Posted Aug 12, 2020 at 14:20. Revised Apr 23, 2021 at 16:15.
This morning JD looked out the farmhouse window and decided that it was too nice a day to stay on the farm all day. A trip to Oberlin to explore the impact of COVID seemed in order. The town was like something out of the Twilight Zone — everything was the same as always, yet nothing was the same.
Visiting the Twilight Zone.
The first stop was the bustling business district on W. College street. Everything was the same, except for there being no bustling people. The stores were spiffed up and ready for business — without customers — in this Twilight Zone setting. The street was all but abandoned with little more than JDs parked car in evidence. Spooky.
There was a group of cyclists buying refreshments at Gibson’s Bakery while no other business had any visible customers. It was clear that the vendetta of the College and its BOT against the Gibsons was not working. Two Black kids were among the customers and were treated just fine by the store. Spooky indeed, considering how hard the College has worked on painting the Gibsons as racists.
Tappan Square — empty
It was a day when one would expect to see people out and about, although there were two picnickers on park benches. The square was well maintained, and it had a park-like atmosphere. It felt unlikely that things would remain so lovely for much longer.
The area around Peters Hall was less fortunate. The grass was in need of mowing and was no longer being maintained to golf course standards. One could not help but feel sad knowing that the College’s self-inflicted financial wounds endanger the likelihood that things will remain beautiful.
The cypress tree
Everybody knows that cypress trees grow in Florida swamps, but they also thrive on Tappan Square. This stately cypress has been part of the Tappan Square scene for many decades. People walk past and under it and see only a tree. The tree’s age is unknown, but it is clear that it has been around for a long time. It appears to be entirely happy with living in the Oberlin climate.
The upper left portion of the picture shows the branches of an oak tree that could pass for over 100 years old. It also looks happy with the growing conditions on Tappan Square. Its days as a happy, healthy tree are numbered because there is a Twilight Zone oak blight heading toward Oberlin that will kill all oak trees within the next several years. Losing these oak trees will be a loss to Tappan Square.
The power of love
The familiar boulders on Tappan Square are still an active focus for students wanting to convey a message. The tradition of boulder painting started around 1962 and has continued uninterrupted to the present time.
The message on this boulder is somewhere between a message of hope and a Twilight Zone irony. There are very few students around campus right now to paint rocks, so the painting tradition must have a lot of sticking power.
We can’t breathe
This boulder says a lot about where we are and where we need to go. The one safe prediction is that the road to racial justice will be a bumpy one.
It seems to JD that there must be a prioritized attack on the racism problem, with stopping excessive police violence being the highest priority. The next priority should focus on improving safety in the streets in Black neighborhoods.
Neither of these priorities will be quick or easy to accomplish. Lesser problems such as micro insults are not worth spending much time on when people are being killed in the streets for no good reason.