Seth Boyes joined the Dickinson County News staff in March of 2017. In his first week at the DCN, he covered a train derailment near Graettinger. The tankers carrying ethanol burst into flames. Seth's photo of the event won first place for Best Breaking News photo at the 2018 Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show. Since, Seth has won nearly a dozen awards for writing, photography and multimedia content. Seth graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a degree in Integrated Studio Arts. His original cartoons run regularly in the Spencer Daily Reporter and the DCN. Both he and his wife Janet hail from Clear Lake and have come to expect summers to be full of the hustle and bustle of tourists and visitors.
The above cartoon was finished a flurry, over a period of more than seven hours. The artist worked from photo references to draw not only the Grand Avenue Bridge monument, but also many of the figures and signs in an effort to be both accurate and meaningful. Though originally intended to be in full color, the panel was left black and white once the word "unity" was applied.
We bleed to keep disease from entering a wound. We feel pain so we can quickly pull our hand out of a fire. We spike a fever so our bodies are as inhospitable as possible for something that is harming us.
What is unpleasant, uncomfortable and possibly even frightening on the surface can actually be a step toward healing if heeded.
Our community, despite a few observers I saw with weapons in hand, was witness to a peaceful protest in Spencer last week. Of that, I'm sure we're all thankful. But I'm also sure we realize other areas of the country and the state have seen a greater degree of unrest — from the spray paint left on landmarks to the rubble which was once someone's livelihood.
It's pain, plain and simple.
We are a collective human being and, right now, some parts of that being are in more pain than others. Society's skin is burning, and for some reason, we're debating whether to take our hand out of the fire, but at the same time, we're upset the blisters are rising. To our shame, this flame isn't even newly kindled. George Floyd's death is the most recent spark to spring from the coals, but the fire has been burning for some time.
In many ways, it's the same fire that was burning when David Dennis, organizer with Mississippi's Congress of Racial Equality in the 1960s, spoke from the pulpit during James Chaney's memorial service in 1964. Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were killed after a sheriff's deputy in Neshoba County, Mississippi, charged them with speeding, held them for six hours and called members of the Ku Klux Klan to intercept the three men upon their release. Their deaths are now known as the Freedom Summer murders and served as inspiration for the 1988 film "Mississippi Burning." Dennis feared the killers would be found not guilty because of an unfair legal system and the public's complacency in opposing such injustice. He had a point. Only seven of the 21 men suspected of aiding in the murder were both charged and found guilty. None of them served more than six years in jail.
"Don't bow down anymore," he said, at Chaney's funeral. "Hold your heads up. We want our freedom now. I don't want to have to go to another memorial. I'm tired of funerals. I'm tired of it. We've got to stand up."
To be clear, I'm not saying the Ku Klux Klan played any role in George Floyd's death. But I will say there is once again an unnerving impulse among some to accept injustice and death while the people experiencing it directly are shouting "I'm tired of funerals." Racially motivated deaths have been happening for years, and that's undeniable. The deaths of Trayvon Martin (2012), Philando Castile (2016) and Eric Garner (2014) — who, like Floyd, told authorities he couldn't breathe before he died – are still fresh in our memory, but riots like those happening in Minneapolis and elsewhere haven't been seen in the United States since perhaps the Civil Rights era. I don't believe that to be coincidence. And although the focus right now is on racial bias in law enforcement, we cannot and should not tolerate racism in any part of our society – our body. We should spike a fever and drive out the disease.
We are in pain – have continued to be in pain – because we are one body and one people.
So let's not shun our hand for blistering in the heat. Let's take it out of the flames and heal it. Let's not scold our blood for flowing when we are cut. Let's wash the wound and bandage it. Let's not dismiss voices in our society when the pain of decade upon decade of mistreatment is manifested in anger and violence. Let's listen — and more importantly, let's change together.