As I write this, I am up in East Lansing and on my laptop, listening to the Ann Arbor City Council meeting that is live streaming, half-listening to CNN on cable, and reading an 1860 copy of the Michigan Argus that has been digitized and placed on the internet. I am reasonably sure that our friends in 1860 would be rather perplexed at exactly what all the hell I am doing. Indeed, I would have to explain electricity, wi fi, laptops, and the fact that I am a foul-mouthed woman who votes in every election, is not wearing a bra right now, and likes to drink.
But I think they would understand this: as I was reading a particular article about the death of a friend of Ann Arbor, my friend & city councilperson Chuck Warpehoski proposed a moment of silence for a friend of the city who died from a brain tumor. They would understand this, because they did this too.
Here is what happened in 1860: Charles Slingerland was removed from us by the hand of Death, said the Council. The Argus said that the inscrutable Providence “removed him as it were by a thunderbolt and in the twinkling of an eye”. Mr. Slingerland passed in the “morning of life, in the vigor of his manhood and usefulness”. The Council offered many condolences to his family, and ordered that these be printed in the paper (which they were).
Tonight, Chuck requested a moment of silence for another friend of Ann Arbor, named John (and I’m sorry to say that I couldn’t catch the last name…alas, 21st century wifi is not perfect and his voice was going in and out). I did, however, hear that John had a brain tumor and passed away, and that he was a good person who was a friend to the city.
So what have we learned? That in 1860, we had good councilpeople who made lovely proclamations for fallen friends of the city…and we still have good councilpeople and good friends to Ann Arbor 155 years later.