In challenging times, we need to stand up

A profound theme shone through this week amid the foaming madness of our times.

These days, we’re engulfed in conditions and issues that can seem apocalyptic.

Epic storms tear across the globe, innocents are targeted by hate where they worship, work or shop, lead countries are more at odds economically and politically, there is societal economic divide, U.S. troops amass at our border over desperate peasants, and more ...

Taking a step back, sure, mankind has been here – and often worse – before. But when you’re in the storm, it is your storm, and it’s worst for you. That’s these days.

So when events rise in the eye of the storm to work against this tide, they become especially reassuring.

And this week, there were such echoes – from College Park, Md., to the elite tech campuses of Google, to even an overflow crowd in our own Liberty Township to honor lives lost in Pittsburgh.

They showed you can stand up against seemingly larger forces.

It was in Liberty that I found a tale most endearing to the moment. But let me close with that in a bit.

Maryland would have been dynamic – even if it did not involve a Valley local. That it did include one of us made us more aware here.

The worlds of universities and sports are as prone to top-down overreach as any leading body. In Maryland this week, those two worlds collided in an embarrassing way.

The University of Maryland lost a student last spring when he was overcome during a strenuous football practice on a hot spring day. And last week, the university president, athletic director and football coach (Youngstowner DJ Durkin from our deep football lineage) were set to lose their jobs Tuesday after an investigation by the board of regents.

But out of that meeting, the board opted to keep the two sports leaders most directly connected to the player’s death, and instead dismiss the president.

Reports from that closed-door Tuesday meeting say Durkin made a very impassioned coach-like presentation that wowed the board, while the president warned that keeping the coach will rain hell.

Well ... the next day, hell rained over the University of Maryland, as predicted.

Donors, students, political bosses (and their political foes, because there’s an election this week) all piled into the pool. Two football teammates slugged it out. Other players protested as well.

Within a day, Durkin was fired, a movement launched to keep the president and waves of disgust still wash over the board and the campus.

You can stand up.

Google workers are employed by essentially the most powerful company in the world.

Yet in 47 offices around the globe – New York, Atlanta, Zurich, Dublin, Singapore, London and India – as sophisticated a workforce as any walked – engineers, coders, developers – not knuckle-scraped steelworkers we normally affiliate with labor marches.

The company has been railed by sexual-harassment issues that had been covered up or handled with excessive buyouts for the accused.

For Google workers, it was a moral march. Maybe it worked.

Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said the problem went unchecked for too long and promised support to address issues. No replacement workers were ordered or troops assembled.

You can stand up.

And Thursday at Temple El Emeth in Liberty Township, more than 600 people stood together against the fatal hate in Pittsburgh a week ago. A tale of previously not standing up most resonated with me.

The Rev. Juan Rivera, pastor of Victory Christian Center in Coitsville, was among the many religious leaders who spoke.

He held up his favorite book, and it was about Valley religious leaders of the past.

The Rev. Mr. Rivera excitedly told about his favorite chapter in the book, and his favorite page in that chapter, and the exact column, and the exact sentence that he so loves.

It was a photo caption from a couple of decades ago, and it included a Valley priest and a rabbi together at a local rally.

Mr. Rivera spoke in a tone as if something magical was to be in those words he was about to share with 600 of us.

The words were not magical. The words he holds dear are about his faith and his predecessor not being present at the event ... “even though he was invited,” he read from the caption.

It was stoic. Not being there ... not standing up ... was a moment for Rivera to remember.

He continued – without pause and with as excited a tone as he started his story. I paraphrase him here:

“We are here now with you, and we always will be. When you hurt, we hurt; when you need, we will need with you.”

That. Makes. Change. That makes good. Simply said, that makes ...

You can stand up.

Conveniently this week, the PBS’ series “Frontline” offered outstanding journalism about Facebook. It is a must watch – “The Facebook Dilemma.” It is two episodes that outline a company that refuses to stand up for the good that it misses because of the bad that it allows.

Despite all its apologies and offerings of what’s been fixed, Facebook was duped by Vice News. The outlet created 100 fake U.S. Senator Facebook pages and posted paid ads supposedly from all of them. All were approved by Facebook.

We have to vote this week – pivotal for us, for sure. But it’s less profound than some of the above events.

We have new leaders to consider against existing leaders. There are top state offices up for grabs.

We have massive legislative opportunities, such as Issue 1 and local spending asks as well.

Stand up.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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