Welcome to Virtual ComFest 2021!
June finds a re-opening; a return to activities and some events. Alas, the timing was such that large events such as ComFest are not yet able to resume.
However, again this year, ComFest is pleased to offer a full weekend schedule online so the community can come together for music, progressive activism and artistic expression.
Being unable to gather at Goodale Park last year as the pandemic disrupted every aspect of our lives resulted in a sense of emptiness. However, producing ComFest in a virtual space seemed like a kind of victory and offered an opportunity to be together, sort of.
And it worked! Thanks to an incredibly dedicated team of Virtual ComFest volunteers, the last full weekend in June featured the best in live and recorded local music, informative and inspired workshops, a visit to favorite vendors at Street Fair and a chance to score 2020 ComFest merch. The Spirit and Purpose of Community Festival thrived at Virtual ComFest.
There’s even more planned for Virtual ComFest 2021. The now seasoned virtual committee has assembled an impressive schedule of performances and workshops for all three days. And this year, even more archival video is being added as well as nearly every ComFest program guide from cover to cover.
Even though we’re coming together virtually this year, the desire to quickly get back to our lives is intense. As the pandemic appears to be in the rearview mirror, some feeling of normalcy seems close at hand.
But perhaps normal is not at all what we should be desiring.
In fact, the seeds of ComFest were planted in the very necessary and urgent call to challenge what was “normal” 50 years ago and say “No!”
Then, progressives affirmed that unjust wars and military adventurism were not, and should not be, normal; embedded racism, disenfranchisement and discrimination should no longer be normal; economic exploitation at home and abroad to satisfy and [over]feed the prosperity of a few shouldn’t be normal; and, degrading our planet and depleting its natural resources should not be normal.
These and other attributes and certainties of 50 years ago compelled a group of activists, artists, community organizers and others to come together, as a community, as a festival, to mobilize for and effect change, and seek better ways to organize their lives and communities.
Today, the Community Festival Statement of Principles articulates their values, ComFest 365 weaves it into everyday life; ComFest’s Grants Program puts resources into direct action; and Community Festival in June brings it to life as a celebration, reunion and progressive community meeting as a three day “party with a purpose.”
What then do we make of today’s desire for normalcy?
If anything, the two main storylines of the past twelve months - the pandemic and the presidential election - have exposed the terrible dysfunction of much that is deemed normal. And, peeling back these currents reveals plenty of normal that demands a renewed “No!” Just like it did in 1972.
It should not be normal for the world’s wealthiest nation to stagger through a pandemic with an anemic approach to protecting its most vulnerable and endure 600,000 casualties;
It should not be normal for a losing candidate for President of the United States to deny his obvious loss and then provoke an attack on Congress, and six months later remain at large for his actions;
There’s nothing normal about cynical and unapologetic efforts to make it harder for people to cast a ballot in a representative democracy;
The denial of science and reason and a steadfast refusal to engage in a fact-based modern world should not be normalized;
It cannot be normal for a democracy to lurch toward plutocracy whereby a few are enriched beyond comprehension while many are left behind; impoverished, inadequately educated, and too often homeless, and/or addicted.
And, there’s nothing normal about the nation’s highest court to be subverted by political groups and used as a tool to dismantle the establishment clause threatening and inching the republic in the direction of theocracy.
Of course, there is much to be optimistic about as we return to our lives, our families and friends, our work and daily activities that give us meaning. There was ample heroism, selflessness and kindness revealed during the pandemic and the post-election crises. We’re grateful for the triumph of modern medical science. We celebrate critical electoral victories suggesting that maybe, after all, we will resist divisiveness and a turning away from our best selves, individually, and as a nation.
But we also must remain alert to the threats to progress, and the commitment of those who will use whatever means (see: ‘attack’ above) to deny the most basic rights of so many others. And we must be vigilant against their attempts to make it all seem so normal.
By: Marty Stutz