Friday, July 31, 2009
Letter to the Editor
Gary Johnson's question at the end of "When Worlds Collide" (Spring 2009 issue) raises another question: Does cerebration itself separate us from our ideation? In other words--Do we use the metaphorical complexity of the liberal arts to obfuscate rather than confront our own primitive murderous instincts? And do we need to engage in such obfuscation in order not to commit suicide? One famous psychiatrist began all his initial encounters with patients by asking this question: "Why don't you kill yourself?" The liberal arts offers a Jack Benny kind of answer: "I'm busy thinking."
Hemingway said his "typewriter" was his "psychiatrist". His prose purges every act of cerebration in favor of ideation---look at the description of what is in front of Nick Adams's eyeballs not behind them for example. But then we all know what happened to Hemingway when he stopped writing.
We may need metaphors (and the liberal arts is loaded with them) simply to survive. And what is the most persistent and omnipresent metaphor the human species creates : religion.
Paul D. Keane, M.A. English '97
"COME AND SPEAK THE TRUTH" : Text of a telegram, written in Latin, by the Kent State University President, Robert I. White, to Henry Steele Commager.
"The University and the Community of Learning", a speech by Henry Steele Commager, was delivered at Kent State University the year after the May 4, 1970 shooting of thirteen students by Ohio National Guardsmen, four of them fatalities ... Reflections on "The University and the Community of Learning" by Paul Keane, a bystander at the shooting and, a year later, a member of Commager's audience at Kent State, can be read by clicking on the title (link to Commager web site) preceding, or by scrolling immediately below.
Reflections on "The University and the Community of Learning"
By Paul Keane
It was April, 1971 and the word around campus was that Henry Steele Commager was going to speak in U. Aud., as we called the Kent State University Auditorium, on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I was told by people in "the know" to go if I wanted to hear something special. I didn't know who Henry Steele Commager was but I had been told he had at first turned down the invitation to speak at Kent State, saying "No one there would be interested in what I have to say."
It was the year after the infamous shootings whose carnage I had witnessed the preceding May. During the intervening time the campus had been quiet except for one notable professor,a few of the nine survivors who had been shot, and a handful of courageous Yippies who protested the local kangaroo grand jury which indicted, not guardsmen, but students and faculty for the shootings. Shamefully, I too had been silent about the killings in my role as a graduate student and dorm counselor. I rationalized, "Surely Nixon will convene a federal grand jury to investigate this correctly." In August, four months after Commager's speech, Nixon proved me naive, when Attorney General John Mitchell announced there would be no federal investigation. Kangaroo justice would apparently be the last word.
Commager had refused the invitation to a campus where freedom of expression had not only been chilled by the student and faculty indictments, but frozen by fear that the Ohio legislature would act on some of its members' threats to close Kent down permanently if there were any more demonstrations.
Robert I. White, President of the University then (and at the time of the shootings), to his credit, sent Commager a telegram in Latin saying, "Come and speak the truth."
Come he did. "The University and the Community of Learning" was his truth.
I went to U. Aud. that April 10th hoping that Commager's truth would amount to a dressing down of the local Portage County grand jury and its obvious prejudice. What I got instead was a speech which placed my current local Ohio moment in the context of 800 years of the history of academic freedom.
Suddenly I was overwhelmed with my own sense that silence on my part was more than cowardly, it was a betrayal of something precious, a tradition whose flame had been kept burning solely by the protective walls of the Academy.
My silence - our silence at Kent State - jeopardized that flame. I left that auditorium resolved to await my opportunity, and when it came, to speak.
When Mitchell refused to convene a federal grand jury in August, I returned to Kent in September and mounted a student and faculty petition to Nixon to reverse that decision. A lot of others wanted to speak too and 10,000 signatures were gathered in only ten days, including that of co-author of the petition, Greg Rambo, president of the Kent State Young Republican Club and, in an ironic twist of fate, a former page to the very Ohio Governor who sent the troops to Kent State in 1970, James A. Rhodes. Kent State's new president, Glenn A Olds, personally brought the petitions to the White House. Six years later, while a divinity student at Yale, I persuaded Yale's library to begin a Kent State Collection in its Manuscripts and Archives division to house manuscripts and documents which I believed could not be housed impartially at Kent State's library. That Collection still exists at Yale and still generates controversy.
Both of these projects (the petition to Nixon and the Kent State archives at Yale) were inspired by Henry Steele Commager's speech that day. In the year 2007, as I re-read its words, I believe it to be one of the great speeches of the 20th Century.
As we now plunge into a digital world and a world replete with genetic engineering and its attendant dreams and nightmares let us hear again the words of Professor Commager: "The university - and the scholar - have in addition one function which is bound to excite misunderstanding and hostility in society; that is to serve as the conscience and critic of society and of whatever establishment is in power."
May it long continue to do so.
Paul D. Keane, M.A., M.Div., M.Ed.
NO CAKE IN THE ELM CITY
January 16, 2009
Letters to the Editor
Yale Daily News
Although I am sure you did not intend it, there is an implicit “let them eat cake” quality to your Jan. 12 article “Endowment falls 25 percent,” which discusses the reduction of Yale’s endowment from $22.9 billion to $17 billion. Yes, that’s billion, not million.
I grew up in a white-picket-fence neighborhood in Mt. Carmel, but my grandmother lived on a third-floor walk-up with no hot water two blocks from Yale at State and Elm streets.
When I would visit her as a tot, she would walk me across the New Haven Green, hand in hand, and as we neared Old Campus, I would ask her in my childhood naivete, “Who lives in those castles?”
The juxtaposition of Yale’s majestic architecture with New Haven’s ghetto that encroaches several of its boundaries is as inexplicable to me today as it was back then.
Why do some people have so much wealth and others so little? To put it another way, why does Yale’s ivy itch like poison on the skin of New Haven’s poor?
Seventeen billion dollars?
My mother taught me it is always rude to eat in front of others without offering them a portion.
Paul D. Keane
The writer graduated with a master’s of divinity from the Divinity School in 1980
* IN HIS PUSH TO RENOVATE AND EXPAND HAS LEVIN FORGOTTEN SOMETHING? Yale Daily News Letter, September 16, 2008
IN HIS PUSH TO RENOVATE AND EXPAND HAS LEVIN FORGOTTEN SOMETHING?
Letters to the Editor
Yale Daily News
I have just read President Levin's impressive report to the alumni on the state of Yale: a new campus for science and collections; renovation in schools of drama, architecture, art; a new management building; new residential colleges and libraries; study abroad; investment in New Haven buildings.
Everything but the liberal arts. Where is HGS (literature, philosophy and history) in all this planning for the future? Are Yalies merely going to be computer geeks, scientists and economists who go to theater and travel abroad?
What about the beauty of thinking? Writing? Speaking?
Will there be no more Harold Blooms?
Paul D. Keane
Yale Divinity School '80
THE NEW EVANGELISTS
Letters to the Editor
Yale Alumni Magazine
Your article "The New Evangelists" (November/December 2006) is disturbing.
The Palestinian carpenter some called "rabbi" would find talk about "three of the top ten mainline Protestant denominations [being] headed by Yale Divinity School graduates" indicative of an idolatry perpetuated by Mercantilia's worship of data, statistics, and numbers.
Pay no heed to the new moneychangers operating out of a temple whose columns are Blue, claiming access to the Divine.
Paul D.Keane '80MDiv
White River Junction, VT
Symbolic Chalice On Display in Alumni Reading Room
November 10, 2008
A World War I chaplain’s chalice with ties to a noted Supreme Court case now has a place of honor in the Yale Law School Alumni Reading Room, thanks to the generous donation of a Yale Divinity School alum.
Paul Keane M.Div. ’80 presented the chalice to Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh in September. The chalice originally belonged to Douglas Clyde Macintosh, a theology professor at Yale Divinity School in the early 1900s who is believed to have used the chalice in services on the front lines when he was a chaplain in the Canadian Army during World War I. The chalice was given to Keane 32 years after Macintosh’s death by the executor of Macintosh’s estate.
“I felt that Yale Law School should have this chalice since it is a symbol of Douglas Clyde Macintosh’s Supreme Court case,
U.S. v. Macintosh,” said Keane.
In the 1931 case, Macintosh, a Canadian citizen, argued for the right to be granted American citizenship without having to promise beforehand to fight in “any and all wars.” He asked for “selective conscientious objection,” saying he would rely on his own moral judgment of a war’s validity in deciding whether or not to participate. One of Macintosh’s lawyers, Charles Edward Clark ’13, would serve as dean of Yale Law School from 1929-1939.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Macintosh’s attempt to qualify his citizenship oath, a decision that began a long debate over the arms-bearing pledge.
The Supreme Court overturned U.S. v. Macintosh with a 5-3 ruling in 1946, asserting that strong>the pledge to bear arms should no longer be required for naturalization.
Keane said he wanted the Law School to have some memorabilia of the case, particularly since the Divinity School, where Macintosh taught for 40 years, is already the repository of Macintosh’s library, his portrait, and a fellowship in his name. He added that the chalice certifies Macintosh was not a pacifist since he participated in World War I as a chaplain.
Dean Koh expressed gratitude for the gift. “It is a lovely and fitting testament to a courageous man,” he said.