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Las Cruces Graduations And The Temporary "New Normal"


Commentary: The events held last week at the Field of Dreams to honor local high school graduates sure felt like graduation ceremonies. But they weren’t.

They were senior celebrations.

The reason for that is school officials want to give the class of 2020 a proper graduation. 

The celebrations were a lot of fun.


Instead of massing on the floor of the Pan-Am Center, graduates gathered in their cars in the Field of Dreams parking lot, along with up to four family members or friends. And, instead of marching in together, they drove in one car, truck, motorcycle or stretch limo at a time.

Most of the vehicles were elaborately decorated to honor the graduate. Several grads had created caps for the top of the vehicle, and came dressed in their gowns. Horns were honking, police sirens were wailing and family members inside the vehicles were cheering and snapping photos as each one pulled up to the principal.

But then, when the big moment arrived, they were handed something other than a diploma. A keepsake. They posed for a photo, and then drove home.

There were no group selfies, no goodbye hugs, not even the traditional handshake when receiving the diploma. 

It wasn’t a proper graduation, but that’s not a criticism. School officials did the best they could without endangering the health of graduates and other participants. I appreciate that they still intended to conduct a proper graduation when possible, knowing that many of the grads will have left town by the time that happens.

The senior celebrations were an example of the kind of compromises that will be required for the next several months at least, as we race for a vaccine. We’ll still be able to do a lot of the things we did before, but not in the same way.

We’ll soon be able to eat in restaurants again, but not in crowded banquets or buffets where everybody uses the same serving spoons. We’ll be able to go back to the barber shop, but not hang out at the barber shop.

Professional sports are starting to come back, but without any fans in the stands. And, thus far, they’ve only been able to figure out how to make that work financially for individual sports like NASCAR, the UFC and horse racing.

School officials are planning for how to bring students back without crowded hallways between classes or packed cafeterias at lunchtime. Business owners are stocking up on disinfectants and reorganizing their shops to keep people from clustering together.

It won’t be like it was before. It will be as close as we can get to how it was before, without losing even more lives. It will be a compromise.

This is happening in an election year, and the president’s response to the pandemic will be a major factor for many voters. That has served to sharpen the divide and amplify the protests. 

But most of us are just trying to get through this as best we can. And we understand that we’re responsible, not just for ourselves, but for everyone else who we come within six feet of. 

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.