HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

June 9, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


The HSC is a day late this week because my good friend Dalton Oliver died over the weekend and his funeral was held on Monday morning in Middlebury, Vermont. For those of you who recall my little book, Letters to Dalton: Higher Education and the Degree Salesmen, he was the figure to whom the letters were originally written.

I respected Dalton thoroughly. He was one of the few men I have known who was completely deserving of respect. But respect is not really the point when you lose a friend. His death leaves a hole in my life.

I am not a person who wishes to bow down to inevitability. Though I can recognize it as being what it is, it's power has no tendency to win my esteem. There are those who say that death, being inevitable, must be accepted and in a sense welcomed as the final mystery of life.  I think I understand what they are trying to get at. There' a kind of solace that comes from acknowledging what must be. But, it's not a solace I want to embrace. I don't like death and I'm never going to say I'm okay with it. That would be a lie. And, I wish Dalton were still here so I could have lunch with him next week.

I watched Hillary Clinton's speech on Saturday, and I thought it was about as good as a speech of that sort could be. I hope she will carry through with what she said she was going to do during the campaign. And to those who say they will never vote for Obama because they are resentful at the way Senator Clinton was treated, I respond to them as I would have responded to Obama supporters who would not have voted for Clinton had she won the nomination: you are placing your hurt feelings above the lives of those who will surely die as the result of a Republican administration retaining power. I don't think that's a good choice.

On Book TV, I watched a panel discussion from Ft. Leavenworth among military scholars and strategists on civil-military relations. It scared the hell out of me. My trouble with the panelists was not the positions they took but, rather with the language they used to express their positions. I can't be the only person who sees military lingo as atrocious. It is so vacuously abstract, and so polluted by jargon, it can never stretch out to the reality of human life. There was much talk among the panelists about military culture and how officials from other parts of the government need to understand it. But what about the need of soldiers to understand human culture, about the way humans live, and aspire, and struggle, and suffer and die. Might that be something they could come out from behind their starch and try to grasp now and then?

Bill Moyers is getting good press for his speech at the Media Reform Movement's meeting in St. Paul. His message that we don't have a free and independent media and that without such a force in American life, we can't have genuine democracy needs to be attended to. I hope more and more people will wake up to what he's saying.

I note also, that Moyers wants Rupert Murdock to explain why his prediction that invading Iraq would lead to $20 oil hasn't quite worked out. If you bought gas over the past few days, you know that Murdock's theory is a bit off. It may be that the quality the American people need more than anything else is memory.

Sorry for the lateness. Send us you thoughts when you can.

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