Forum: January-February 2003

January 31, 2003

 

Required Readings

Editors:

I did not respond to the initial story about required freshman reading being reintroduced at Duke ["Quad Quotes: Reading List," September-October 2002], figuring a classmate from 1966 would write to remind you that we all read Lord of the Flies and attended dorm-group discussions, as well as a general discussion by several faculty members in Baldwin Auditorium. I found it fascinating that college professors had differing views about it.

There were other books I remember being required--or asked--to read. These included Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, Riesman's The Lonely Crowd, a novel by Ayn Rand, and Kierkegard's Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. (I recall that some or all of these were for a smaller group of freshmen in which I was mysteriously included.)

The last-named has had a lasting influence on my life.

 

Cynthia A. Gilliatt '66 (via e-mail)

 

Beginning of the End

 

Editors:

 

Nothing is more certain than the United States' eventually joining the community of civilized nations in abandoning capital punishment as a barbarous practice that can neither be justly administered nor morally justified. As a citizen of Illinois, I am proud that my outgoing governor, George Ryan, emptied death row by granting clemency to 167 condemned inmates.

If Ryan's bold action catalyzes other states to follow suit, if history marks this decision as the beginning of the end for capital punishment in the United States, Governor Ryan will be inextricably credited with a moral triumph of the first order. He will become that most exceptional of creatures in American politics: a politician who transforms into a statesman by transcending the provincial expectations people had of him and even those he had of himself.

And when that day comes it will be as impossible for Americans such as Ray Gordon ["Wrongful Assessments," letter to the editor, November-December 2002] to defend the practice of capital punishment as it now is to defend the practice of chattel slavery. The rhetoric of the advocates for capital punishment will be as unintelligible as the arguments against the abolition of slavery or the extension of suffrage to women.

 

John Kador '73 (via e-mail)

The correspondent is a business writer in Geneva, Illinois.

 

 

Words and Images

 

Editors:

 

I have not had time to read the article, but I have to comment on the photos in "Letters from Afghanistan" by Barnaby Hall, in the November-December 2002 magazine. While all the photos are exceptional in their ability to convey the life and spirit of the Afghan people, the cover photo is absolutely stunning. One cannot help but compare it to the famous National Geographic cover photo of an Afghan girl from 1985. I will read the entire article as soon as I finish this letter.

Thank you also for "Shoo-Bee-Doo-Bee Duke" in the same edition. My other son (at Dickinson) is an a capella singer and he enjoyed this article.

 

Nancy Bowen (Mother of Brooks Bowen '03) (via e-mail)

 

Editors:

I take offense at Barnaby Hall's reference to "young U.S. punks in uniform," and to his derogatory remarks about "U.S. special-services" forces. I hope Professor John Richards' class provided him more insight than he revealed from his trip. But, alas, I read at the end of his presentation that he is from London. It's peculiar that he didn't see any British punks or British special forces.

Millard Vance Sales '60
Jonesboro, Arkansas

 

Editors:

I read Barnaby Hall's essay with great interest. His prose and pictures gave insight into the current state of this troubled area. Truly this is a country that has suffered much for more than a generation. We would do well to gain knowledge and understanding of all countries in our world.

I did find one aspect of his article to reveal much regarding the differences between people of monetary privilege and those without. Mr. Hall was able to visit Afghanistan due to the financial largess of his parents. This despite the fact that he admits to being unfaithful to their "conditions." While there, he witnessed the ravages of Taliban rule, such as the forced use of burkhas and the desecration of Buddhist shrines. However, when he meets the young men who helped end the country's nightmare, Mr. Hall writes, "It is funny to see these young U.S. Army punks in uniform driving around...." At another point, he crosses paths with a Special Forces patrol carrying "ridiculous amounts of guns and equipment."

Hall's condescending attitude toward, and disdain for, these young U.S. Army soldiers is as clear as it is saddening. Maybe if their parents had the financial means of Hall's, they too would have had the luxury of reporting on the new Afghanistan instead of being the means of the change.

David Ludlow M.D. '80
Spanish Fork, Utah

 

Editors:

I have been a faithful reader of Duke Magazine since my graduation and have greatly enjoyed your articles. I was, however, deeply disappointed in "Letters from Afghanistan" by Barnaby Hall.

I, too, spent my summer in Afghanistan. However, I spent my time there deployed as a legal adviser to CJTF-180, the military command center north of Kabul. As I also worked as part of the team assisting in the creation of the Afghan National Army, I spent much of my time in Kabul as well. Mr. Hall's article can best be summed up by his very own words in the first sentence--flippant. He approaches his "adventure" as if it were nothing more than a spring-break trip for fun.

Afghanistan is a deeply wounded nation that is working extremely hard to re-create itself as a modern entity. It would never have had that chance were it not for the "young U.S. Army punks" Hall refers to. Those "punks" and their allies fought (and are still fighting) a difficult and dangerous war in Afghanistan. Were it not for their efforts, Hall would never have been able to even undertake his "adventure." In fact, had he ever made it into Afghanistan, the former Taliban regime probably would have shot him dead simply based on the fact that he wore shorts, took pictures of women, saw women without their burkhas, conversed with women, or even looked at them. The special forces he derides for having "ridiculous amounts of guns and equipment" are the very individuals who are risking their lives so that Afghanistan can become and remain a free country--one that can be visited by all.

Afghanistan has struggled hard to achieve its current status; however the job is not yet done. It is not, as Hall implies, a safe nation. American and coalition forces are attacked on a daily basis, and soldiers are still dying in service of our country. I'm disappointed that you chose to publish such a superficial, flippant piece, deriding those who are risking their lives to rebuild a nation. Next time, please find a Duke alumnus who can provide a more realistic, serious piece on such a key topic.

Jeanne M. Meyer '88, J.D. '92
Charlottesville, Virginia

The correspondent is an Air Force major.

 

Editors:

Thanks so much for Barnaby Hall's article "Letters from Afghanistan" and breathtaking pictures. Nothing I've yet seen has brought that troubled land in all its suffering humanity to life as this did. That it was produced by an undergraduate student makes me particularly proud to be associated with Duke.

Thomas P. Rausch Ph.D. '76
Los Angeles, California

 

Music to our Ears

 

Editors:

Many thanks for Neil Plakcy's article about a capella singing on campus. In the nearly twenty-three years since several of us founded Out of the Blue (not twelve years ago, as reported!), string after string of exceptionally talented singers have followed, making it the nationally acclaimed group it is today.

Kudos to the women of Out of the Blue--and to the many other groups that have sprung up, inspired by the joy of singing together. I enjoy basketball as much as most alums, but these are the teams I most love to cheer for. As I approach my twentieth reunion, few things could make me happier than knowing that good music is alive and well at Duke.

Elisa Buono Glazer '83
Atlanta, Georgia

In the November-December issue, the name of the contributing writer behind the story "Shoo-Bee-Doo-Bee Duke" was misspelled; the writer is Neil Plakcy. The magazine regrets the error.


Value Received

Editors:

And to think I nearly crossed the alumni dues/magazine subscription line off my 2003 "giving" budget! The November-December magazine arrived today, and I found "myself" on three of the first six pages.

In "Between the Lines," I'm among those alumni who are neither famous nor rich but are good and thoughtful citizens. Turning to "Face Value," I came eye to eye with a black face actually in charge of something, a color virtually absent but for room cleaners and for which Duke Hospital nearly shut down the day it "integrated the wards" while I was a student nurse.

Giving Clarence Birkhead a big grin, I turned the page to "Under the Gargoyle" and nearly wept at Robert Connor's notion that we, the people, have somehow gone way past enough. When did we step from transportation to land yachts, from a cleaned plate to needing a doggie bag, from examining our lives to following the directions of the latest marketing scheme?

I haven't even gotten to the page that begins examining the "new nurse," a different new nurse than I was in the old B.S.N. program. But when the letter comes, the check will be in the mail--Duke's education and its regular communication with all us outlanders is of continuing value.

Elaine Hydeman McNabney B.S.N. '65
(via e-mail)

 

Number, Please

Editors:

As a native New Yorker, I read with some amusement the statistics pertaining to "Where Our Alumni Are," on page 62 of the November-December 2002 issue. In the left-hand list of cities, we learn that New York City, with 8,749 alumni, heads the list. Then, to the bottom right, where states are listed, we are supposed to believe that only 7,575 alumni live in the entire state of New York!

The last time I looked, New York City was part of New York state, so one would assume that there would be more alumni living in the entire state than in New York City alone. Obviously, there is an error.

Donald E. Schlesinger (via e-mail)

The numbers for New York under "Major Geographic Concentrations" comprise the metropolitan area of New York City, which includes parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. That figure is based on geographic eligibility for DUMAA (Duke University Metropolitan Alumni Association), the club in that region. We apologize for the confusing listing.

 

Frightening

Editors:

As a historian and sometime archivist and librarian--and as a citizen--I was enormously impressed by your lead article ["Information Lockdown"] in the November-December 2002 issue. It is a frightening story in many ways. Duke's stand on classified research is a principled one of which I heartily approve, and you've set it in a broader context that is important for everyone to understand. The issue of access to information about the books we read and the websites we visit needs to be discussed far more broadly. I hope your article will strengthen and broaden that discussion.

Judith Austin '57 (via e-mail)