Oliver ten Broeke, Editor-in-Chief
Adam Koplik, Featured Photo
In my opening letter this year, I wrote “…I’m excited to see what 2020 will bring to our talented staff…” Yikes. That aged like milk, as we’ve had quite the, um, eventful year.
Well, I believe that many things in life can be demonstrated to have such events separating the before from the after. It can be a dreadful moment: being diagnosed with an illness, losing a loved one, and the common “where were you when you heard about 9/11?” But, often enough, that singular event – which changes your reality forever – is wonderful. You could achieve a lifelong goal, or meet a friend who changes the way you see the world, or you could have a kid (if having kids is your jam.)
I expect that, for many of us, this pandemic is one of the major separators of before and after. It’s hard to come to grips with something so hugely destructive, yet so hugely abstract and invisible. Some of us know someone who had COVID-19, and some of us know someone who died from it. That’s a clear before-and-after.
Think of before. Think of being at school, or at work, or at a party, or at your friends’ homes. Being free to leave your house and show your smile to the sun. Being bumped into by a stranger, and happily declaring your apology. Being free to be, and freely being free.
Okay, think of now. School and many jobs alike have been put on pause, or closed entirely. Millions of people, who had never heard of Zoom, have now had to endure the (sometimes hilariously awkward) video call. We wear face masks, whose fog blinds the bespectacled among us. Perhaps one of the worst side-effects of virus-prevention has been the weaponization of touch.
We’re social creatures, and for many of us, touch is an important way to communicate. With physical contact, we show appreciation, friendship, and love. Now, when you bump into a stranger, that “sorry” really means something. But, this situation is laid out plainly: six feet apart today, so that we might offer each other an embrace tomorrow.
Alright, so what about after? Is there an after? It’s likely, but I know more about bagpipes and bees than virology. But, I reckon things will approach normalcy as time goes on. It will be difficult again in the fall, when the virus is projected to have another wave. Some of us will be forgoing the first year of college in that case, and that’s okay. There isn’t a rush. Keeping safe matters much more than exactly what year you’re in college, I promise.
And you know what, we’ll share this. All of us. Everyone in the world will have stories from this moment. Tragedy, humor, tales of 2020. It will be in TV shows, music, and eventually high school textbooks. I admit that there is something weird about spam emails advertising designer face masks. Nevertheless, our species will adapt and learn from this experience, and we will get to share hugs and kisses once more.
But, we have some other things to share. Responsibilities, huge ones. The climate, for instance. For the first time in human history, we have the capability to utterly wreck the planet and ruin what may be the only haven for life in this chunk of the galaxy. There’s also a political establishment that at its best seems apathetic or incapable of fixing the broken parts of this country, and at its worst seems to actively work against the interests of the people.
There’s the police system, which is in dire need of complete rethinking. Forgive my candor, but what the hell is going on? The police are exercising undue force on people who are protesting their use of undue force. They’re using teargas – a substance banned in the Geneva Protocol of 1925 – during a plague which damages respiratory function and for which the main vector is breathing. Things are broken, and they’ll only get worse unless you step in.
So, congratulations, Class of 2020. We’ve inherited quite the future. Those of you who are politically minded, I wish you well in your careers – I’m certain you’ll be true servants of the public. And listen, things will work out, but only if you work on fixing things. Work hard on being excellent to each other and the world – in 100 years, what will remain of you and your life? If you can’t think of a concrete answer, then just work on making the world a better place. In 100 years, people may not remember your full life, but they’ll be glad of your help in improving theirs.
Finally, I’d like to thank the wonderful staff of The Maroon. Investing their time and energy into producing not only excellent writing, but superb journalism; capturing brilliant photos to pair with our articles; staying after school to tirelessly edit and format. With the necessary movement to an online platform, a certain core group of staff have revealed themselves to be dependable time after time, always eager to make The Maroon the best paper it can be. Thank you.
Well, whether or not we’ve met, I wish you safe travels, lovely company, and answers to the hard questions.
Oliver ten Broeke, Editor-in-Chief.