Our enemies know our fundamental weakness now, the American flaw. We are free — so free, we are free to be stupid. Free to not wear face masks, free to carry lethal weapons without a moral conscience, and free to be utterly selfish. None do better at proving this true than my generation.

I’m in my 60s. I was born to see civil rights fight its way into public consciousness and collective guilt. In Oak Park, that meant actions and policies to prevent white flight in the ’70s and ’80s. Sherlynn Reid, Frank Muriello, and Sandra Sokol are my personal heroes. We’ve dropped the ball on social justice, assuming the courage of our parents’ generation, which had the power to keep rolling its way forward.

We are also free to do the right things. This moment of terrifying illness and isolation is fertile ground for change. Going back to normal? That will not be happening. We are already forever changed. We will emerge from COVID tougher, angrier, and exhausted. That is exactly when we should fold a more sensitive justice nerve into our realities.

You there in your 30s and 40s, we need you to take up the social justice struggle. Show your elders and your children how to be unselfish. Your mask is symbolic of the courage it takes to want equality, racial and otherwise. Your mask unifies us. 

Our parents and grandparents have left us with work to do. Our town is not perfect, but it is diverse. It can be more so. Let’s get to it. Yes, now.

Karen Muriello

Oak Park

Join the discussion on social media!