More random pandemic thoughts

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said “Raider Forever.” It was a reference to the mascot of one of our city’s high schools. There is a similar phrase for the other high school: “Once a Cobbler, always a Cobbler.” I’m sure that there are people who retain their loyalty to their high school for all of their lives, but the sentiment somehow eludes me. Maybe it is because my high school mascot was the Sheepherders. Somehow “Sheepherder Forever” or “Once a Herder, always a Herder” doesn’t seem to do much for me. I’ve never raised sheep myself. I’ve never worked as a sheepherder. I do have friends, including high school classmates who went into the business and still, to this day, have herds of sheep, but somehow I’ve moved on. Or maybe I never was that loyal to my high school. After all, I didn’t graduate. I don’t know which class to which I belong.

What I remember about high school is that I was eager to get out of high school. I know not everyone has that same feeling.

I’ve been paying attention to things that are being done in our community to respond to the unusual nature of this year. Because of the pandemic high school proms and graduation ceremonies were cancelled. The high schools held virtual ceremonies, but I’m sure it wasn’t the same. There have been tributes on Facebook and some displays and posters around town. People are tying to show support and to offer congratulations for the accomplishments of the high school seniors. It has interested me that much of the attention has been raised by parents. I think it is appropriate for parents to support children and to offer congratulations to their offspring for passing this milestone, but it seems a bit as if what is going on is that the parents are missing the vicarious pleasure of their children’s events. In a couple of cases, it seems that the parents are more upset than the teens themselves.

When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to leave my small town for the big city. Of course the big city where I went to college wasn’t big at all, but it was the biggest that Montana had. There were about 100,000 people in Billings at the time and there were a couple of places where you could find a bit of traffic if you went there at the right time. There certainly were more choices in stores and restaurants than was the case in my hometown. Then, after four years of college, we made the move to Chicago. Chicago really is a city. We learned about traffic and how to drive on freeways that are filled with cars. We learned to ride the trains and get from one place to another in a big city. We learned about shopping and about apartment living. We also learned to go to the lakeshore and look out at Lake Michigan to be reminded that the city has a border and beyond that are places that aren’t filled with people.

Throughout human history people have been attracted to cities. The increasing urbanization of all of society is evident when one studies the sociology of the globe. Cities are growing larger and larger while rural areas are becoming less populated despite increases in overall population. People congregate. Other than four years in Chicago, I’ve been drawn to less populated places. I enjoy the size of Rapid City: large enough to have diversity and services, small enough that there is no real rush hour.

It is too early to tell, but the coronavirus pandemic may force a re-thinking of cities. I’ve seen the pictures of San Francisco where they have painted squares in a public plaza to designate physically distanced areas for homeless persons to pitch their tents. If you are trying to slow the spread of a virus, one of the ways to affect it is to get people to spread out. People have long known that physical space is an aid to health. Before the full mode of transmission of tuberculosis was known, sanitariums were established in rural areas believing that the fresh air outside of cities was more conducive to healing. I suspect that developing ways for the economies of the world to be more decentralized and for there to be less congregation of people into large cities will be part of the response to this pandemic, but large cities will remain and people will continue to be drawn to them to live and work.

If the trend continues, the majority of the class of 2020 of the Rapid City high schools will move away from Rapid City and from the state of South Dakota. They will seek their livelihoods in many different places. Most of them will never again live in our state. Exporting youth is one of the contributions we make to the health and economy of our nation. I’m not sure, however, that it always has to be this way. I think that there are things that can be done to make South Dakota a more attractive place to develop a career. We’ll have to learn to value our workers better and discover ways to make wages more competitive, but that can be done. We have wide open spaces, beautiful scenery and great recreation to offer. So far, however, it doesn’t seem likely that either of our children, who graduated from Rapid City High Schools will ever live in South Dakota again. I’ve been exchanging texts with our daughter in Japan this morning and we’ve been discussing where they might live next. It doesn’t look like it will be this state.

So I don’t think our children are “Raiders Forever” any more than their father is a “Sheepherder Forever” or their mother a “Bronc Forever.” Perhaps the real challenge is not whether loyalty to high school remains, but what loyalties endure through adult life. A pandemic gives us the opportunity to sort our priorities and discover those things to which we can be true over the long haul.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!