Those of you who liked the print edition of my Dec. 7 OPEN LETTER TO CHAIR OF RELIGION will like the updated online edition more. Those of you who disliked the print edition will dislike the updated online edition more. That said, no reader should suffer a letdown.
As for the headline I had submitted, OPEN LETTER TO CHAIR OF RELIGION McALISTER, the headline writer’s decision to delete the good Professor’s name might lead a High-minded reader to suspect that I was attempting to “under-represent” or “marginalize” or “put at risk” or “brutalize” the sterling name of Wesleyan’s highly esteemed Calamity Jane. Not so: Give the functionally literate Chair of Religion her due, I say: the more esteemed she is, the better.
Why two different versions of the same open letter? Good question. Being (arguably) of sound mind, I had assumed that my later submission would simply have bumped the earlier one. I had assumed unsoundly: the earlier version was run, and what was printed could not be unprinted. However, the online version could be taken down and the update put up. It was, there ’tis, and end of story, but for the moral:
“Stuff” happens in the best-run news-rooms: Even multi-taskers as prodigious as the editors of the Argus must face the ongoing challenge of keeping separate the alphabet soup of groupies at “Wesleyans” (hot off the anvil of wordsmith Roth, that un-corralled unicorn). I’d sooner kill an hour rolling Andrus Field up ill-inclined Foss Hill than kill (or merely attack) my ticker up the crick at Story’s Landing, unclogging some quirkaday blogjam.
Could foul play have caused the foul-up? About a dozen years ago, ere Mike the deli-man handled the slicer, an editor who’d been fattened up on then-deli-man Doug’s 100% politically kosher baloney, would practice juggling my words and dropping one now and then until a demonically cunning colleague told him: “Let that grumpy Rambo ramp. His pile of portolet-scented runes will hang him without any help from us.” And ever since, the editors gaily trill to each other, “Keep your eye on the gallows!” while strapping on their gas masks upon receipt of this antic miscreant’s latest dollop of noose-lipped and noxious miscreantics.
So foul play is out of the question. Had I thought otherwise, I’d have enthused, “It shows the editors know what they’re doing.”
Of course it’s always possible that the editors DID know what they were doing when they picked up and ran with the version this rewrite man had left on the cutting-room floor: “That cranky old penhead thinks he can write off OUR preferred hard copy.” “What, with a stroke of the pen?” “His pen is a stylus.” “It figures – he’s posiTIVely mediEvil. What should we do with him?” “WE? Nothing. He can go hang himself.” “Cool. The campus can spare him a lamp post.” “A tree would be more American; American Studies Professor Slotkin could talk about lynching till he’s blue in the face.” “We don’t need another breathless quacker hanging around.” “Slotkin won’t cotton to being called a red neck.” “I called him a QUACKER, not a…” “And he wouldn’t be hanging.” “Notwithstanding…” “Naturally, not with standing.” “…two corpses on top of the chamber pots would cramp the campus.” “What chamber pots?” “The grampsy urns. Whenever I see one I get the urge to take a seat and leave a deposit.” “The grampsy urns haven’t cramped YOUR style.” “I’d like to finish.” “By all means, finish.” “I say we toss just one body into the pot.” “I’ll see you and raise you: I say we toss in two.” “No way. We’d back it up and have a mess on our hands.” “I’ll wash my hands.” “Wash your hands! As if we were hangmen.” “Well, didn’t we run that diarrhetic Rambo’s poop?” “For years, and all the thanks we ever got for running that gas bag’s emissions was a lot of dirty looks from the wroth man.” “We must have been doing SOMETHING right.” “The point is, the stylused fossil owes us for all the rope we gave him.” “Darn straight. He knows what he can do with his stylus.” “You’re giving the grumpy old fossil fuel–he’ll be fuming.” “Not for long: he won’t have a leg to stand on.”
Old Hollywood writers who can’t remember how to buckle their shoes can re-cite every line of a dreadful script, a horror story about a starlet (“dimmer than dumb,” her chums all deemed her) who, in hopes of landing the lead in an epic, slept with the writer. The tale is a stark depiction of the scant respect the Hollywood writer used to get. This writer gets even less.
The editors ran the writ that he himself had spiked–the version containing the shout-out he’d given to ingenue McAlister’s gallant debut in the highly-demanding role of yenta (Jewish mother), a war-horse as old as Yiddish Theater. Bible Politico did report that after the premiere an unheavenly host of uncircumcised philistines mobbed the starlet and cast their foreskins at her feet, but what do those bloody idolaters know? Versus those who DO know: the seed of Sarah and righteous Abe, to whom the old nag is “family.” I owed it to them to give the lass’s performance a second pat-down. It revealed, alas, a piece of work less meaty than meets the eye. Ergo, out of my rewrite went the scarecrow–and out of Story’s Landing went my rewrite. All because that strawboned stick-in-the-mud in the blogging camp up the crick gets better press than THIS one ever will. “I feel so spiked!” is the bottom line.
Dear reader, a footnote aimed at booting a pair of inviting butts. American Studies, a typical “critical studies” department, takes a simple, tonic delight in the critical study of all things Western, great and small, except itself. Its Founding Father, lionized Richard “the Kittenhearted” Slotkin, is the man who goes gunning for dead men. Dig hotshot Slotkin’s chilling slogan: “Let no Western shogun rest in peace.”
When not on his high horse deriding the West, the dead-eyed Dick will moonlight as First Harpoonist to Wes’s unanchored mariner Ahab, the man who paces his poop deck marinating, his telescope trained on the Great White Whale of Social Injustice (wonderfully undefined) baked into America’s layered cake. The one just man is Ahab the Sailor, whose salience is so pronounced (no washed-up, wheelhouse bewailer, he), that even his quarry rewards him. For there he sits atop the cake, the rich white frosting above it all. So far so good, but come the time the tempting confection, decks and all, is put on the table (the whetted are setting it as we speak), alas for the rich white upper crust, the first to be gobbled up.
Benjamin is a member of the Class of 1957.