Edd Merritt, Contributing Editor
Mother, should I run for president?
Mother, should I trust the government?
Mother, will they put me in the firing line?
Mother, is it just a waste of time?
~ Pink Floyd, “Mother,”
Well, this Easter will be somewhat different from last year when two of my grandsons were lucky to receive tickets for the White House Easter Egg hunt. Rumor has it that rather than Easter eggs scattered around the president’s lawn, there will be Trump buttons tied to legislators’ ankles. As the kids find them, they get to keep both items, relieving the president of one onerous task.
He can hoard Easter eggs for his family and not have to worry about kids of the world— plus the fact that his wife and daughter Ivanka, both former models, can strike poses in the midst of a lawn filled with color and claim close connections to the egg business . . . Egg McTrump is apparently a regular breakfast item at the Towers.
Turning toward an item closer to home, I found it interesting to read about the recent hubbub at Middlebury College over student protests aimed at a conservative speaker coming to campus. As a former college dean, I would have to acknowledge the college president’s remarks were correct and necessary as she urged the students to let the speaker express his point of view, take it as they will, and decide its validity based on factual data. Let it be a basis for learning.
On the other hand, I know we are dealing with students largely protected in their beliefs by being on campus at this stage in their lives. College itself is a test, often the last time you can say and do as you please without immediate and serious consequences. And as far back as I can remember, that protection has allowed and fostered challenge—while the Middlebury students could verbally protest safely, the incident did lead to an injury that should have been avoided.
In my days in college, we took over highways and marched to the Wisconsin state capital to protest the Vietnam War. During graduate school in New York we promoted Jimmy Breslin and Norman Mailer’s desire for the city to secede from the rest of the state because Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan were a different world from Saugerties, Woodstock and Skaneateles.
I suppose you could say that one of the funniest incidents of my college days came as a result of some students kidnapping members of the opposing school’s band and locking them in our bus. Our bass drummers donned the band-member uniforms, grabbed the opponents’ drum sticks and instruments and proceeded to do a half-time march with no sense whatsoever where they were going or what they were playing. It amounted to about 50 horns and reeds marching in sync on the football field with five bass drummers, clueless about formation or rhythm but beating the hearts out of their instruments and trying to follow the real band. The college presidents may not have vented their criticism of the act, but the opposing school’s bandleader certainly did. Would these actions (kidnapping and stealing) now lead to a court case?
The recent Middlebury incident also takes me back to my first trip to this region in the early 1960s. I was a college freshman playing hockey, and we were packed on a bus heading north. We were serious about where we were going because Middlebury was a major competitor. It was also before four-lane highways, so I thought we were really in the wilderness, not a car or house in sight. Needless to say, however, another vehicle did come speeding past us on the right with a bare butt mooning us through the back seat window. A face attached to the lower extremity appeared, and someone on our bus recognized the person as Mike Pyle, a well-known All-American football player from Yale. We had the honor of being mooned by a highly touted athlete.
Mooning on the highway is probably then and now not a common activity, and our parents would not have found the same level of humor in the incident as we did. “We’re paying tuition for this?” may have been a common complaint from the older generation. Don’t forget that these are the schools that also served beer to 17-year-olds such as myself as a normal part of orientation and who had us clean up the basement at the real “Animal House” after a drunken party.
I cannot remember who won the hockey game, except for the fact that one of the stars for Middlebury came from my family’s hill in Duluth, Minnesota, and I had played against him as a youth. He was as talented on ice as anyone I had ever seen—which makes me believe that the Panthers probably clobbered us.
I’m sure that Pyle was headed there for other reasons, as road trips were often the basis for inter-gender relationships before the days of co-education. If you want to be critical of sexism, look at the fact that women then weren’t thought to be worthy of studentship at places like Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and Princeton.
Aah college! One can’t get overly serious about it. As a student, you learn from it and you leave it, hopefully taking the important elements of that learning with you and leaving behind others. One would hope that our president would feel the same about his present job. Unfortunately, John Belushi is deceased. Otherwise I’d suggest a replacement.