From the Editors: Pomp and Consequence
June 17 - July 28, 2020 Vol. 10 No. 8
If you've ever attended a commencement ceremony, you're certainly familiar with Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance," the official theme song of graduations everywhere [with apologies to Vitamin C, composer of "Graduation (Friends Forever)"].
However, you may not be aware that Pomp and Circumstance is not the title of a single march, but rather a series of marches — and the one that gets all the spotlight is actually entitled "Land of Hope and Glory" (Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D). Furthermore, you're unlikely to ever hear the piece in its entirety during a procession, just a continuous loop of its two-minute "B" section. Despite its regal elegance (it was initially played during the coronation of Britain's King Edward VII), it's curious that the anthem for "moving forward" and "going places" should repeat in such a circular fashion.
Inevitably, though, diplomas and degrees will be awarded and the orchestra will fade out, punctuating years of hard work and expectation, and off they'll go to traverse the "Land of Hope and Glory" — or at least that's the idea. As we've seen in 2020, the landscape is riddled with obstacles and questions, and for many feelings of hopelessness and inglorious ends. Those born into privilege often march toward their destinations relatively unobstructed, in measured and confident strides. Meanwhile, those born into struggle often feel as if they're marching in place. Sometimes, the struggle originates in poverty. Others, it originates in the color of one's skin. Often, unfortunately, they are far from mutually exclusive.
As America has witnessed in the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests across the country — including the protests in Erie on the evening of May 30 — systemic racism and subjugation are alive and festering. It's been playing on a continuous loop for centuries, tirelessly, as those in power constantly feed into its tip jar. Whether the band wears matching costumes (the Ku Klux Klan) to stand out or civilian attire to blend in, they're playing the same hate-filled song that should've faded out ages ago. Although it's been percolating through the airwaves for months, COVID-19 is a radio jingle in comparison.
When do we graduate from this? How many times do we as a species need remediation in kindness, respect, and empathy? This year's graduates — millions of talented young men and women — have the chance to change our collective tune, just as the classes that came before and those that will come after. In Erie, the recent approval of a community college at least extends a hand to economically disadvantaged individuals and minorities to band together as a larger and more diverse skilled workforce on the stage.
In the Oval Office and other positions of power, the instruments of hate have arena-sized amplifiers. Every day civilians young and old must play their part — even if they stumble to articulate the right notes at first — and play them loudly. We should demand more from our leaders than deflective pomp in every circumstance; it's far past time we commence accountability and advance the universal best interest.