I will probably embarrass our mayor, Bert Miller, by calling him a “hero” for his decision to proceed with the Navasota Freedom Festival, but if the shoe fits Bert, you may as well put it on!
The Merriam Webster Dictionary has four or five definitions of a hero but the definition that best fits this circumstance is “one who shows courage.” In my opinion, Mayor Miller’s decision showed courage in the face of pressure locally and beyond, and the dire predictions about the possible outcome.
I can’t know what was in his heart when he proclaimed the festival would go on, but maybe it was partially influenced by his love of Navasota, the United States of America, and a discomfort with just skipping the public celebration of our country’s birthday.
After all, you know what happens when you start skipping things – things like going to church, getting on the scales, or skipping the salad bar for the allyou-can-eat buffet? Given what 2020 has presented thus far, I don’t want to think about 2021, but had he pulled the plug on the Freedom Festival, could this have signaled the end of Independence Day as we know it? Just as we are being conditioned to accept the abnormal wearing of masks as normal, are we being conditioned nationwide to accept the cessation of public patriotic celebrations like Memorial Day and July 4?
Now, if you are a Navasota newcomer, it won’t take long to learn that your mayor is Navasota’s biggest cheerleader. It’s a matter of public record that one consideration in his decision to hold the festival was his desire to help Navasota’s struggling downtown businesses. Yes, there were the snarky Facebook comments about putting dollars above people’s lives but if your livelihood is gone, living will get pretty difficult, and you can take that to the bank – if it’s still open!
At the end of the day, our mayor chose the path described by Henry David Thoreau, “The government is best which governs least.” Acknowledging individual personal responsibility, he allowed potential festival goers to make their own decisions, like we hear from young women, “Our lives, our bodies.” Well, our mayor let us decide whether we’d keep our bodies at home or bring them to the festival!
I imagine the media and our neighbors to the north will be eying the calendar with bated breath to report a spike from attendance at the event - but the cat’s out of the bag! We know, according to tracking by Navasota officials, that the numbers reported don’t reflect cases in real time. Often positive cases reported to the City by DSHS lag so far behind, the infected individuals have already recovered, but they are posted on the DSHS website and distributed by the media as current, often reflecting spikes that might not exist to that degree.
It shouldn’t be a courageous act for a city leader to be patriotic, to be protective of the local economy or to allow residents to make their own decisions, but from sea to shining sea, that kind of leadership is increasingly hard to find. As a community and a country, we’ve recently witnessed some dark days, but thanks to the courage of Mayor Bert Miller, on Saturday, July 4, the clouds lifted and renewed our optimism that life and business will return to normal again soon.
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.