looking mannequin in overalls on the door of an outhouse labeled “OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY.”
The crowd lining the parade route generally cheered and laughed as the float went by, reports the Lincoln Journal Star.
Not everybody was happy, of course.
“This is not okay,” Glory Kathurima said she muttered as the float passed her and her nine-year-old daughter by. “That’s not okay.”
Apparently, Kathurima, who is originally from Kenya, didn’t take the opportunity to explain to her daughter that the United States has a vital constitutional amendment guaranteeing robust, largely unlimited political expression — even the kind that allows parade floats people might find offensive.
Nope. Instead, Kathurima got all mad because she felt the float was racist.
“It’s definitely a personal issue for me,” Kathurima told Omaha CBS affiliate KMTV. “This image and the words stamped across an outhouse were trying to equate the president, a black president, with what you do in an outhouse.”
She fleshed out her own opinion freely to a Journal Star reporter.
“I’m angry and I’m scared,” she complained. “This float was not just political; this was absolutely a racial statement.”
It’s not clear if Kathurima has seen a November 29, 2006 political cartoon by famed Atlanta Journal-Constitution cartoonist Mike Luckovich which shows a ratty outhouse with a wooden sign out front emblazoned with the words “Bush Presidential Library.”
A Norfolk outfit called the Odd Fellows Lodge sponsored the Fourth of July parade.
Parade committee member Rick Konopasek said that the float was allowed because the Odd Fellows only prohibit floats with morally objectionable content — like, say, nudity or sexually explicit words.
“We don’t feel its right to tell someone what they can and can’t express,” Konopasek told the Journal Star. “This was political satire. If we start saying no to certain floats, we might as well not have a parade at all.”
The parade committeeman noted that the float was a huge hit with most people who watched it proceed slowly by.
The float was so popular, in fact, that the parade judges felt compelled to give it an honorable mention in the awards ceremony.
“So should we deny the 95 percent of those that liked it their rights, just for the five percent of people who are upset?” he asked.
“This was a day to celebrate independence and part of that is speech and expression,” Konopasek added, according to the Journal Star.
Kathurima strongly disagreed.
“We are supposed to be celebrating independence but people are quick to forget about 300 years of history,” she told the Journal Star, cryptically.
“My daughter keeps asking me, ‘Why?’ and I don’t have an answer for her,” she said.
Kathurima also called the float “shameful,” according to the Journal Star.
The parade committee has indicated that it might bow to a single complaint and change its float policy for next year.
Two years ago, a Montana parade also featured an Obama outhouse float.