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Point of View: Koreans, Falun Gong shine in Lunar parade

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For the first time it appeared to be a harmonious celebration of diversity, as several other ethnic and civic groups also marched in the parade.Unlike previous years, there was little bickering among the parade organizers. Those wishing to join the parade were on board. The policy of inclusion should therefore be credited with the success of this year's parade. It should always be this way.Hobnobbing amidst the boisterous festivity, local politicians like Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and newly-elected state Assemblyman Jimmy Meng perhaps enjoyed the occasion more than most of us. They couldn't find a better day to get acquainted with their constituents, many of whom saw these elected officials up-close for the first time.Even the NAACP and a Latino group participated in the parade. Those Mexican beauties dancing in their native costumes apparently stole the spotlight of the show.The parade was perhaps the largest ever. But it's not necessarily better than previous ones in terms of quality.I was least satisfied with what the Chinese groups presented in the parade. There was nothing special. Almost every business in town had a banner year in 2004, yet merchants, particularly restaurant and supermarket owners, did little to boost the parade pageantry. There were a couple of trucks with scant decorations. Their generosity could have made the parade look more festive and pompous.Banking institutions did even worse. A vast majority of their clients are Asian. However, only one bank sent a handful of employees to display a simple piece of cloth to get its name exposed to the public. Why are bankers so stingy?I am also a little surprised that Macy's department store was not a participant. The absence of big local institutions from the scene certainly disappointed a lot of people. I hope they will take note of it.Among the Chinese participants were a few civic groups such as senior citizens association and Asian Americans for Equality. Financially, they couldn't afford to provide the parade with any spectacular ingredients.Two groups, nevertheless, did extraordinarily well - Korean and Falun Gong. Without them, the parade would have been a bleak one. The local Koreans presented several fashionable floats that drew acclaim and rave comments. A Korean fire breather also wowed spectators.Falun Gong likewise did a superb job this year in energizing the traditional celebration with an impressive number of practitioners performing and marching in unison. Their shining yellow outfit and drum-beating performances without doubt brightened the parade.In the past, participants (from China and other parts of the world) had tried to bar this seemingly religious sect from taking part in the parade over their political and philosophical differences. It should be noted, though, that Falun Gong has been on a collision course with the Beijing regime for several years.Civic activities should never be tainted with politics.Yes, there is a myth about Falun Gong. Some people have found it hard to accept its principles for the conduct of life. Its diehard members thought they could ascend to heaven by self-immolation after having achieved consummation in their practice. It's inconceivable.Man is mortal. So it's natural people, religious or not, wish to enjoy a worriless eternal life in heaven. But I object to the way some of its members took to achieve their immortal goal.Still, a few practitioners took their lives that way as martyrs in protest against government policies on the eve of the Lunar New Year four years ago in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. That tragic incident made big headlines around the world.Falun Gong ought to dissuade devotees from going to extremes. There is nothing more precious than life, folks, because we can live only once.Instead, practitioners should devote themselves to promoting mental and physical health and stay away from politics. That's their real mission.The two-week celebration of the Lunar New Year ended nine days ago after the Lantern Festival. I am in great hopes that we will see a parade with more participants and floats next year.In the meantime, Assemblyman Meng says he is going to introduce a bill making the Lunar New Year a holiday for Asian students in New York. I second it.

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