May 11, 2005: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length,
accuracy, clarity, and civility.
Your cover story (March 23) by Merrell Noden ’78 did a masterful job of bridging journalism with history. Mr. Noden’s account of how the Vietnam War both divided and energized Princeton students, either to fight in the war or to protest against it, was especially moving for me because of the alumni featured in the article: Several were my classmates in that tumultuous era of civil rights, civil unrest, and uncivil discord.
John Gore ’68’s comment summed it up: “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it,” referring to his tour of duty in Vietnam. His words reflect the deep imprint — including scars — from that time when roommates, students, parents, friends, and professors often split along a gaping “pro-war” versus “antiwar” divide. For those who served their country by fighting in that terrible war, such as John and Will Dickey ’68, I have infinite respect, as I do for those, like Jeff Perry ’68 and Jimmy Tarlau ’70, who “fought” against the war through peaceful protest at home.
May the divisions at last be ended; this article helps to do that.
R. WILLIAM (BILL) POTTER ’68
I applaud PAW for its well-written and even-handed article, “A war still with them.” As one who knew Doug Seaton ’69 and Jimmy Tarlau ’70 during their politically active days at the University, I find it commendable that they each continue to be an homme engagé, each in his own way, so long after the passions of those years have cooled. Surely, the arc of Doug and Jimmy’s experiences, as well as those of others cited in the article, is a fine testimonial to the enduring benefit to them of their education at the University and, in no small measure, exemplifies “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”
RICHARD P. FRIED ’68
The cover of your March 23 PAW suggested to me the promise of a balanced assessment of the impact of the war in Vietnam on my generation of Princetonians. Sadly, in my opinion, Merrell Noden ’78 did not deliver on that promise. Rather, his article served to contrast the experiences of only a limited few.
That aside, most disturbing was his one-liner, “For the record, 24 Princetonians died serving their country during the war,” casually noted in the middle of the piece. I am sure the families and loved ones of the 24 who gave their lives were pleased by this resounding acknowledgement of their sacrifice. Certainly, these Princetonians deserve more than this from PAW. At the very least, a mention of their names and classes would be appropriate.
Talk about lives changed by war! Many of us ’67ers attended classes, partied, and later served with these men. What lives might they have led, had not the arbitrariness of death by war interrupted their futures.
Talk about lives changed by war! How easily many of us might have suffered the same fate as the Princetonian who shared his future plans with several college pals at Pensacola Naval Air Station the day before he left for Vietnam. Less than a month later he was reported killed in action, leaving behind a new wife and their dreams, never to be realized.
Talk about lives changed by war!
This reminds me of a classmate and fellow NROTC student who, shortly after commissioning, elected conscientious objector status. Caught up in my own youthful self-righteousness, I thought ill of him then. Today, while I still do not pretend to understand how or why he reached his decision, I admire him for having the courage to do what he thought right. I also think about another classmate who, after serving in Vietnam, went on to become an admiral. His personal contribution “in the nation’s service” was a lifetime dedicated to what once was considered the most noble of professions. (I have not identified these classmates out of privacy and sensitivity concerns.)
JACK K. GELMAN ’67
It took only the title page of Merrell Noden ’78’s article on Vietnam to bring strong emotions and tears to my eyes. The article itself brought the lives of a few of my classmates and others up to date in a way that emoted both pride and deep sadness. Although I served in the National Health Service Corps and thus did not go to Vietnam, the emotions of that time are still so close to the surface of my being. Civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the murders of voices of hope in King and Kennedy make up part of each of us.
Those times germinated from a need for change and freedom; although they nearly tore our country apart, it survived, became stronger, and grew. It is thus with great despair that we now observe a profound regression of the ideals of individual freedom, world community, and environmental awareness that were born in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Do we not learn from history? This time the return to enlightenment may be too difficult.
ROBERT B. SCHOENE ’68
I was very engaged by “A war still with them,” especially because, in a unique coincidence, less than three weeks ago I was surprised to be presented with a military decoration relating to an incident that happened to me as an Air Force forward air controller in Vietnam back in 1967.
Like most of the subjects interviewed in your article, over the years I have come to be quite tolerant and respectful of virtually every attitude and position taken toward the Vietnam War by (us) draftable young men at the time. Two broad comments spring to mind.
First, both those who chose to go to Vietnam and those who chose to avoid it were inevitably faced with the need to publicly rationalize either the validity or invalidity of risking one’s own life and/or taking other people’s lives in support of a very controversial cause. Additionally, those who chose not to go faced a second set of issues: namely, the degree to which their opposition to the war might have been at least partly motivated by personal fears for their own physical safety and/or doubts about their ability to muster the courage that would be tested in a combat environment. That second set of issues was rarely addressed publicly then, and surely must haunt many of the resisters, even to this day.
Second, my experience in Vietnam convinced me overwhelmingly that the average South Vietnamese citizen simply wanted to be left alone. Because neither the Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese, nor we Americans were willing to accept that, hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese were literally, not figuratively, killed in the crossfire.
The one point of view that I have never been able to tolerate is that the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese were the “good guys”; this is the “Jane Fonda position,” and a monumental ignorance of, or disregard for, documented historical fact and truth is required in order to try to maintain such an absurdity.
On the bottom line, my personal take-away was this: The Vietnam War was one of the great disasters in the history of the United States; I’m both glad and proud that I was there; and if my grown children were faced with a similar situation now, I would give them all my money and send them off to Canada. Since I’m now 65 years old, I guess that’s as close as I’m going to come to sorting it all out.
FRED LAMPARTER ’61
Professor Patrick Deneen scolds me (Letters, April 6) for failing to recognize the complexity of American religious history (Perspective, March 9). Washington’s and the Puritans’ view of religion, he reminds me, are much more complicated than my quotations suggest. Of course they are. But the whole story can hardly be told in a few hundred words. I introduce the quotations to support a more important claim that Deneen neglects to address: the disjunction between our nation’s purported commitment to religious toleration and diversity and our actual history of failing, all too often, to embrace that diversity in our daily practice.
We too often hide behind the sanctity of our ideals when they are contradicted by the ugliness of our practice. When we do so, the ugliness continues sometimes unabated and individuals are truly harmed. Too often our discussions about the place of religion in the public domain neglect to recognize our country’s history of exclusion in the name of religion. I simply wanted to remind us of this ugly past — to curb a kind of hubris in the name of religion that I find deeply disturbing.
My aim was not to deny the place of religion in public debate, nor “to reduce religious believers to a set of good guys and bad guys.” Far from it. But whenever the members of a religious group rise to positions of power, we must ask, among other things, whether their political behavior displays virtues their religion professes. If Professor Deneen believes that the Christian right is now behaving in a way that is perfectly consistent with the virtues of tolerance, humility, and compassion, it would be helpful to hear his argument.
Obviously, this is not about choosing between good guys and bad guys. That’s too melodramatic. I recognize instead the vibrancy and diversity of the Christian tradition and call for a much-needed conversation within it. In the end, my principal concern (and I think it is a good one for those of us who are committed to democracy) is that we remember our past wrongs, for those memories humble us and, perhaps, lead us to work harder to make real and secure the promises of our nation. This was my central point. Professor Deneen apparently misses this altogether. Perhaps he is too preoccupied with finding enemies where they do not reside.
EDDIE S. GLAUDE JR. *97
I was extremely disappointed at the reactions of certain students and administrators to recent articles in the Nassau Weekly and the Tiger, as reported by Jen Albinson ’05 (On the Campus, March 23). The articles in question — parody pieces that have been deemed “offensive” and “culturally insensitive” by a portion of the University community — have, if nothing else, succeeded admirably in sparking public debate, which (to my mind, at least) is one of the primary goals of journalism (and certainly of education).
The past several issues of PAW have featured articles and letters lamenting the political apathy of today’s college students, and have suggested any number of reasons for this. I would suggest that the real culprit is a hypersensitivity to political correctness. We have grown so afraid of offending absolutely anybody that expressing a real opinion in a public forum is virtually out of the question.
By urging publications like the Nass and the Tiger to sidestep any issues that might cause offense, what students and administrators are really doing is endorsing censorship. Offending people, as Marjorie Censer ’05 so rightly points out, is an inevitable result of free speech and a free press. Real activism is impossible where disagreement is not allowed.
Black Student Union president Candace Lee ’06 was right when she said that “actions don’t happen in a bubble,” and there is certainly a time and a place for journalistic discretion. But by insisting on obsessive PC we are creating a bubble of another sort — an intellectual vacuum in which all discussion is as one-dimensional in its passivity as any form of prejudice is in its intolerance. I, for one, went to Princeton expressly to be argued with.
JENNIFER SCHANBACHER ’04
Who’s a liberal to love — tasteless, sophomoric morons or prickly prigs of ethnic/racial/religious/etc. sensitivity? (One loses count of the taboos.) No contest. Humor is supposed to be offensive, or transgressive, in the postmodern patois. That’s how it overthrows the tyranny of tears foisted on the rest of us by fanatics who want to clamp all of life into the irons of their obsessions.
People can hate the Holocaust and revile racism, yet enjoy nasty jokes. Humanity is grander, more complicated, and, at times, more fun than egalitarian ideology. The stupid humor is not lamentable; the Nassau Weekly’s apology is. Free-spirited young people should not live on their knees.
JOHN ROEMER ’60
Your article on Anthony Romero ’87 (feature, April 6), executive director of the ACLU, was inspiring. I’m proud to be a fellow alumnus of his. I am sure you will be flooded with letters demonizing the ACLU and threatening to eliminate all Annual Giving because Princeton had the audacity to educate a thoughtful, committed, and intelligent gay man so effectively. (Indeed, from Letters in the same issue: “But even more shocking is the revelation ... that part of a student’s tuition goes to fund the Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian, and Transgender Center at Princeton. ... [I]f it were known, ... there would be a lot of parents who would feel that Princeton is not the right place for their son or daughter.”)
Princeton students need to be exposed to a cross-section of Anthony Romeros and Donald Rumsfeld ’54s. By protecting the Constitution’s emphasis on individual rights and equal protection and the founders’ insistence on a strong Bill of Rights, I know that Romero perpetuates “Princeton in the nation’s service.” I’m not so sure about this fellow Rumsfeld.
KEN GOLDMAN ’64
I’ve been on the ACLU national legal staff for 28 years. I’m also a Princeton alumnus. I was therefore thrilled to read your excellent and interesting (and fair-minded) story about ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, whom we just love.
The ACLU, as your article notes, recently filed suit against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ’54 regarding conditions of confinement for prisoners in Guantánamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Whatever else we might say about Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Romero, or this lawsuit, I trust we’d agree — if we can put aside political differences for a moment — that both men in their own way certainly reflect “Princeton in the nation’s service.” One great thing about our country — and about Princeton — is that there’s not only room for both points of view, but a need for both.
STEPHEN L. PEVAR ’68
To help fill the gap where tsunami aid donations have so far failed to reach, a group of eight Princetonians — Ed Cooper Jr. ’70, John Evans ’91, Dwight Crabtree ’02, Michael Kem ’03, Dominic Notario ’03, John Jannarone ’03, Thomas Klein ’04, and Chrisann Kyi ’04 — along with family members journeyed on March 24 to Bantablamu School in southern Thailand. Situated just a kilometer inland from the Andaman Sea, the school sustained extensive structural damage from the tsunami waves. The tsunami also had washed away the entire stock of textbooks. The Princeton Club pledged $1,250 (raised from in-kind donations) for the purchase of new textbooks for all the students for the new school year starting in June.
With spare funds not yet allocated, the Princeton Club group spent the following day assessing the needs of other damaged schools in the area. Few buildings close to the shore remain standing, entire swaths of forest lie flattened, and the landscape was littered with debris and trash. After walking the grounds of three schools and talking with teachers, principals, and administrators, the club was able to identify some worthwhile projects that it could potentially support, including assisting in the construction of a new schoolhouse.
The Princeton Club of Thailand is seeking further support to raise $3,750 to initiate projects supporting other schools in the area. This is the perfect opportunity to take action and know that your contribution is going directly to those who need it most. Donations can be provided in one of the following ways:
1) By check: Please make the check payable to “Princeton Club of Thailand” and mail it to c/o John Evans [tel: (66)2-260-8200], at Tractus Asia Ltd., 17th Floor Richmond Office, 75/63 Sukhumvit Soi 26, Bangkok 10110, Thailand.
2) By direct credit: For telegraphic transfer (TT), please wire funds to Account Name: Princeton Club of Thailand, Account Number: 003-2-00532-4, Kasikornbank Public Co., Ltd. Branch Office: Bangkapi, Samachwanit Building #2, 591 Sukhumvit Road, Klongton, Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand. Swift Code: KASITHBK
DWIGHT CRABTREE ’02
Jesus Lemus ’01’s words in his Perspective piece (March 23) quite frankly brought tears to my eyes. What he said so beautifully made me even prouder to be an American and a Princetonian!
HUNTINGTON BLOCK ’46
Thank you for publishing the results of the USG’s race relations survey (Notebook, March 23). I would have appreciated some indication of whether the survey results represent statistically significant differences in students’ experiences. It would be a shame to base policy decisions on figures that don’t actually represent real differences. It would be just as great a shame not to act on apparently small variations that really do reveal significant differences in students’ experiences.
JASON D. WILLIAMS ’98
Editor’s note: The Woodrow Wilson School’s Survey Research Center confirmed that the differences presented were statistically significant, according to the students who published the survey report.
Thank you for the article on Princeton’s production of Le Pas d’Acier (Notebook, March 23). I was surprised at the omission of one name critical to the project, that of the University Orchestra’s conductor, Michael Pratt.
Although ballet is a visual art, it is the music that elevates masterpieces of the genre. The success of any ballet performance relies at least as much on the music as on the stage action.
To ensure that the orchestra would be well prepared for the upcoming collaboration, Mr. Pratt programmed the ballet for its concert performances last October. I recently heard a recording from that weekend and found the students’ command of this difficult score’s intricate details and sharply defined characters astonishing. If the final product meets everyone’s high expectations, Pratt should be particularly acclaimed for his mastery of its musical challenges.
ERIC LINDHOLM ’89
The re-education of Harvard President Lawrence Summers for expressing forbidden thoughts (Notebook, March 9) damages the credibility of elite universities by making a mockery of “academic freedom.” Clearly, expression of controversial ideas — however tentatively and thoughtfully stated, as Summers’ conjectures surely were — will not be tolerated at Harvard.
I believe the readers of PAW would be very interested to know whether any prominent Princeton administrator has denounced the attack on Summers and stated plainly that all serious ideas should be welcome on campus, especially those that challenge uncritical devotion to the multicultural trinity (race, class, gender).
THOMAS DOERFLINGER ’74
I am embarrassed that the president of my alma mater has seen fit to join in a letter condemning President Summers at Harvard for his speculation regarding the paucity of females engaged in the sciences. It is obvious from this action that our president believes that very few plebeians should think for themselves and that Ivy League presidents should toe the PC line. There appears to be a desire, in fact, to squelch independent thinking and analysis. How demeaning to a supposedly academic community!
G.W. COYNE ’61
I believe the men in the April 6 From the Archives photo [see page 12] are both graduates of the Pingry School (at that time in Hillside, N.J., now in Martinsville, N.J.). On the left is Steve Hausmann (who played football for Princeton) and on the right is Peter Kallop, both Class of 1973. The two women remain a mystery.
HOWARD H. TOMLINSON ’75
Our March 23 feature on a new exhibition at the University Art Museum, “An uncertain history,” incorrectly identified Wilma Fairbank. The wife of John K. Fairbank, a Harvard professor of modern and contemporary China studies, she was the author of books on Chinese archaeology and architecture.
Two statements in the April 6 On the Campus column were attributed incorrectly to Zach Goldfarb ’05. They should have been attributed to Zack Faigen ’05. In the same column, John O. Andrews ’05 was identified incorrectly as Josh Andrews.
The March 23 memorial for Robert M. Henkels Jr. ’62, in listing his survivors, omitted the names of his daughter, Karin Henkels; his grandsons, Titonan and Gabriel; and his granddaughter, Zoelie.
The Oct. 6, 2004, memorial for Erick Friedman ’70 notes that he was survived by his wife, Lu. He also was survived by his son, Brian, and Brian’s children, Noah and Rachel.