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Concern For Democracy Amid LA's Independence Day Celebrations

A young man dressed as Uncle Sam stands on a grassy hill, playing the tuba
Morgan Jarow, a music student at Santa Monica City College, who played in the parade
(Frank Stoltze
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American flags were everywhere.

Bands aboard flatbed trucks played patriotic tunes.

Uncle Sam roamed the crowd.

The July 4th parade along Main Street in Santa Monica at least looked and sounded a lot like years past. But there was also a sense of anxiety about the future of American democracy amid the January 6 hearings, the Supreme Court’s decision to roll back the 50-year right to abortion, and, yes, high gas prices.

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A woman with braids waves an American flag and smiles. She's wering a blue T shirt with a cartoon character on it. A 4th July parade passes behind her, with a man dressed as Uncle Sam walking along.
La Shawn Scales worries that we're heading in the wrong direction
(Frank Stoltze

“I feel like we’re going backwards,” said La Shawn Scales. “I think what needs to be done is more people getting involved and understanding what’s happening — and not turning the other way,” she said.

With the attack on the U.S. Capitol and armed militias threatening more violence, some have suggested America faces the threat of another civil war.

“I don’t feel like it cannot happen,” Scales said as two of her four children looked on. “I’m trying to be optimistic.”

“We are in danger of losing our little democracy,” said Michael Feinstein, a former mayor of Santa Monica. “It’s terrifying.”

A smiling man with long grey hair is wearing blue sunglasses, and red white and blue clothes.
Michael Feinstein, former mayor of Santa Monica, says proportional representation is a better option for democracy
(Frank Stoltze

Feinstein, a founder of the California Green Party, has long advocated for proportional representation. Most Western European democracies work this way, where a political party that wins ten percent of the vote wins ten percent of the seats in the legislature.

“In our current system if you get ten percent of the vote, you don’t win anything,” Feinstein said.

“You have to be part of a majority to win,” Feinstein said. “That can shut out nearly half the people with different views.”

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Illegal immigration, gas prices, and the economy were among the concerns of Patricia Neos.

“I don’t like the way the country is going right now,” Neos said. “Hopefully we will go back to a Republican president.”

A woman, wearing a blue straw hat, a red and white striped top and sunglasses, is holding an American flag and smiling.
Patricia Neos is hoping for change at the next election
(Frank Stoltze

Neos supported President Trump. She wouldn’t answer whether she thinks he won the election.

“That’s over and done with. There is no way he is going to get in now,” she said. “We have to wait for a new election to make a change.”

But Anthony Mitchell was more optimistic than most. “I think it’s working the way it’s supposed to work. It has checks and balances. Right now, it’s a little out of balance to my taste,” he said.

“But I think it’s working just the way it’s supposed to work. Just like when Obama came into office, they said he was the anti-Christ. And then when Trump came into office, they said something else. We’re still here,” he added.

In addition to looking the part, one Uncle Sam played the tuba. He was Morgan Jarow, a music student at Santa Monica City College and member of the band atop the lead truck in the parade.

A young man, with dark curly hair, holding a tuba, is wearing a blue and gold jacket with a blue and white kerchief. Next to him is another, older man, with a beard, wearing an Uncle Sam red blue and white hat and matching sunglasses
Morgan Jarow and another Uncle Sam
(Frank Stoltze

“It’s hard for everyone else to have a good time when rights are being stripped,” he said. “I’m hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.”

A radio reporter, excited about including the sound of a tuba in his story, then made an impossible request — that he play the national anthem. Unaccompanied.

Jarow cheerfully obliged, if somewhat haltingly.

“I’m used to playing the baseline on that,” he chuckled. “I’m not used to playing the melody.”

Suddenly, he said he needed to rush off.

He was headed to a parade in the Pacific Palisades to play with an oompah band.

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