Sacrifices in These Strange Times

I was talking with an old friend the other day, one I had gone to college with in the late 60’s. We were both yearbook editors-in-chief back then, and I reminded her that our annual big deal, the reveal of the yearbook at the Journalism schools publication banquet, had been cancelled by the revolution.

Student protests were happening big-time, and this was May of 1970– Vietnam, racism, the environment, the women’s movement– it was all happening.

At 4:30 pm we were putting out the programs for our big event in the student union, already dressed up for our Milwaukee Journal photos.

A bearded red-haired man dressed in onesie farmer’s overalls walk in and said, “Who’s in charge?” I took the bait.

He calmly explained that if we went ahead with our bourgois banquet we would be overrun with protesters.

“And you don’t want that”, he added.

Well, no, I didn’t.

So I tried the advice a professor had suggested at an open forum on student protests to a room full of protesters–use reason! That didn’t work for him and it didn’t work for me. He got booed off the stage; I got a blank stare.

And I was sympathetic to the cause! But it was a standoff and the faculty cancelled the banquet.

Now, in the time of coronavirus, big protests, election frenzy, Black Lives Matter, and more, we’re living through a necessary cancel culture.

I’ve never forgotten that day, and now there are days that families, store owners, protesters, politicians, and even police will never forget.

The picture accompanying this writing is of a high school graduation.

There was no official one, so someone organized a drive-by graduation where cars line up and drive by and honk to graduates and their families at their houses.

We’re one of those big northern states where we follow the coronavirus guidelines the state sets out for us, so wear masks in public, wash our hands constantly, fret about our businesses or our jobs, go to church on closed circuit, attend conventions on zoom, both parent and teach, mourn our corona-dead and help the survivors in their recovery therapies (like learning to breathe and walk after 5 weeks on a ventilator).

My sad story is nothing compared to this. The shock of war, 9-11, natural disasters… do they compare to the slow drip, drip, drip of isolation, death, police brutality, lack of leadership, financial loss, inequality, uncertainty and confusion we are living through now?

In the fifties grade school kids were scared as shit by “duck and cover”, the threat that we’d be blown to kingdom come unless we head under our school desks if a siren blared. We’ve got a new kind of duck and cover now– from the police, from other people, from germs in the air, to the next presidential executive order.

Would we be in this if there were no Trump?

I suspect any other President would have faced reality, taken a leadership position, responded to coronavirus, egregious police shootings, and anything else that might have been thrown at them so that they could unite the country, flatten the curve, and at least try to mitigate reactions to inequities. Let alone inviting bad behavior, a second wave of infection, and an intransigent senate.

So maybe not, but we’ll never know. We’ve had plenty of time to think and re-evaluate our priorities. And plenty of good may come out of this yet. BLM, social awareness, a new regard for science, and a recognition that we need real leadership.

But to get there, I know this: we must mourn our losses, we must march, and we must vote.

— Pop Cramps

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