FREDERICKTOWN — Richard and Jacqueline Ruhl weren’t trying to offend anyone with a float they created for the Fredericktown Tomato Show Parade, they were merely trying to get the attention of their fellow citizens and encourage them to let their voices be heard.
They designed a float that coupled the Nazi flag with an image of President Barack Obama with a swastika around his arm. It also contained the phrase, “Wake up America.“ The float was denied entry into the parade by the Tomato Show Board of Directors because board members felt it detracted from the family-friendly atmosphere the parade was dedicated to creating.
“We felt the parade was not the right venue to air such negative political statements,” a member of the board of directors said.
The Ruhls, however, felt they were on target with their float and their message.
“Politics have been a worry to us lately, and many others,” Jackie said. “We are concerned for our grandchildren; our son and his family. We are concerned about them; concerned about the direction [President] Obama seems to be taking us in to the point we thought we needed to do something.”
In their efforts to educate themselves on today’s politics and political motives, the Ruhls found what they believe to be “strong parallels between what President Obama is doing and Adolf Hitler.”
“It was the swastikas that seemed to be turning off most people. We are not extremists and we have not done anything like this before. A lot of people are calling us racists, and that’s simply not true,” Jackie said. “We are concerned about his policies, not the color of his skin.”
Issues such as the expansion of Americorps, gun control, the ability to turn off American access to the Internet and the North American Union make the Ruhls feel their fears are substantiated. Ultimately, the couple only wanted to encourage other citizens to start calling and writing their congressmen and senators and tell them how they feel about the issues being voted on.
“They are supposed to represent us with their votes, but they don’t care what we think,” Jackie said.
Although Richard wasn’t permitted to be part of the parade, he feels their message was probably more widely spread because of the controversy. After leaving the parade staging area, he drove his tractor through the parade route and parked it near a restaurant while he ate lunch.
“If anyone thinks I like pulling a swastika around, they are crazy. I hated it just as much as anybody,” Richard said.
After his lunch, Richard was driving his tractor and float back to his home when a man tore off a swag from the float and stole it.
“He denied us our First Amendment right. He is an extremist. Without it, we don’t have a democratic form of government. We can vote but we have no control over the issues,” Jackie said.
The Ruhls said they carry no animosity toward the parade organizers, as they wanted nothing more than to rattle the hearts of proud Americans to the point where everyone started to take an active role in how the game of politics is played today.
“I’m sorry that it upset people. We are not monsters. We are not extremists,” Jackie said. “When you have a message, you have to get their attention. I think we did that.”