The lost causers are at it again.
Months after the statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee finally came down, some social media sites are hawking Carnival beads that implicitly bemoan New Orleans' move to remove it and three other controversial monuments erected during the Jim Crow era. "Forever Lee Circle," the medallions on the beads proclaim.
After some of these sites claimed the beads had been purchased by participants in prominent New Orleans parading krewes, several, including Endymion, Orpheus and Muses (full disclosure: I'm a Muses member), warned their members not to throw them.
Orpheus Captain Sonny Borey said he's concerned the throws could "cause problems between participants and float riders."
"I’m telling the riders that I think that this is the time of year where we all celebrate each other and have fun together and we should not do anything political," Borey said.
Endymion President Dan Kelly chimed in that "there was a lot of controversy about it when it happened," but "it's over with now. There’s no reason to bring it back up."
Good for them for saying it. And what a sad statement that they needed to.
Of course, politics does play a role in the season, and some of the topical parades will likely address the controversy, which has been a hot subject for several years now.
But satire, a long-treasured Carnival tradition, is not the same thing as politicization. It's not the same thing as tossing out trinkets specifically designed to confront and provoke, that parents of kids who catch them would have to awkwardly explain and many locals and visitors alike are likely to find offensive. It's not the same thing as potentially inciting injury — if the beads are thrown back at floats, as some on social media have vowed to do — or parade-route confrontations.
Nor is this about freedom of speech. New Orleans actually tightly regulates the types of throws that can be tossed on city streets.
"No Mardi Gras parade participant shall knowingly throw any doubloon, trinket or other throw which would be redeemable for or entitle the bearer to a prize or a discount on the price of any food, beverage, merchandise, service or admission to any event or which displays, conveys or communicates any commercial, political or religious message," the city code reads.
During the long fight over the monuments' removal, which was duly endorsed by the City Council and upheld in court, one complaint was that the loss of the Lee statue in particular would change the city's Carnival landscape.
Yet Lee's departure doesn't change a thing on the ground. This week's parades will proceed down stately St. Charles Avenue and around the circle where he once stood watch, as usual. People can still gather there, just as they always have.
Scratch that. It does change something. It removes a reminder of a painful period for many residents and visitors and sends a signal that the city is both part of modern day America and open to all, that it has a complicated past but chooses to honor those parts that are worthy.
People who insist on making a big public statement to the contrary? Well, they're just raining on their own parade.