By Catherine Duffy

Sending a quick “on my way” text, checking a notification or changing the song on our phones while driving is something most of us can unfortunately admit to having done in the past. But what kind of risks do these behaviors evoke? Between having lost people in my life due to collisions and having experienced a rear-end collision myself just two weeks ago, I vowed long ago to never use my phone while driving. But how can we convince other drivers, notably those in the younger demographic, to leave their devices aside while driving? Does it really take a tragedy to show phone users just how distracting these behaviors can be? If we put our phone away while commuting, the National Safety Council might have 1.6 million less crashes to report annually.

Back in July, my friend and I were hit from behind at full speed. Strangely enough, the crash occurred in broad daylight, on a straight road as we stopped for a pedestrian. It was clear to us the driver of the other vehicle must have been distracted in some way. Though using one’s phone remains the most common distraction, behaviors such as eating and self-grooming can be just as dangerous. In Saskatchewan in Canada, where I live, using your phone while driving or driving without “due care” poses a $580 ticket and four demerits on one’s license. Should this person reoffend, their second charge will be $1400 and their car will be impounded for a week (SGI).

So with such serious charges, why does the use of phones while driving remain such a big issue? I decided to do some research into the matter and used the Canadian Automobile Association’s website as my main source.

CAA shared in 2018 that phone use while driving remains one of the biggest threats to the safety of Canadians. This point is further justified by the National Collision Database’s statistics that share that 310 deaths and 32.213 injuries occur every year in Canada simply because of the use of phones while driving. As my high school driving instructor once said, all of these could be avoided and lives would be saved if everyone committed to putting their phones away while on the road. Many of you reading this might already know how dangerous this can be. CBC news reported in 2014 that though 95 % of drivers surveyed know and have been taught the dangers of using your phone on the road, 73 % of people still admit to having done it. So why can’t people resist the urge of sending a quick text?

CAA reports that phone addiction may be to blame. 93 % of phone users continue their use on the road to “stay connected” while another 28% have anxiety and worry about “missing out” should they put their phone away on their journey between point A and point B. 25 % are so confident in their driving that they don’t believe the use of phones will affect their driving skills. Another 14 % are anxious to keep their friends waiting on an answer and 6 % of phone users simply blame their addiction to texting.

Though I am sure that a great portion of the younger population are guilty of phone use, older adults have their fair share of distractions on the road as well. The CAA shares that GPS is the most distracting task while driving and even devices deemed “safer” such as hands-free systems are still involved in 26 % of all vehicle crashes. 

So next time you wish to answer a friend’s text, or share a quick photo of your drive home, remember you’re raising your risks of a crash by 23 times. Though it’s been said in millions of anti-phone use campaigns, I’ll be cliché and say it one more time: is sending a text really worth your life?

Works Cited:

CAA National. (n.d.). Distracted Driving. Retrieved July 30th, 2020, from https://www.caa.ca/distracted-driving/statistics/

SGI. (n.d.). Distracted driving penalties. Retrieved July 25, 2020, from https://www.sgi.sk.ca/distracted-driving-penalties

Images source: Pexels

By Sumner Lewis

Every summer I’ve experienced has a soundtrack that goes with it. Whether it’s Dog Days Are Over during the summer of 2011 or Golden Boy during Summer 2017, there has always been a summer theme song. Pop radio also participates in the “song of the summer” phenomenon, anxiously waiting to see which song will go viral with the masses. 

Even though most of us in Summer 2020 aren’t doing what we originally planned, the summer still deserves an awesome soundtrack. I’ve discovered a new sound in my Spotify mixes during my time spent alone at home and, may I say, they’re all bops. Here are my picks:

Album:

~how i’m feeling~ by Lauv

Lauv’s sophomore album is the equivalent of a deep breath for your ears. The entire album is easy to listen to, fun, and hits those seldom discussed emotions everyone feels. He teams up with multiple artists for duets including Alessia Cara on Canada and Anne-Marie on fuck, i’m lonely

Two standout songs off the album are Modern Loneliness and Billy. Billy is a buoyant song where the protagonist leaves behind a past where he was bullied, taking that negative energy to fuel him to strive for better things in life. The beat behind it is infectious, and paired with the dual level of synths underneath, it makes for a song that is often stuck in one’s head.

Modern Loneliness is the final song on the album and serves as a thesis statement for the intersection of Lauv’s internal feelings and how the current generation interacts with each other. The song begins morosely, just Lauv and a piano reflecting on how he’s become the person he is. It gets an uplifting injection of guitar after the first chorus, opening up into an enveloping sound by the second. He, and the gang vocals behind him, very aptly state that the current generation is “never alone, but always depressed.” The song is comforting, reflective, and saddening for the listener and the artist alike.

Artist:

Quinn XCII

Quinn XCII has been a mainstay of my summer listening. His orchestrations are diverse: in a single song, he has soaring strings incorporated with a pan flute as the main percussive beat and even adds accents from a harp. The acoustic instruments blend seamlessly into the otherwise electronic landscape of Flare Guns

If musical experimentation isn’t your cup of tea, try Stacy, the lead single off his newest album A Letter To My Younger Self. The gentle keys draw you in for a peaceful yet intriguing listening experience. Notice the multiple guitar effects to create layers under the poppy drums and back vocals. The sound is enveloping and fun, as with the rest of Quinn XCII’s music. 

His music is beautiful. Above and below the surface, there is so much depth to his songs. One can listen actively or passively and still gain value because of how well constructed his songs are, but I suggest truly listening in to the extra touches that are meticulously placed throughout every song.

Song:

Level of Concern by Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots is pretty well-known across the radio waves. I haven’t been the largest fan of their music post-Blurryface, but Level of Concern is a certified quarantine bop. 

The song is written during and for the experience of quarantine. The overall story of the lyrics don’t seem cohesive, but separate bits make sense. Musically, each part of the song effortlessly melts into the next. The electric guitars set a static chord progression throughout except for the bridge. The piano leading the bridge into the final chorus is the aural version of twinkling stars. Listen for similar piano notes during the second chorus to tie the song together.

Playlist:

Playlist Radio

This playlist is Spotify specific because it’s automatically generated by them. It has the perfect spread of good summer vibes from Bryce Vine to AJR, The Band CAMINO, and PEABOD. 

The lead song the playlist is based off of, Playlist by Kid Quill, is a jubilant nod to the club music of the early 2000’s. If you need a theme song for your socially distant beach trip, this is the song you should be blasting. The three chord repetition in the keys keeps a peppy thread throughout the song, leading into the outro which samples OutKast’s So Fresh, So Clean and Nelly’s Ride Wit Me among others.

Other notable songs on the playlist include 100 Bad Days by AJR and La La Land by Bryce Vine. The throbbing bass uniquely creates almost a ‘negative soundscape’ during the verse of La La Land under the light guitars which is contrasted by the full sound of the chorus. The song is done with tact, ensuring the chorus does not accost the listener, then returning to the bass line of the verse in anticipation of the bridge.

If you’re wondering why a pop/rock band such as AJR belongs on a playlist with easy summer hip hop jams, look no further than the first fifteen seconds of 100 Bad Days. The synths throughout the song seamlessly integrate it with the rest of the playlist. The horns and the bass in the swell of the chorus remind the listener of the previous song on the playlist, La La Land, proving that good vibes are not confined to a single genre.

The playlist rounds itself out with the complex sound of Jon Bellion. Stupid Deep acts as an equalizer that calms the listener from some of the more sprightly songs, while still maintaining the simple, positive energy that this playlist invokes. 

Most of these songs aren’t within a genre I would normally listen to. My music taste mainly focuses around alternative rock, musicals, and male British singer/songwriters. However, I love all these new music finds, and I’ve discovered that they aren’t too far away from music I already listen to. It juxtaposes Summer 2020: even though I’m not doing what I originally planned, I’ve still found happiness in the different and unusual. With this new music, let’s all find the silver lining in our lives and listen to some good vibes.

By Fiona Rose Beyerle

Perhaps the best PBS Kids show on air in the early 2000’s was Arthur.  Who could not love the fun characters, cute storylines and life lessons taught on Arthur?  Although each character had their own unique personality, they all showed us what true friendship was, while going to the Sugar Bowl after school or hanging out in the treehouse.  Even though they do not age in the show, it is fun to imagine what Arthur characters would pursue in college.  After all, if this bunch survived being in Mr. Ratburn’s class, they would definitely survive university. 

Arthur: Sociology

As the protagonist, we saw a lot of Arthur’s inner thoughts about everything going on in Elwood city.  Almost all of the show’s intros are him introducing the big question of the episode and analyzing interactions among the characters.  On top of his sociology degree, Arthur would likely keep up his piano skills by minoring in Music. 

Buster: Video Game Design

Buster was the quirky friend who would definitely be the guy at college parties trying to convince you of his alien spotting stories.  Besides that however, Buster was a huge video game fan.  Combined with his knowledge of video games and fun personality, Buster would study video game design to create all the wackiest video games to be on the market. 

Muffy: Business

We all know how much Muffy loves money.  During college, Muffy would study business in preparation to take over her dad’s business: Crosswire Motors.  Muffy would also be that person who gets an iced coffee every single day on the way to class.

Francine: Sports Medicine

Francine was always putting the other characters in their place in any sporting event.  While studying sports medicine, Francine would also play on the university soccer team and be a well-known athlete on campus. 

The Brain: Physics

Although The Brain would be incredible at almost any STEM major, physics takes the cake.  The Brain was always doing science experiments, solving math problems and reading about science.  As a physics major, he would do undergraduate research and publish a ton of scientific papers, on top of being president of the physics club.  The Brain is also definitely the person who would ruin the curve for the rest of the class.

Fern: English (concentration in Poetry)

Fern was quiet, but you always knew when she said something, it would be important.  It would be difficult to picture Fern as anything besides an English major, with an emphasis in poetry.  Some may remember the episode when Fern wrote poems which Muffy essentially forced her to sell as “Fernlets.”  Fern did not care about selling her poetry, it came from the heart and was a way to express herself authentically.  As an English major, Fern would also get a chance to study some of her favorite authors like Agatha Christie and Mary Shelley. 

Sue Ellen: International Relations

Sue Ellen was a world traveler and not afraid to take the road less traveled.  She always stood up for what she believed in and did not care about what others thought.  As a lover of traveling, Sue Ellen would choose a degree in International Relations, after a long gap year traveling and volunteering at animal shelters of course.  With her degree in International Relations, she would be ready to fight for human rights, the environment and many other key issues the world faces.

George: Psychology

George may not have been in every episode, but he is definitely one of the most memorable characters on the show, especially due to added entertainment by his ventriloquist dummy, Wally.  George was extremely thoughtful and was always there to help his friends.  As a psychology major, George would be taking the first step to becoming a licensed therapist and helping others.   

Thank you to PBS Kids and Marc Brown for creating such a fun show to watch growing up and for teaching us that having fun isn’t hard when you have a library card (if you know, you know). 

By Sumner Lewis

Dating is, in the simplest term, weird. It’s exhausting, exhilarating, confusing, and so much more. I’m a freshly 21-year-old woman and I am filled with questions; it’s overwhelming.

Why does the world focus on the ideal romance instead of a solid partnership? The everyday love and respect that makes up a good partnership doesn’t sell books or movies. Therefore, all we are fed through the media is the thrill of a new relationship: the honeymoon period. 

It’s the all-encompassing bliss that lasts anywhere between 6 months and a year at the beginning of a relationship. Once it wears away, the real life of the relationship begins and people typically either fall into a routine or fight and part ways.

Romance stories still have an audience (myself included) even if they do not fully reflect reality. They keep us on the edge of our seats, comfort us, and give us something to aspire to. Those of us who haven’t experienced running into the love of our lives at a coffee shop eat it up. 

Why do people believe that the right person “fixes” someone? People don’t fix other people; people fix themselves. Maybe someone comes along who helps them or inadvertently teaches them a lesson, but it’s the person in question doing the work to better themselves. 

A good partner can inspire someone to be the best person they can be. They can question comfort zones or destructive behavior. But it is up to the person to change themselves, and only if they want to. It also isn’t only romantic partners who can inspire change. It could be a friend, boss, therapist, parent, or anyone. Romantic partners don’t have the monopoly on inspiring self-improvement.

What is up with the sentiment that people become “whole” when they are with the right person? Comedian Daniel Sloss has an incredible monologue during his Jigsaw stand-up special that has broken up multiple couples. It makes the viewer assess their relationships and where they want to be in life. He uses an analogy where the core of one’s being is a jigsaw puzzle. 

No one has the image of what the puzzle is supposed to look like, so we start out with the edges: simple things that make up who we are such as family, friends, hobbies, etc. Once the edges are in place, most people think that the missing middle piece is a partner. They’ll be complete once they get that perfect person.

People believe this so much that they try to jam just anyone into that middle spot when their piece is the wrong shape. When it doesn’t fit, one has to acquiesce and change some part of their edge pieces, the foundation of who they are as a person, in order to fit that ‘perfect’ partner into their lives and finally be whole.

I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that a partner will be the center of my jigsaw puzzle. My future spouse won’t define who I am as a person, nor will they ‘complete’ me. I am already whole.

What’s the goal of dating? Society dictates that dating leads to a relationship, which leads to marriage. Using the transitive property, the goal of dating must be to find someone to marry.

Choosing who you are going to legally tie yourself to is a huge life decision. It’s not just about love; you have to think about who would be a good parent to your possible future children, who you can stand to cohabitate with. Are they good with finances? That question answers whether or not you’ll get a joint account together. If you do get a joint account, do they have student debt that you’ll now be paying off too?

The first couple of dates can test compatibility through similar likes, dislikes, and how easily you settle on an activity or restaurant. After that, time together should obviously be enjoyable, but it should also be spent exploring shared values and how you could feasibly live life together.

What about casual dates and official relationships? I don’t see the point of dating someone I won’t marry, but I also want diverse dating experiences so I can form my own first-hand opinions of relationships. Also, going on dates is super fun. You get to know new people, share experiences, and learn about what you do and don’t want in a future partner.

I enjoy the casual date and getting to know a person. I just don’t think I want to be in an official relationship until I’m sure that I’m vetting them for marriage. 

Entering an official relationship is a big decision to make. You have to want a life with the person you’re entering it with, not just to have them in your life. You have to want to do the work with them, to be a team against the problems in the world. It’s significant to be committed to someone even if there isn’t a legal document binding you together. No matter your age, having a significant other should be treated with gravity.

Why am I asking these questions? I have unpopular opinions about how we view dating as a society. I prefer to be a realist about it: whoever you marry will set the course for the rest of your life, and who you date will wind up being who you marry. 

Date smart. Figure out what you do and don’t want in a relationship and then only date those who fit the bill. In my case, it’s important to me that my spouse is also Jewish, so I only seriously date Jewish guys. Remember that your values and who you are as a person should not be compromised for anyone. A spouse should complement you (and compliment you, because we all love some good positive reinforcement).

It does seem daunting to be looking for a spouse in your early twenties. But if you analyze your dating life early, there might be less heartbreak involved in the future. I hope you find what you’re looking for out there in the dating world. I know someday I will.

On Monday, June 1st, 2020, Christian Mbanza was momentarily locked out of his car. 

The 27-year-old grade-school teacher of Regina, Saskatchewan used an app to unlock his car. He waited for his phone to work for a moment, and when it didn’t, simply got out his keys. Nothing about the incident should have implied Mbanza was breaking the law when he was simply entering his own car, so why did a video taken by a neighbouring resident, captioned “Just happened on Keller ave watched the whole thing happen lock your doors!!” end up on the Greens on Gardiner Facebook group? Well, Mbanza is Black. 

The now-deleted Facebook post that targets Mbanza.

“If I was somebody with a lighter skin complexion, the results would have been different. I don’t think they would have automatically assumed that I was stealing,” Mbanza said in an interview with CBC. He went on to express that “I’m lucky that it just ended up on Facebook,” noting that things could have ended badly if he had lived somewhere else. 

This seems to be a common sentiment in Canada. Many are tweeting variations of a 2013 Robin Williams quote in regard to the country: “You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.” The implication being that Canada is innocent compared to what goes on in the States. But anyone who believes Canada to be innocent in regards to racism is sadly fooled. Yes, Canada is known as a friendly country. But the truth is we wear syrup-sweet smiles to cover up our genocidal history and violent present. 

Indigenous people occupied North America for thousands of years before European settlers arrived, bringing with them venereal disease, alcoholism, and business schemes. This weakened the Indigenous way of life, as they were not accustomed to any of this. It wasn’t long before the Indian Act was put forth in 1876, which was based on the premise that it was the Crown’s responsibility to care for and protect the interests of First Nations (the Indigenous peoples of Canada), when in reality it was largely concerned with the assimilation and “civilization” of First Nations. In 1883, residential schools were put forth as a method to further assimilate Indigenous children. These children were taken from their homes and enrolled in these residential schools, where they were forced to abandon their traditional language, dress, and lifestyle. More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in these schools and over 6,000 were killed, making the odds of dying in a residential school more likely than the odds of dying in World War II. Many survivors of these schools were subjected to verbal, physical and psychological abuse, which is a major cause of substance abuse and intergenerational trauma; this practice continued until the last residential school closed in  1996.

Stephanie Pierce graduated from high school in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 2018. It wasn’t until she enrolled in her school’s Native Studies course at the age of 16 that she learned of the severity of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people. She recalls being shocked about the Sixties Scoop, which was a practice in the 1960’s that involved the RCMP “scooping up” Indigenous children from their parents and putting them up for adoption, usually to middle-upper class white families.

“We actually had someone who was a survivor of the Sixties Scoop come in and talk to us,” Pierce recalls. “She said she had no clue the true background of her adoption until the earlier 2000’s, and her adoptive mom didn’t know either.”

The survivor was eventually reunited with her birth mother at the age of 40. Until that day, her birth mother had no idea what had happened to her child. 

“When her biological mom gave birth to her in a hospital, people came in – I assume the RCMP – and took her away, and basically said she was too unfit to be a mother.” 

Taking Native Studies was a life changing experience for Pierce. Unfortunately, the class is optional and is only offered when enough students show interest, meaning that an important education often comes far too late – or not at all. 

Modern Canadian racism might not be particularly evident to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but it exists all the same. As of 2018, the federal government reported that 91 First Nations communities (excluding those in British Columbia and those without access to drinking water at all) were under long term drinking water advisories. Indigenous people make up 4.8% of Canada’s population but were one third of the victims shot by the RCMP between 2007 and 2017.  The tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women has been declared a national crisis, and yet a proper number cannot be estimated because Canada did not keep a database for missing people until 2010, but since 1980 that number is estimated to be in the thousands

As evidenced by Mbanza’s experience, racism isn’t exclusively directed at Indigenous people in Canada. The black community makes up 3.4% of Canada’s population and 9% of police fatalities. Black people in Toronto are 20 times more likely to be shot dead by the police than people who are not black.

(Above) A mural in remembrance of George Floyd, by Regina teenager Zoe Stradeski.

As peaceful protests break out across the country and #blacklivesmatter trends across multiple social media platforms, it may appear that people are making meaningful steps towards change. However, this movement is more than a trend. Black lives and other marginalized lives need to continue to be listened to and protected going forward. Calgarian Twitter user @deborahmeb expressed her lived experience in a series of tweets. 

“As someone who’s spent over 80% of my life in Calgary, experienced most of the racism I’ve experienced throughout my life in Calgary, I’m not only overwhelmed by the show of support this week, but I’m actually shocked.

Part of this shock is not actually appreciation but rather an indictment…It’s a ‘Where have y’all been this whole time?’ Before this week, FAR too many of you have been far too silent. I realize that before this week, I felt extremely alone in this. 

If you are truly ready to change that, my gratitude cannot be fully expressed. If you will commit to care for black lives, fight for black lives, to do the necessary learning to value black lives beyond this current moment, you will be doing a noble thing.” She then goes on to “Implore you to stand up for Indigenous lives with the same vigour.”

Sign petitions 

To demand that a transparent investigation is held into the actions of the police officers present when Regis Korchinski-Paquet died, you can sign the petition here.

To demand racial data on police-involved deaths in Canada, you can sign the petition here.

To demand justice for George Floyd, you can sign the petition here.

To demand justice for Belly Mujinga, the railway worker who died from coronavirus after she was spat on by a man claiming to have COVID-19, you can sign the petition here.

To demand justice for Breonna Taylor, the Black emergency medical technician who was fatally shot in her apartment by the Louisville Metro Police Department, sign the petition here.

To demand that the NL high school curriculum includes anti-racist books, sign the petition here.

To demand that the city of Calgary holds a public consultation on systemic racism, sign the petition here.

To demand that Toronto police wear and turn on body cameras when on duty, sign the petition here.

Donate

Donate to Justice For Regis.

Donate to Black Lives Matter Toronto or Black Lives Matter Vancouver.

Donate to the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund.

Donate to Belly Mujinga’s family, including her daughter.

Donate to the Toronto Protestor Bail Fund, which provides legal support to anyone protesting in Toronto.

Donate to The Minnesota Freedom Fund, which provides funds to pay bail for those protesting in Minnesota.

Donate to The Bail Project, which provides funds to pay bail for those who have been arrested during the protests. You can split your donation between the 39 bail funds (including the Philadelphia Bail Fund, the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, the Community Justice Exchange National Bail Fund Network and the Mississippi Bail Fund Collective) by clicking here.

Donate to the National Bail Fund Network, which includes a directory of community bail funds.

Donate to The Movement For Black Lives, a global initiative which aims to support Black organizations to conduct conversations about current political conditions.

Donate to North Star Health Collective, which coordinates and provides healthcare services, resources, and training to those protesting in Minnesota.

Donate to Unicorn Riot, which supports journalists on the front line.

Donate to Black Visions Collective, which centers its work to develop Minnesota’s emerging Black leadership to lead powerful campaigns.

Donate to Reclaim The Block, a grassroots organization that works to provide the Minneapolis community with the resources they need to thrive.

Donate to Say Her Name, a campaign that calls attention to police violence against Black women, girls, and femmes.

Donate to Justice For David McAtee, a Black restaurant worker killed by police in Kentucky.

Donate to I Run with Maud: an Ahmaud Arbery fund by his best friend.

Read

Stamped from the Beginning – Ibram X. Kendi

So you want to talk about race – Ijeoma Oluo 

The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander

Dying of Whiteness – Johnathan M. Metzel 

Zami – Audre Lorde

How to be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi 

Lies My Teacher Told Me – James W. Loewen 

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas 

Becoming – Michelle Obama 

Malcolm X – as told by Alex Haley 

Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde 

by Kendall Bistretzan

I was born on May 8th, 1999. Eight months before Y2K: before the world was supposed to end. Sometimes I think it may as well have. 

On September 11th, 2001, I was two years old. I had no real stream of consciousness. I do not remember the act of terror that changed a country, but I’ve never known the world before. 

My first concept of war was not of our history, but of our present. Every conversation about war in my elementary school years was linked back to Afghanistan. We are making Christmas cards to send to the troops to Afghanistan. His dad was deployed to Afghanistan. No one ever told me how the conflict began, but it still rages on today. 

I was 10 years old when a magnitude 4.5 earthquake hit Haiti, half a lifetime ago. I understood that it was a disaster and that people died. I understood that the billions of dollars in damage would never be truly paid. But I was a child, and I lived in Canada, so there was nothing I could do but listen to that Waving Flag song and pray that the people who were more powerful than I would help.

image2

When the Earthquake happened, I felt like I understood its severity. I didn’t feel like a child. Then I found a picture of me when I was 10 and realized that being 10 years old is so much younger than it feels. 

On the morning of December 14th, 2012, I was sitting at the desk of my eighth-grade classroom. It was in the front right-hand corner of the room, half a foot away from my teacher’s desk. Her face fell the moment she read the news, and I knew it would be bad before she told us. “There has been a school shooting in the States,” she said, and I thought oh no that is terrible. Then she said “It was an elementary school. Kindergarten to grade four” and any semblance I had of a decent world was shattered. My parents remember where they were for 9/11, but I remember where I was when I found out that 20 children and 6 adults were shot to death just weeks before Christmas. I remember their names and their faces. 2012 was the year I stopped praying. 

image1

At age 13 it felt as though I had lost my innocence. I was lucky to have made it so far. 

But it never ends. I was 15 when I was standing in a hotel lobby, waiting for the rest of my fellow choirmates to leave for supper at the Old Spaghetti Factory when I saw on the lobby’s television that a 50-year-old man named Walter Scott was shot in the back by a police officer. Of course, he was black, and of course, he was unarmed, and I could only stare in disappointment, the same thought ringing through my head: Not again. A year later, age 16, I woke up for school, rolled over to check my phone, and found out that 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando and still I thought, Not again.

Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when I was 18. Eleven people were killed at a Synagogue when I was 19. Twenty-three people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso when I was 20. I remember these tragedies, but I can’t quite keep track of them because they just keep happening, again and again. 

Now I am 21 years old, and I only leave the house to buy groceries. I am unemployed. I saw a friend for the last time and didn’t even know it. 

It is a silent loss. One I know I cannot take personally because it could be so much worse. It is so much worse. 

But I am 21 years old and I am so tired of “worse.” Every day bad news is rammed down my throat. The Earth is dying and so are its humans. 

The older generations like to tell us it could be worse. 

They think they had it harder. 

And maybe they did, but bad news wasn’t accessible the way it is today. 

We are the cursed generation.

And I am so tired of “worse.”

 

By Colleen Boken:

If you have ever traveled on the train between Boston and New York, chances are you have stopped briefly in the small city of New London, Connecticut. Located on the glistening shores of Long Island Sound, New London is home to the US Coast Guard Academy, Connecticut College, Mitchell College, and a whole host of small-town businesses. It is a town rich in nautical history, and is the kind of place that would seem right at home in a Stephen King novel.

I have been serving here as an Americorps member with the New England Science and Sailing Foundation, serving in the schools and getting an understanding of the integral structure that makes up the city of the sea. Therefore, when the coronavirus came, it forced us all to reexamine what it was about living in a small town that made it so much more different from other places around. 

It is important to note that I love everything that makes up a great, small town.  Walking down Bank Street, the main commercial hub, the variety of businesses making it their own is undoubtedly what makes it a town like no other. The two-story buildings that line the river and the railway tracks are usually bustling, with all sorts of emporiums plying their wares. There is a gay bar, a cute little coffee shop with memories of times once past, a few barbershops, a museum in the oldest operating customs house, and even a number of tattoo parlors.  On a usual Saturday, from nighttime to daytime, these places are bustling. Students, locals, people who came in on the train, and the occasional submariner from the nearby base turn bank street into a party alley.

It was right before Saint Patrick’s Day when the coronavirus pandemic became serious enough to the point that the governor of the state had no choice but to order all businesses closed.  It was a day that the town had been anxiously preparing for, with parades and all sorts of events planned, only for it to suddenly come to naught. I live downtown, not far from Bank Street, and with a view that tells a story of its own

I took time to walk down Bank Street that night, and what I found summed up many of the feelings that are being reflected in towns across the nation. Bars and restaurants that should have been bustling with people eating corned beef and listening to Irish pub music were instead graced with only the sound of the sea breeze and the occasional “toot toot” of the train. No lights were on, and a few places were doing take-out, but not many. In many ways, it felt like the town had become a ghost of itself, and it was quite easy to wonder if it was the end of the small town as we knew it.

Yet there is something to small towns that many people do not realize. When things like this happen, towns like New London do not just disappear. Instead, the people that make up a place like this find ways to remain positive. They bring forth a reminder of the good we can do if we just remember that we as a whole are a community–a community that needs to stand tall together.

I have had the great fortune of becoming friends with the local event planner extraordinaire. She is one amazing lady, and she embodies so much of what makes a small town wonderful. She recently began posting signs around New London: little reminders to thank the first responders who were helping everyone get through these unpredictable times. 

In addition, a firefighter who was back in New London decided to share some happy music with the good people on the street he was on by playing his bagpipes loud enough so that everyone could hear: a welcome surprise it was, and a needed one at a time when the sound of happy music was a welcomed addition.  

I have spent many years in small towns: growing up in one, going to college in another, and now serving for a year here. The small town is more than just a small gathering of people. Rather, it is a solid community that is built so strong that even when something like the coronavirus threatens the fabric of the town as a whole, it fights back even stronger. It may not be the biggest town in the world, but what is critical about the whole endeavor is that like many small towns, New London is built in such a way so as to thrive in the good times and show its strength when the going gets rough. 

On a personal note, I did not know what this town would be like. I had never even been to Connecticut before I took this position. What I have found is a place that does not care who you are, but instead on what you can do. It is a town full of pride and filled with hope. As you go on with your day today, think about your community–and how every place, big or small, has a chance to thrive even on its darkest days. 

Because when this whole thing is over, and when everything returns to some sort of normal, the communities we built will show us just what we can become.