From the Editors: June 22, 2016
Putting the hammer down to drive Erie forward.
We live in a hopelessly youth-obsessed culture. Everywhere you look, the message is: Stay young to remain relevant. Stay young to remain vital. Stay young to remain desirable. Just stay young. Period.
But most of this messaging only goes skin deep. We hear daily how important it is to look young. To dress young. Essentially, to consume things that will keep us appearing young. We hardly need to address how reliably this sort of messaging skews our cultural values toward that which is superficial, and away from that which truly matters in this life.
So what are we doing with nine fresh faces on our cover, and even more filling out the pages of this issue?
Easy. We're celebrating the other side of youthfulness. The side that's rarely trumpeted in the glossy realm of mass media, but that is infinitely more important in terms of positively contributing to a community. Any community.
The 40 individuals being honored in these pages channel youth's energy in myriad hopeful ways. They commit themselves unflinchingly to bolstering what many resignedly dismiss as a failing city. They devote themselves to finding structural weaknesses in our community, and then stepping up creatively, all "If I Had a Hammer"-style, to fix them.
They might be more likely to associate a musical "Hammer" with the giant-pants-wearing MC. But lyrics from The Weaver's classic better align with what these young locals have been up to, all over this land.
"If I Had a Hammer" was written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays as a progressive labor movement anthem. It's been taken up by the civil rights movement, the peace movement, and many movements before and since that don't sugarcoat the struggles they face, don't shy away from the hard work they'll need to overcome them, and never lose hope.
And whether they know it or not, the honorees in these pages are singing a similar tune. In harmony.
But our culture – obsessed by youthful appearances – is also debilitated by a reluctance to acknowledge how problematic things truly are.
To paraphrase czb's Charles Buki, Erie needs to have an adult conversation about our present state of affairs. And though they're young, these 40 individuals seem ready to do just that.
They didn't flee to a gentrified, next-big-thing kind of city. They also aren't under any illusions that Erie is perfect.
In fact, its flaws are a lot of why they seem to love it here. Why they chose to move here, or move back, or stay. They know there's work to be done. And they're doing it. Not after they get that grant, or after they get that degree, or after that committee meets to create yet another plan.
They believe in themselves. They believe in each other. They believe in Erie.
And though it sounds as corny as a folk song, we believe in them, too.