Ethics Class, Primary Sources and Plan B

It’s March 2010 and you’re completing your freshman year of Community College in your podunk hometown.

You’ve elected to take Ethics this semester, carrying on with your favorite history professor, a man in his 60s from last semester, and, frankly, the reason you don’t completely hate this place — except you don’t have the creepy crushes other girls somehow develop?

You’re joined by Carl* a boy 2 years older who you met last semester. He’s the other reason you don’t hate this place. Alas neither of you, despite your mutual, admitted attraction, can let go of your respective significant others in time to see anything blossom. (P.S. His girlfriend hates you)

And then there’s Maggie*. Unlike you, Maggie is gorgeous — perfect dark hair, perfect makeup, perfect smile. She’s new in town but has double the amount of your friends. And like you, Maggie is Catholic — rosary-praying, Conservative, Bible-to-her-heart Catholic.

You’re decidedly Independent, politically, but you’re definitely not Conservative. You once watched your grandmother give a poor man $5 on Colfax in Denver after Grandpa made a wrong turn, and to Grandpa’s chagrin told him, “I gave it to Jesus.” Besides, you’re pretty sure your gay friends aren’t going to hell. Look the whole point of this is to say Maggie is everything you aspire to be, and a wonderful acquaintance (you’ll never work up the courage to add her to Facebook). But she’s about to become your biggest debate contender.

The first rule of Ethics is you must back every argument up, and the second rule is you can’t use your Bible to do so. The Tuesday Night Class easily becomes your favorite class, and it’s worth the evening hours spent at school. There’s new non-traditional students who become fast friends, boys from past years you get to catch up with, girls who you also envy in probably not the most hetero way — all with varying views and opinions.

It’s hardest for Maggie not to fall back on her Bible as a source. But by God, that girl sticks through every argument, heated as they come. And then, somehow (and of course) Plan B gets brought up.

“Plan B is abortion,” Maggie announces (ah, that’s how it got brought up — the evergreen abortion debate).

Um, no it’s not, you announce.

And then the fundamental truth hits you. The first rule of Ethics is you have to cite your sources.

Except unlike Maggie, this isn’t a case of wanting to fall back on your Bible. The place where you read that Plan B isn’t abortion… was in the Plan B packaging.

All at once you are scanning the room. You are not about to tell this to Maggie. You will not say as much to your 60-something guy history professor, with whom you plan to undergo your history minor. You sure as HELL won’t say so to Carl or any of those boys you knew once in high school.

Oh, to be an anonymous student in a crowded lecture hall at the state university. They use smaller class sizes as a way to attract kids to this hometown junior college. Now knowing no one sounds like a dream.

You remember that fateful day last summer when your boyfriend and you both just felt safest. And in the Walmart pharmacy an old high school friend who moved away recognized you and insisted that you meet her husband. You remember the pharmacist or tech or honestly just Saint turning her cashier screen around, giving you the lowdown and making your secret feel safe with her.

And like a good Catholic girl, you scanned every line of that packaging; you would have thrown both pills* in the trash before having an abortion (*back in the day you had to take two; medicine has come so far).

It takes five days to conceive, this is the day after, so it’s not scientifically possible. It was your mantra for a whole 24 hours last July.

And yet, as you stare down Maggie, your biggest ethics debate contendor, even explaining THE SCIENCE feels like you’d be telling everyone you have a lot more experience in sex and contraception than you’re comfortable sharing. At the state university, and even here, 19-year-old girls have anonymous sex, in-love-forever sex, somewhere-in-between sex, and probably explain condescendingly to the church girls in large lecture halls just how Plan B works.

And yet here you sit, a Sunday School teacher, a friend and student to this old guy professor, a student to the front-office desk ladies who took this up as a night class. You are tongue-tied.

For some reason your professor doesn’t hold you to it to cite your source. For some reason Maggie sighs and pulls out her laptop (Ha. Pulls out).

You watch the defeat on her face as she reads the science, but is quick to point out that you CAN take an abortion pill. It DOES exist.

Lo, that wasn’t the pill you took in your summer fever. And while you believe making such a pill illegal solves nothing, that’s not worth the battle right now. You made it through without telling a small class about the time you combed Plan B packaging, or took Plan B, or even had sex.

Your dear professor probably knew how you knew, and knew not to ask you how you knew. Regardless: You won the debate.

Keep Calm & STOP PANICKING (!!!)

Back in college some 9 years ago, the world saw a resurgence in the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster.

It made sense: Both minimalist and vintage styles were popular. The Keep Calm And Carry On poster fit each like a glove.

And just like all works of art that we wear out, both an anti-meme (“KEEP CALM AND DRINK COFFEE” HA HA GET IT?) and The Backstory emerged.

It turns out that World War II in Britain was, like they keep calling today, an uncertain time. And like today’s events, people worried about pushing an insensitive message. So even after the British government printed all those posters amid valid fears about German bombings, they didn’t hang many of the posters at all — in fact, they axed their plans altogether.

Decades later, we’re quarantining instead of rationing. Instead of home-front allied news, we hear daily diagnoses and death rates.

“Don’t panic,” they told us, as state tournaments canceled, and then entire sports seasons followed suit.

“Don’t panic,” they urged, as our students suddenly learned that their whole school year ending early is not a dream, rather, a heartbreak.


“This is stupid,” wrote a high school classmate with two kid. She was angered that soccer season ended. “Everyone is panicking.”

I did not panic as I packed up my desk, carried a monitor out of my office, and said “see ya later” to my boss, without stopping to think about that last word.

I did not panic as I set up my new work-from-home office in our living room, combining an old desk from storage with a makeup vanity.

He did not panic as he drove two hours’ round-trip just searching for antibacterial wipes, wanting anything for his employees, all deemed essential, the deliverers of important medicines and online purchases. Just a week prior he’d come home and, like so many of us, swore if he fielded one more question about this virus…

We all learned all at once that this was real, and this was here. For each state or national event that was canceled, there was an athlete or would-be participant who had tested positive. Celebrity names began pouring in. Then friends.

We did not panic as we used our bunny ears to find a local channel and listened to our state governor praise the efforts of local restaurant support.

In other states, the more people who tested positive, the more people dug their heels in that there was no need for government control TO ORDER residents to stay home.

“They don’t want a panic,” one well-intentioned friend explained at my frustration, reading about negligence where I’d grown up.

And soon enough, all of those friends who WERE TOTALLY NOT PANICKING (!!!) began telling the rest of us the truth. The doctors who have studied infections for decades are actually just frauds. A collapsed, heartbreaking economy is exactly what the government wants. The government wants to burden itself purely so that it can control you. Bill Gates Bad.

If you had spent time touting pro-life views on Facebook in January, you may be up for sacrificing the weakest link in March — it’s better for business. And as they took to the streets to protest, obviously the calm and rational, they shared one message: JUST. STOP. PANICKING.

I bolted around the grocery store for necessities, though I only took what I needed. I did not panic when I realized I needed more, or when delivery wait times meant I’d have to shop in person.

I mourned for our ghost-town craft district. I looked at pictures from my college friends-group, unable to fathom a life where we were all told that we had to disband the last two months of our senior year. I cried at a news article about a lost hometown high school sports season. Then I cried at another at a lost high school musical.

I felt, as one friend’s young daughter so poignantly called it, “The Big Sadness.” I felt the fear. I tried to brush away the uncertainty.

But I trust health experts, because they are experts. I believe our efforts now will save lives of those who need it most — of all ages.

“We may be suffering something of an invasion at the moment, but that’s no reason to start acting in a rash and hot-headed manner. We may be a subjugated nation — temporarily — but we are not about to start acting like savages.”

And as I settled into my new normal, I found myself waiting. Surely, along with the tiger memes and podcasts, someone would re-surge that old Keep Calm design. We sure needed it now more than we ever did in 2011.

But there lies the problem. Long-gone is our sense of a united home-front. We’ve replaced it with protesters, with misinformation, with fear of control… With a strong, resounding panic.

In the late 1930s, according to that Business Insider Backstory, the end goal was to do exactly what the British government printed:

“We may be suffering something of an invasion at the moment, but that’s no reason to start acting in a rash and hot-headed manner. We may be a subjugated nation — temporarily — but we are not about to start acting like savages.”

If only we had been so perceptive.