Saturday, February 18, 2017

Yes, but what am I to do? (Calhoun College)

You thought I was writing about Trump? These things don't matter any more, and to dwell endlessly on reports from the press is a distraction from what must be done. In this I seem to agree with the Man himself.

I was notified, more or less personally, about the re-naming of Calhoun College some time ago, and as an alumnus I was invited to give my feedback. Between then and now, with family in New Haven, I've had the occasion to drive or stroll around the campus, fascinated to watch the new residential colleges still under construction.

I am dismayed. The College is now building itself for the ages, transcending mortal leadership, timidly putting into place not post-modern structures but Disneyland simulations of Yale's image. Post-post-modern by any other name? These new colleges will be exciting for the students to attend, and I even believe there will be a commercial street in imitation of everywhere else in the world. Perhaps even a sop to the beleaguered and underfunded city of New Haven. I could be wrong. Just an impression.

I don't really mind, nor was I terribly surprised to learn just prior to my most recent visit that Calhoun College will lose its name, but that I, if I wish, might keep it for my own declarations of affiliation. It was the first case for the newly created policy on renaming, a retreat from responsibility on perfect par with the design for the new residential colleges, which some say were also named in consultation with the development office.

How could I disagree? How indeed could I be other than relieved to hear, in the same long email, that the name "Yale" is different from that of John C. Calhoun, even though shrouded in not entirely unrelated ignominy for the practices of the man. I wasn't disappointed either that aficionados of Twitter had already learned before I could get to my insider delivery. These folks must pay closer attention to the antics of our nation's president than I do also.

I suffer the lag of the news aggregators, owned by the tech companies, and profiting in some mysterious way off my profile. They know my habits much better than I do, and let them have it, my profile is wrinkled. My details hardly matter to me anymore. I don't mind. I will pay less and less attention, for my world is already ended. A bit player at best, whose narrative can only provide some minor caricature for someone else's singular story. Tortured wording is the best that I have got.

What has ended will be good to lose. For as I did read John C. Calhoun's address to congress, generously provided by Yale for my edification back when my feedback was solicited, I found an intelligent man following the logic of a poor assumption; that somehow blacks are an inferior "race," and that it is a kindness that slaveholders protect them from the ravages of competition among the free.

I don't see how Yale has distinguished itself from the man whose name they will leave behind, though not efface from what the Italian stone-masons carved over the Calhoun College entrance. Yale still supposes that some are born superior to others and that these few are fairly granted privilege, denied to the unlucky. I don't see much virtue in the Bush family, perhaps marginally more in the Kerrys, members of the same club addicted to power and privilege. The Clintons. Obama is ivy covered proof that race is a false category all around. Easily replaced by socioeconomic stigma. Put a number on it and make it a score.

If Yale were to admit students by lottery, I would be happier. At the same time I would make literal lottery illegal again, because it is no moral crime to steal from those who winnings are only won. Belief in lot exposes such strangeness in us. Students denied admission to Yale, by Yale's own reckoning are not therefore deficient. And yet Yale will endure for the ages, it collectively supposes, by perpetuating the fiction that the winners deserve to win and to rule and to rise to the top.

I would end gerrymandering by lottery, nevermind commissions on redistricting, and I would end renaming by committee too. Just draw straws and if the College ends up named Trump (as though that were a name), so be it. What, after all, is in a name?

I just finished watching The Young Pope on HBO, and that writers committee brought tears streaming down my face. Relieved that they did grant conclusion to a brief addiction. I am that relieved that Yale has concluded also, persisting in name alone. We will remember her fondly as something nice about culture and civilization when once we did think we had some.

Clearly, straws drawn from among some random set of names would have gotten us a better president for the nation. What will we do about it now, Chauncey Gardner? What will we do to ensure that our children have a reason to smile? Isn't this our moment in the sun, we the people? Will we rise to the occasion, or will we continue to amuse and horrify ourselves to death?

Will we only continue to buy lottery tickets, projecting ourselves onto the swindling honorless wealthy who use bankruptcy as strategy to defraud the rest of us? Whose children are plastically effaced in post-post-modern fashion? Have we no shame?

Call me Ahab, Ishmael, for I must be the destroyer of worlds. What a mess. Mother Yale, absolve me of my deficiencies for I am not worthy of thy Name. Then please, fuck off and die. There are better pursuits than to honor false gods.

Let us pray, as there is nothing better to do.

As it was in the beginning,


Quite simply, there should be no prizes so grandiose.  Buy a ticket to Disneyland and thrill for the day, but there is nothing I lack in my little apartment that can be gotten at Mar-al-Lago. What are we thinking? That we can ascend to heaven in this world, here on earth? That our technologies can reconfigure death? That we will be remembered for the eternity we leave behind?

I am simply not OK with private entry to anything. No walls, no admission requirements, no intellectual property barriers, no price for admission to the human race. I will simply pay no mind to the assholes in charge, which ironically enough, is to do exactly as I'm being told by my fearless leader whose worst fear is precisely true. He is a fool. And he is naked in public. And nobody cares.

I would try to love you Mr. President, and I am not concerned that you might have raped your daughter. With you, there are no secrets to be revealed. You paid to have your daughter defaced to please you, and some day she may awaken to the pain of that. Never to have been loved for who she is.

This pain will run in your family forever, and it does sadden me. I don't care about your other secrets. There is vacancy about you. A vanity in more than name. There is nothing to adore in a made up face, in a made up name, in the simulation of honor and decency powdered over by agent orange. You are the lie that you would expose, and I'd even take Skull and Bones rictus in your place if it came to that. But it won't, since we the people won't stand for it. You have denuded yourself of anything alive. You are already done, forevermore. Remembered by none, except as generic jest.

Boola Boola!

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