As we emerge from our bunkers and bomb shelters just long enough to see the boards slowly being removed from all those downtown Batavia and Geneva store windows, the singular question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s next? An asteroid strike?”
2020 certainly seems to be the advent of the Biblical End Times, doesn’t it?
But it was while considering that very topic with my favorite, and much younger, downtown Geneva business owner that I realized my 50s Baby Boom generation has endured so much more. Don’t worry! This ain’t gonna be another “I walked 20 mile to school through ten feet of snow uphill both ways” kind of declaration.
I don’t think I have that in me right now.
It’s just that there’s a certain solace in knowing that, despite our best efforts to do ourselves in, for better or worse, we’re still here! So, here’s what I told my friend.
I was too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I vividly recall all the ducking and covering under those St. Nick’s cafeteria tables while pondering how that could possibly protect me from a nuclear device.
But I’ll never forget being glued to our black and white TV as every network covered JFK’s painfully slow funeral procession. The country’s shock and awe were so palpable that it’s forever etched in my mind. And just five years later, his brother was similarly murdered.
Watching the South’s beyond violent reaction to the 1965 March to Selma march and the Civil Rights movement in general was terrifying. I still don’t understand how one human being can have that much hate in their heart.
Fear truly is a powerful thing.
I watched the 1966 Chicago race riots where the West Side was looted and burned to the ground mere miles from my south Evanston home. The always heavy-handed Mayor Daley the elder brought in the national guard to quell the violence and those neighborhoods never recovered.
Because we’re a people perpetually doomed to repeat history, it all happened again – this time on a national scale – after Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.
When I was a young teenager, after four students were killed at Kent State, the increasingly virulent and violent Vietnam War protests threatened to tear this country apart. Then I stared at our color television in dismay and disbelief as protesters spat on 21-year-old returning soldiers simply for the sin of being drafted.
From 1974 to 1976, it was the Boston busing riots, and once again, Walter Cronkite was there to explain the issue in great detail. Where’s Walter when you really need him?
Just as Edith and Archie intoned on a weekly basis, the veil of nostalgia may make the 60s and 70s seem like “those were the days,” but they were the kind of tumultuous times that forged my soul and my most basic ideological foundation.
Put more simply, if you think 2020 is bad, you haven’t studied 1968.
The over-the-top response to COVID-19 has been beyond bizarre, but my generation has survived four similar pandemics. We also watched the AIDs epidemic take a devastating toll on our gay brothers throughout the 80’s and beyond.
Just like the virus, 2020 certainly seems to be a novel prospect, but when my friend inspired me to reconsider my own era, it became abundantly clear that Ecclesiastes 1:9 is dead on! There really is nothing new under the sun.
Sadly, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in six decades, it’s that humanity never fails to demonstrate a vast capacity to reach enlightenment only by being dragged through that doorway kicking and screaming the entire way. So perhaps, in that very vein, 2020 isn’t a complete catastrophe after all. Without trials and tribulations, our species tends to descend into an abject mass of weak-minded entitlement and that never turns out too well.
As for me, while my faith in individuals like my friend has grown stronger, my faith in my fellowman is irretrievably shattered. And if you find yourself in similar straits and you can’t find that place of peace within yourself, I would encourage you to abandon the false prophets and seek out those rare individuals who not only see, but live the truth.
They’re the one’s who insist that you find it within yourself – they never claim to have a monopoly on it.
There will always be predators, opportunists, those false prophets, and worse yet, the masses who self-righteously believe that ignorance, stupidity and hate are virtues. But challenging times like these also bring out the next generation of real leaders whose sole purpose will be to change the world for the better.
But if you’re not there quite yet, please remember, as I can personally attest, this too, shall pass.