Categories
Writing

A Personal COVID-19 Timeline

Lake Macbride State Park trail.

The coronavirus pandemic brought normal to a screeching halt.

On March 13 I spent the day with a friend I’ve known since grade school ending with a beer at a bar in Tiffin. After that there has been no normal.

My personal timeline went like this:

March 7: Governor Reynolds activated the State Emergency Operations Center for COVID-19.

March 8: Iowa Hygienic Laboratory reported the first three positive test results for COVID-19 in Iowa.

March 9: Governor Reynolds issued a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency regarding COVID-19.

March 11: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic.

March 29: President Trump extends federal stay-at-home order until April 30.

April 2: My final shift at the home, farm and auto supply store.

April 6: Began 30-day COVID-19 leave of absence from the home, farm and auto supply store.

April 11: Purchased poetry books via email from local used bookstore to support them during the coronavirus pandemic.

April 14: Received CARES Act coronavirus pandemic payment from U.S. Treasury.

April 16: Interviewed by Andrew Keshner of MarketWatch about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on gardening.

April 21: Conducted first home owners association via conference call because of the coronavirus pandemic. Same with sewer district board of trustees.

April 28: Gave notice of retirement to the home, farm and auto supply store due to the coronavirus pandemic.

April 29: Statewide food policy council meeting on the CARES Act, via Zoom.

May 1: Iowa for Biden Round table on the Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Rural Families Moderated by Tom Vilsack, via Zoom.

May 6: Webinar on UPS Supply Chain Challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, via Zoom.

May 6: Arms Control Association meeting about COVID-19 and Global Security, via Zoom.

May 27: First COVID-19 screening (negative).

June 1: Prescription for cholesterol medicine during followup at local clinic. Socially distanced.

June 2: Began exercising for 25-30 minutes daily for health reasons and due to shelter in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

June 15: Conference call with Vice President Mike Pence on COVID-19, other topics.

June 16: Second COVID-19 screening (negative).

June 18: Began bicycle riding for exercise.

June 28: Haircut at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

July 13: 75th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings – Deconstructing the Myths and Promoting a Nuclear Weapons-Free & Just World, via Zoom.

July 23: First garden donation to local food rescue non-profit.

July 23: Rita Hart meeting on re-opening the schools, via Zoom.

July 29: Dental appointment in Cedar Rapids. Partial treatment because of COVID-19 restrictions.

August 2: Bicycle crash on Lake Macbride Trail.

August 9: Op-ed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, 75 Years After Hiroshima.

August 10: Derecho, lost electricity.

August 13: Bicycle crash on Polk Avenue detour because of derecho damage on the trail.

August 14: Electricity restored.

August 15: Discussion with the orchard about return to work for the fall season. Declined due to the coronavirus pandemic and high number of infections in Johnson County.

August 20: Third COVID-19 screening (negative).

September 10: Followup appointment at local clinic. Socially distanced.

September 13: Op-ed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Is Rural Iowa Different?

September 26: Pop-up event with Doug Emhoff (Kamala Harris’ husband). Drive through campaign sign pickup due to restrictions of coronavirus pandemic.

October 23: Washington Post reports, “America is poised to enter its worst stretch of the pandemic, with cases spiking and the country on the precipice of shattering its daily record for infections in the next few days.” In Iowa we have the eighth highest COVID-19 infection rate among the states. There have been 1,617 Iowa deaths linked to the coronavirus.

Categories
Writing

Preparing for Winter

Enterprise apples.

It’s time to prepare for winter.

A repair person is scheduled to inspect and clean our furnace next week. I got a navy blue wool blanket out of storage and put it between the sheet and comforter on the bed. On the doorway to my writing table I put an old pink, white and green bedspread, printed with ballerinas in pointe shoes, to hold warmth created by a space heater. Winter is about keeping warm in Big Grove Township.

It’s not winter yet. I hope for a few more days of bicycling on the trails, a few more jogs on my 2.5 mile course, before being relegated to indoors exercise. Winds calmed this morning so maybe another trip to Ely. We’ll see.

The Nov. 3 election and the coronavirus pandemic are always in the background. One of those dissipates in 15 days. The pandemic, however, will be with us for a while. Experts say throughout 2021.

I’m ready to write this winter. With the garden idle, government in transition, and a pandemic all around us, there is no better time to hunker down behind my ballerina-covered shield against the cold and figure out where I came from, what I’ve done, and importantly, what work remains.

I’ll be warm, if not as safe as I’d like.

Categories
Writing

Pedaling Against the Wind

Storage apples drying on the counter.

A steady, westerly wind blew the last few days making the daily bicycle trip more challenging. I wore a hat under my helmet, a pair of gloves, and a sweatshirt to hold against the chill.

It has been good riding on the trails near our home since I changed the front tire and tube on Monday. I’m finding a 40-year old bicycle needs constant repairs and enjoy diagnosing problems and resolving them.

I have been thinking about participating in an event-style ride next summer, although I need to train for it if I do. Maybe a century ride, or a day of RAGBRAI if they resume operations. For now my attention turns toward winter. The change of seasons is in the air.

The orchard has the last apples of the season available this week. I picked Gold Rush from trees and got Jonathan and Enterprise in the display cooler. Gold Rush and Jonathan are for storage and the Enterprise will be converted to apple crisp or apple sauce during the next couple of days. It is hard to believe the season is already at its end. I am happy to have the nearby orchard to fill gaps in our home apple growing culture.

With cooler weather I turn from finishing the work in the yard and garden to creative work indoors. I filled in a couple of blanks on my autobiography outline yesterday. I hesitated to re-start the project during gardening season because I didn’t feel ready. With the combination of the coronavirus pandemic, a forced retirement, and winter’s approach I feel more ready than in a long time.

Politics took a holiday yesterday. There were at least four televised events yet I viewed none of them. On my to-do list is to obtain a digital television and set it up. The analog ones don’t really work. I am loathe to turn them on. Because I voted already my interest in details of candidate positions is waning.

It will be different if Joe Biden wins the presidential election. Having someone who uses reason, logic and careful deliberation for process will be refreshing yet something to which we haven’t been accustomed the last four years. The coalition of supporters Biden brought together is broad and deep. There will be Republican resistance to a Biden administration, yet any more, that’s to be expected and most people realize it. The moderator of Biden’s televised town hall meeting asked him what he would do if he loses the Nov. 3 election. Biden’s response, “I won’t lose.”

There will be wind but no rain according to this morning’s forecast: a fine day for pedaling against the wind. Such resistance is important to human progress. It makes us stronger and builds stamina. Both are qualities needed for the road ahead.

Categories
Writing

Neighborhoods

Turn around near Seven Sisters Road.

In his book What Unites Us, former CBS news person Dan Rather refers several times to the “neighborhood where I grew up” in Texas.

This narrative meme should be abandoned by anyone who is serious about autobiography because the plural form of neighborhood is more accurate. In addition, growing up is not a linear process. We don’t “grow up” in a single way or in a single place and magically become a “grown-up.” The communities that surrounded our lives in the 20th Century were not homogeneous. They were diverse and less rooted in place. To root autobiography in place seems arbitrary. The narrative force of this meme casts aside our diversity of experience. We shouldn’t do that if we seek to be true to ourselves.

Our mind doesn’t stop growing as Rather points out. I had formative early experiences and it seems normal to emphasize them. I’ve written about getting injured when a swing set collapsed on me at age three and a half. That experience combined with my arrival at the hospital, taking ether through a funnel, and a lengthy stay had an effect on me that persists. There was a lot else going on at the time. I like to tell this story yet is it most representative of what makes me who I am? Probably not.

Writing autobiography means setting aside favored tales like my injury and hospital stay. It would be hard to write a memoir and leave it out. However, there were more significant influences by 1955. By then our family had moved to Madison Street where we lived only a short time until I finished kindergarten. Next we moved to a rental near Wonder Bakery for most of my first grade year. Then, in 1959, we moved to Marquette Street where I lived through high school. The house on Marquette represents a significant amount of time yet to characterize it as the “neighborhood where I grew up” is not accurate. I was well into personhood by 1959.

Part of autobiography is a timeline. It doesn’t have to be the main attraction. I’ve struggled with the single, time-based narrative and seek a way to articulate something different about how I “grew up.” Rather’s book raised awareness that one should really use the plural form of the word neighborhood. Or use something different like communities, or cohorts, or cultural nests, or something. Growing up meant experiencing many different kinds of social settings.

When Mother attempted a memoir she rendered it to a single narrative. It really didn’t work and she abandoned the project after a few pages. While there is always a timeline to autobiography, I don’t feel that’s the hook on which to hang a life story. Passing time moves a narrative along but complexity is sanded off in the woodshed.

I like Rather’s book well enough. It cost $2.10 on Kindle (cheap). It’s an easy read that touches on many areas of modern life that seemed important in the last century and are diminished in this. To the extent it inspired this post it was worth the purchase price.

Categories
Writing

Introduction to a Memoir

Turn around, Ely, Iowa.

A high school classmate died on Sunday. In 2013 he sent a copy of a 54-page draft of his memoir for editing.

I didn’t offer much because his writing was good and it was his story, not mine. Our life experiences were different, tied together by four years we spent in high school together in a cohort of 262 students. If it weren’t for social media we would never have collaborated.

My life has been lived in the second half of the 20th Century and the first quarter of the 21st. I want to tell that story, although I’m not sure how badly.

I wrote many words about my life and part of the task of a memoir is pulling that writing together. It seems important, not urgent. I have a question: what have I done the story of which hasn’t been told by someone else? Not much when we think about it.

Today I see a memoir in two parts. One, a collection of past writing and historical analysis that tells the story chronologically. The second, an analysis of important life events from today’s perspective. Both parts will become big projects.

The first reason for a memoir is to record a history for our daughter. The second is to understand it myself. I doubt my life has much significance beyond family. Although I’ve done a lot, I’ve been a reflection of contemporary times rather than shaping them. I’ve been a regular guy trying to get along and that’s not too special in the broad scope of society.

For the time being I work on a couple of community projects and plan to address the memoir after the Nov. 3 election. A lot depends on the outcome of the election, including whether or not progress is made on a memoir. Here’s hoping for the best.

Categories
Writing

Once Upon an Oracle

Oracle Open World 2006

(Editor’s Note: This article was first posted Sept. 25, 2011 on my blog Big Grove Garden. It is about missing mainstream culture in the late 1970s and captures some of my life while living in West Germany and epiphanies while visiting San Francisco where I jogged on Market Street in the middle of the night, saw DEVO and Sir Elton John perform at the Cow Palace, and stayed in Chinatown while there to attend Oracle Open World in 2006. It is  presented unedited.)

By the time I returned from a Cold War West Germany in 1979, I had missed a lot of the music, movies and other artifacts of popular culture of the late 1970s. Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads, Blondie, Sex Pistols, the Cars, the Clash, The Ramones and DEVO, never heard of them. In movies, Blue Collar, Star Wars, The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs Kramer, Norma Rae, Taxi Driver, F.I.S.T., Saturday Night Fever, All the President’s Men, and Dog Day Afternoon were all beyond the ken as instead, we viewed repeated screenings of Patton in forests near the Fulda Gap, our projector powered by generators.

Most of us did not even own a television while we were stationed overseas, preferring to get together at the officer’s club or go hiking and rock climbing in the nearby Taunus mountains during rare times when, for a few hours, we could get away from being a soldier. My vacuum of experience in popular American culture is between the bookends of Jaws, which I saw with house mates when living in Davenport and Annie Hall which I saw in Amsterdam subtitled in Dutch while on leave from my post in Mainz just before returning to Iowa. In retrospect, missing these shared popular culture experiences was a formative influence. Even missing the start up of Saturday Night Live was important.

Instead of music and movies, I took in the stuff of life. The politics of being an occupying force leftover from World War II was real. One of my buddies went on missions to East Berlin where he talked with Soviet soldiers to see what they were up to. Mostly, it appears, they were drinking vodka and we never worried about the threat they may have posed to the West. One time we chipped in and he brought us hats made in East Germany. I still have mine in the closet, as it is very warm.

Our battalion had a severe drug problem. Almost every soldier had some connection to use of heroin or hashish. It was so prevalent, and our enforcement capability so limited, that we would bust someone caught in the act more to ruin their Friday night than send them to jail. Often soldiers caught using drugs in the military were sent to the Community Drug and Alcohol Counseling service. Turned out the counselor supplemented his military pay by selling heroin to his clients. Heroin purportedly coming from Afghanistan through East Germany. Looks like both sides of the Cold War had their problems with substance abuse.

By dealing with existential realities in the military, I was spared the evisceration of everything I knew from growing up in a union household. Popular culture reflected that. The late seventies were a prelude to Ronald Reagan’s supply side economics, and notably the PATCO firings that were a continuation of the assault on unions that began under Nixon. It would have been tough to witness all of that. While I missed the first run of DEVO, I did finally catch up with them.

I got a chance to attend Oracle’s Open World in 2006 while working at a logistics company. It was a time on the cusp of the explosion of hand-held devices and cloud computing we are in the middle of today. Gavin Clarke wrote about the event in The Register, whose tag line is, “Biting the hand that feeds IT.”

More than 40,000 delegates will flood downtown San Francisco’s hotels, restaurants, and transport system, drawn from the developer, customer, and partner ranks of the 21 companies Oracle bought since January 2005 plus those using Oracle’s own middleware and applications.

Keynotes from […] AMD’s Hector Ruiz, Cisco’s John Chambers, Hewlett-Packard’s Mark Hurd, and Sun Microsystems’ Jonathan Schwartz, plus Dell chairman Michael Dell, and Network Appliance president Tom Mendoza who will no doubt pay some kind of homily to the power of their relationships with Oracle on servers, virtualization, and software […]

Even the entertainment is big: […] it’s the rocket man himself Sir Elton John.

Somewhere on one of the numerous venues arranged by the conference organizers within San Francisco’s Cow Palace, along with Sir Elton John, a dozen bands, circus acts and contortionists, I saw the band DEVO perform for my first and only time. They played Secret Agent Man among others I did not recognize.  It made me glad I missed the 1970s culture of the De-evolution of American life that was tied so closely to corporations making things like Goodyear tires in DEVO’s home town of Akron.

I was still on Iowa time at my hotel in Chinatown near the Moscone Center. I went jogging on Market Street in the early morning, encountering an army of homeless people, socializing and sleeping in cardboard boxes and under blankets on the sidewalks. As I ran, I wondered how the popular culture of the 1970s became one more thing to be marketed and bought by consumers. In doing so, it bred a deep cynicism that penetrates our culture today. It also gave rise to today’s self purported “new revolutionaries” of the Taxed Enough Already party, who too have become one more thing to be marketed by the corporatists at Fox News and NBC Universal.

As the sweat built and I headed back to the hotel, missing the late 1970s popular culture did not seem so bad. It enabled me to hope that as a society we were better than this, and that life was about more than militarism, poverty, sex, drugs and rock and roll. For that I am grateful.

Categories
Writing

On Madison

919 Madison Street in 2011.

This house is the second place I remember living. When I talk about the 1950s this place was seminal. It was recently on the real estate market with a gallery of photos. It remains inside and out much like it was when we lived there.

My sister and brother were born at local hospitals while we lived here. I started kindergarten from here in 1957. When Father went hunting or fishing with his buddies he brought back game to process it on the back porch. I learned about television, family traditions, and had my first and only pet dog named Lassie. I kissed a girl for the first time in the backyard. It was her idea. Memories return, of doing things in every part of the yard and indoors. A few photographs of the time survived.

Our maternal grandmother lived with us for a while and her ex-husband, our grandfather, visited from time to time. He was a demonstrator at the coal mining exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. He had coal worker’s pneumoconiosis from working mines in Cherry, Illinois. When he visited he would spend long periods in the bathroom coughing up phlegm. When he died of black lung disease I recall being in LaSalle, Illinois for the funeral but staying at my aunt and uncle’s home while adults attended services. Much later, during the Carter administration, Grandmother received black lung benefits from the federal government.

Father set up a swing set for me in the basement. It collapsed, resulting in my being rushed to the hospital for 50 stitches to sew my forehead back together. There are vivid memories about being injured and the time spent in the hospital. People don’t notice the scar any more yet it seemed prominent for many years.

I remember being with neighbors, sometimes inside their homes. We developed a sense of neighborhood. Not far away there were two parks: Fejervary Park to the west and Lookout Park to the east. We sledded on snow in the former and rode inside cardboard boxes down the steep hill of the latter. Occasionally I went wandering down Madison toward downtown and my parents had to come find me and bring me home.

As I revisit these years there are more memories than expected. How to approach them for an autobiography is an open question, one I need to answer. Part of me doesn’t want to organize these memories.

There is something to learn about how this pre-consumer society impacted who I am today. In the iconography of my life, this place remains important and merits consideration.

Categories
Living in Society Social Commentary Writing

No Class Reunion

40th High School Class Reunion, Summer 2010.

This summer marks 50 years since about 260 of us graduated from Davenport Assumption High School. As a group, we were never close and that makes organizing a class reunion difficult. There won’t be one this year.

It was a Catholic high school and parish loyalties continued through the four years. To some degree, those parish-nurtured social groups continue. I still read about cliques of friends who get together from time to time. When we graduated, social media didn’t exist as it does today. Information about classmates’ current activities would be unavailable without Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

I helped organize our fifth reunion, hiring a band to play music during the event. I also helped organize the 40th reunion, a two-day event, working on building a database of contact information that put me in touch with many former classmates. The fifth seemed too soon, the 40th was enjoyable and productive given my role. I heard from people whether they attended or not.

I stay in touch with a few friends from high school. If there were a chance to get together it would be great. With the coronavirus pandemic even a small gathering seems unlikely. We are of an age where conditions of life are catching up with us and at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Maybe we’ll get together in some safer, future year should we be lucky enough to live so long.

For now I wish my living classmates well. For the increasing number who died, the Catholic faith holds hope of a life after this one. I remember them here. As for me, I continue to put one step in front of the last and go on living. Such living includes spending time every year considering those youthful days and learning what classmates are doing now. What else is a person to do?

Categories
Living in Society

Getting Over the Kennedys

Sunrise, July 9, 2020

When I think of politics I think of the Kennedys. That is, I did. I’m over it now. This was first posted on Dec. 15, 2012. It’s been significantly edited.

The end of year holidays are something I associate with the Kennedy family. Our family wasn’t of the Kennedy clan, yet didn’t seem that far removed. My framework was formed while being Kennedy-like.

Our family moved into a new home the summer after I finished first grade. It was an American Foursquare built in the late 19th Century in Northwest Davenport. By the time of the 1960 general election we were beginning to have a sense of neighborhood and local culture.

Father worked diligently to organize our neighborhood and elect John F. Kennedy as president. I still have copies of the mimeographed 8-1/2 by 14 inch sheets he used, with generic city blocks marked in purple ink, waiting to be completed with the names of voters. Father was from Virginia, the part where politics is a daily passion. His political engagement was infectious. His work for the Kennedy campaign expanded to include neighborhoods besides ours where he took the purple sheets and helped organize the effort.

When JFK won the election, it was a big deal for our family. The oral history is Dad and Mom were invited to the inauguration. We followed the Kennedy Administration, as much as grade schoolers could. In that context my association of the holidays with the Kennedys was formed.

We understood patriarch Joe Kennedy had earned enough money for his children to be free of financial worry to devote their time to public service. We also knew we would not have any such freedom. We were a mostly Catholic family on my mother’s side, so we looked on the Kennedy lifestyle, particularly their family life in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts as framed through press coverage, as something to emulate as best we could. Perhaps it was a dim reflection, but it was there.

Mostly, life centered around school, family, neighborhood friends and television. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t rich either. We lived close to the means of production. We played touch football in the back yard, like the Kennedys did.

Television was a strong influence. After finishing our homework and outdoor play, we watched news, variety, westerns, and comedy programs, almost daily. In the 1960s television was viewed as a vast wasteland by FCC Chairman Newton Minow, and maybe it was. Life was not always about participating in the nascent consumer society.

That is where the connection between the Kennedys and the holidays came in. At Christmas, from Advent through the Epiphany, we set aside much of mass culture and re-enacted family behavior that was our connection to society. To some extent we emulated what we heard about the Kennedys: siblings in a large family looking after each other, and participating in a life in retreat from the broad concerns of society, at least for a while. For us, there would be discussions, meals and home entertainment. Family members would come in and out of our home with our lives intersecting with others during visits at our home and at theirs. We would attend midnight Mass on Christmas eve.

It was a tribal time of friends and family, removed from external pressures, and a dim echo of what we believed society should be. I look back on those times with the nostalgia only separation in time can create.

What I know now, and only am beginning to realize, is that the bubble of that family life was popped when Father died in 1969. It would never be the same. Whatever cultural resonances of a faux Kennedy lifestyle remained after that, proved to be vaporous in the long run.

I caucused for Ted Kennedy in 1980, and remember his concession speech at the Democratic National Convention. I heard Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak in Iowa City one recent evening. Throughout my life, I continued to touch them, or thought I did, even if I realized there had been no Camelot. I read the newspaper article about them selling the Palm Beach home in 1995 and the disputes over the final disposition of the compound at Hyannis Port after Ted Kennedy’s death in 2009. As time passes, the Kennedys seem less relevant.

What I realize now is life has always been mine to live. I have been over the Kennedys for a long time.

Categories
Living in Society Social Commentary Writing

Being Racist

First big kale harvest, Spring 2020

We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and consider whether we are racist. It’s not easy to do in the best of circumstances.

Dictionaries consistently define a racist as someone who has a notion that one’s own ethnic stock or genetic makeup is superior.

Which is it, ethnicity or genetics that defines race?

The authority of dictionaries has diminished in society. There are few rules in the living language except we be understood. Haters gonna hate, as Taylor Swift noted, regardless what’s in the dictionary.

I was confronted with the idea there were different races as a child. It was and remains for me an idea. I knew I was different, but superior? I don’t think so. Diversity in the neighborhood in which I grew up meant defining whether one’s family was of German or Irish descent. Racism as we know it today, as in the Black Lives Matter Movement, wasn’t an obvious issue. We were shielded from racism and those blacks we encountered were in a context of their relationship with our father: plantation workers in Florida, co-workers at the meat packing plant, and fellow union members.

What are the genetic characteristics that define race? What cultural behaviors are specific to race? Should we care about race? These are the questions I’m asking while witnessing the resurgence of protests over race after the viral video of George Floyd’s murder.

Our family visited the Gettysburg battlefield when I was a grader. Which side of the Civil War was I on? I felt I had to be on a side. My maternal ancestors immigrated after the war and my paternal ones from Virginia fought on both sides. After a moving childhood visit to the battlefields I adopted the Confederacy as my own history and bought a Confederate flag in the museum gift shop.

We cannot disown our history even if we want or if our current values discredit the peculiar institution of 19th Century chattel slavery in the U.S. southern states. Thanks to the combined work of my fourth grade teacher and my mother I came to realize the racism inherent in embrace of the Confederacy, and that it was wrong. Before long, with their encouragement, I sought and found my own history.

I first encountered systemic racism while serving in the military. I paid little heed to the naming of military bases after notable racists Andrew Jackson and Henry Lewis Benning, where I trained in the U.S. Army. I was stationed at Robert E. Lee Barracks in Mainz, Germany. It was named after the World War II veteran with the same name as the commander of the Northern Army of Virginia. Racism in the military was about more than names.

Daily work was integrated, which is to say as an Army officer I paid little attention to race when giving orders or following them. All but one officer in the battalion was white and the lone black lieutenant and his family lived in a twelfth century castle off base. I visited them a couple times while we served together. In conversations, I came to understand he was held to a different standard because he was black.

When we lived in Indiana I managed an operation that recruited thousands of truck drivers. I became familiar with parts of Chicago and the suburbs because of this work. I hired the first black recruiter the company had and remember the surprised faces when we returned to the corporate office for a meeting. Race made no difference in this hire. I just wanted someone who could do the job.

We rejected an applicant from our new driver orientation and he threatened to call Bobby Rush because he felt we were discriminating against him because he was black. The claim bordered the ridiculous because more than half the group in orientation was black or Hispanic. I don’t recall why we rejected him but I said I’d like to have that conversation and provided my number. Several weeks later we received a letter from Rush’s office and I replied. That was the end of it.

That protesters in our county seat chose to shut down Interstate 80 in response to the murder of George Floyd was predictable, expected, and ineffective. It’s something, yet I’m not sure exactly what. In 1971 I was part of a group of protesters that shut down Interstate 80 near the Dubuque Street exit in response to the Vietnam War. We built a bonfire in the Eastbound lane feeling we had to do something to disrupt business as usual. What more usual thing is there than traveling on an interstate highway? Law enforcement attempts to keep the interstate open, although there was a report one of the Coralville exits was closed by them in anticipation of protests. Protesters have to do something to gain attention enough to create a fulcrum point for change. I support their actions and also believe there has to be a better way.

What does the Black Lives Matter Movement mean to me? In our rural subdivision the only time race comes to the surface is when it is scratched. If there is talk of a black family moving in neighbors assert property values will decline.What does one do with that? I point out to them the assertion is patently false and reject it. Most people here don’t scratch the surface of race to avoid such conversations.

If George Floyd’s murder was a turning point in how racism is viewed in the United States then some good will come of it once he is mourned dead and survivors heal. We must look ourselves in the mirror on racism. If we can’t then we probably are racist and don’t want to admit it. If so, Floyd becomes just another black man who died at the hands of police as white hegemony continues a while longer.

My religious education taught we are all equal in God’s eyes. That’s how it’s supposed to be in the United States. Yet slave owners sought to justify the peculiar institution using the same Bible I read today. In the end, we have to ask ourselves if we are racist, not because we seek an answer, but because in asking we open the possibility of a remedy to today’s long-standing problem. We seem so far from that now.