Why Must American Muslims “Speak Out”?
I suspect that the writers calling on American Muslims like Chaplain Rashad to “denounce” those that inflict violence in the name of Islam [“Letters,” Jul|Aug] are the very same Americans who would balk at being asked to apologize for slavery because their family didn’t own any slaves. Go figure.
And while those who are non-apologetic about slavery at least have benefitted from centuries of the subjugation of black people, American Muslims derive no benefits at all in either criticizing the actions of those who terrorize in the name of Islam or in staying silent. If American Muslims were to “denounce,” as some would like, they would then be called upon to explain why terror is Islam, when it is not. Despite what fearmongers like Glenn Beck would have Mr. Mahlin believe, Islam can no more be said to be about violence and hatred solely based on the modern-day actions of a few than Christianity can be said to be about violence and hatred based on the transatlantic slave trade. Those who hate and want to kill and oppress will use what is available to them to justify their actions.
So why must American Muslims “speak out”? Is it because, as Mr. Dubman intimates, we do not know who the “good ones,” the “non-threatening” Muslims are? If so, I cannot help but think of our country’s shameful Japanese internment, where our fear about not knowing who the good ones—the ones we could trust—were, led us to incarcerate American citizens based solely on national origin.
Most sadly, Mr. Bergamo comments that “[w]hen Chaplain Rashad speaks out on campus against” “the violent activities of [her] Muslim brothers and sisters” “she may encounter kinder looks.” Leaving aside the fact that no one has alleged any family ties between any Penn Muslim and the perpetrator of such violence, Bergamo seems to have forgotten that we are all talking about Penn students: 16- through 21-year-old young adults, experiencing, most for the first time in their lives, being on their own and joining a community of which we were all once a part. I assume that, like me, readers of the Gazette enjoyed our years at Penn not due to going to classes, but due to the amazing friendships and relationships created. I spent my four years as an undergrad, and several more as a graduate student and a staff member at Penn, immersed in the community, and I consider each and every one of my classmates, every professor, every member of the staff, and the surrounding community, a fellow Quaker. Everyone on campus deserves a “kind look” simply because they are there. Muslims on campus are Quakers on campus. It’s really that simple.
LaToya J. Baldwin Clark W’02 G’08 Philadelphia
Ancient Crimes Can’t Justify Present-Day Ones
As a way to justify the barbarism of present-day Islam, one of your letter-writers in the Jul|Aug issue (S.R. Cohen) reached back in time to demonstrate for comparison the brutal behavior of Jews and Christians of antiquity.
Barack Obama tried the same, pathetic maneuver, reaching back to the ancient behavior of Christians during the Crusades.
In the first place, seeking by any means whatsoever to vindicate the savagery of present-day Muslims is reprehensible.
In the second place, Jews and Christians would agree that the ancient, sadistic behavior of any group, including their own, would be inexcusable today. That’s why they have long since renounced brutality, making it condemnable. The Muslims have not.
In civilized society today, whoever commits violent crime is considered a criminal and is punished. Muslims, on the other hand, are proud of the atrocities they commit. They flaunt them to the world and use them to recruit sick and violent adherents. No Muslim, especially no powerful mullah, is heard to protest, or demand the perpetrators be punished.
It is quite possible that if any “good” Muslims oppose Islamic barbarism, they risk being killed for apostasy. That, right there, should be enough to tell them that Islam, the enemy of the Western world, is their enemy, too.
Sylvia-Lee Alden GEd’79 GrEd’79 Old Town, ME
Urban Folklore in an Urban University
In the Jul|Aug “Letters,” Joel G. Ackerman C’62 commented on Violet Baron’s article about Steve Zeitlin [“Alumni Profiles,” May|June], challenging his contention that in 1986, “Even in the field of folklore, people didn’t think that urban folklore existed.” To prove his point Ackerman points to Folkways Records and to the Smithsonian Folk Festivals respectively, as producers and celebrators of urban folklore.
Zeitlin can fend for himself, but it is worthwhile pointing out that had Mr. Ackerman been at Penn a few years longer, he could have heard about urban folklore in the courses given by the faculty of the shortlived and prematurely terminated Department of Folklore and Folklife (1962-2003). Urban folklore was a recurrent subject in the courses of its faculty members, those who are no longer with us (such as MacEdward Leach, Tristram P. Coffin, Kenneth S. Goldstein, Don Yoder, and Dell Hymes) and those who retired or moved to greener academic pastures, including Roger D. Abrahams, Henry Glassie, John F. Szwed, Regina Bendix, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, and Margaret Mills.
The dissertation of Roger D. Abrahams, Deep Down in the Jungle: Negro Narrative Folklore From the Streets of Philadelphia, written officially in the English Department, declares its local urbanity in the title. According to academic oral tradition, it included so many texts of rich urban street English, that the then English Department could not tolerate it, and his mentor, Professor Leach, was told: “If you want to approve such a dissertation, go and have your own department.”
Shortly thereafter, Ellen Stekert G’65, a singer and a folklorist, edited, together with Americo Paredes, The Urban Experience and Folk Tradition (1971). The late Alan Dundes, whom Ackerman mentions, was offered a position at Penn (because he turned it down, I ended up here). He encountered and wrote about the anti-Semitic jokes of Berlin taxi drivers, and then researched and wrote Work Hard and You Shall Be Rewarded: Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire (1975).
The University of Pennsylvania is not the only bastion of urban-folklore studies. Jan Brunvand, emeritus professor of the University of Utah, who researched the subject, edited the Encyclopedia of Urban Legends (2001), which includes tales told on university campuses around the country, including those of urban universities like our own.
Dan Ben-Amos, faculty Philadelphia
Smoking Didn’t Kill McQueen
A letter in the Jul|Aug issue criticizes the May|June cover, which showed Steve McQueen exhaling smoke. The writer says that he died of lung cancer, which led to a heart attack. In fact, he was dying of incurable pleural mesothelioma. The immediate cause of death was cardiac arrest after a palliative operation in Mexico to remove or reduce metastatic tumors in his neck and abdomen. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos, not smoking.
Allan Atherton GAr’67 Louisville, KY
And Cover Photo Didn’t Glorify Smoking
Steve McQueen’s cause of death was pleural mesothelioma related to asbestos exposure. While smoking can impair lung function and complicate the disease, it is not the cause of mesothelioma.
Additionally, I do not believe that the photographic essay was meant to glorify smoking. If it were, I would certainly take offense, having lost my father to lung cancer at the age of 54.
Lester H. Wurtele, spouse Wyncote, PA
Joseph DiStefano’s praise for Father Tom Hagan [“Alumni Voices,” Jul|Aug] is supported by examples that raise questions about whether the priest deserves that praise. For example, the lesson that Hagan draws from the devastation caused by the Haitian earthquake “is that God will never abandon you.” However, the widespread suffering and high death tolls suggest that Hagan’s god did not simply abandon the Haitians but completely washed his hands of them and of Hagan’s friends and neighbors who died there. Also, Hagan’s assertion that “excellence is the result of when you really love another person” seems simplistic. It fails to acknowledge that this thing called “love” can be, in the words of psychologist Lawrence Casler, “pathological.” And where is the cause-and-effect relationship between love and excellence?
Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, DiStefano implies that a parish was wrong to dismiss Hagan for preaching that “he’d rather have a gay son than one who volunteered to fight an unjust war.” Yes, that parish was guilty of prejudice against gays, but isn’t Hagan exhibiting a similar bias? In Hagan’s example, is not the gay son the lesser of two evils?
DiStefano’s essay makes me wonder if the rivers of goodness can be pure when they are fed by the lakes of religion.
Don Z. Block Gr’77 Malvern, PA
I was pleasantly surprised to read Joseph DiStefano’s piece. Few top universities and their papers will publish anything positive about those who follow Christ and His gospel these days.
The story was real, interesting, and gave a taste of the satisfaction Christ gives to those who follow His Way. Well-written.
Thanks for remembering that Philadelphia has roots that are Jewish, Catholic, and WASP.
Henry Harvey ChE’57 Brunswick, GA
Remembering Stanley Johnson
Your recent article on Father Tom Hagan prompts these thoughts regarding the Rev. Stanley Johnson, who was the longtime chaplain of the University of Pennsylvania as well as serving in other positions. Stanley was an ardent runner, who captained both his cross-country teams at Haverford High School and Princeton. He was elected to the Athletic Hall of Fame of each, and holds the record as the only winner of the annual cross-country competition between Princeton, Yale, and Harvard for four straight years.
Married to his high-school sweetheart, Sally Hawes, after theological seminary he held several ecclesiastical positions before coming to Penn. During the next 44 years, in addition to his role as chaplain, he was dean of admissions, and president of the Faculty Club, as well as being chief judge of the Penn Relays.
For 40-some years he also served as the summer minister of the Siasconset Union Chapel, where his sermons were legendary for their meaning as well as their gentle humor.
After a long bout with cancer, Stanley passed away in June 2013. While weighing barely 100 pounds, he was, in many ways, a giant of a man, a leader, and a friend and counselor to many.
Carlo Vittorini C’50 Bronxville, NY
I was disappointed that the article on graduation [“Gazetteer,” Jul|Aug] did not provide any background information on the recipients of honorary degrees. The University’s official citations of honorees had been a regular feature of these annual articles. Certainly adequate space could have been created for that purpose by eliminating several of the monotonous mug-shots of graduates and their close relations.
Michael Brown C’69 Houston
Beyond the list of names, we’ve provided a varying level of detail on honorary-degree recipients over the years (and yes, that has been based on available space). We like the pictures, but readers can also find brief biographies of Commencement speaker Lin-Manuel Miranda and the other 2016 honorary degree recipients here.—Ed.
Love of Art, Love of Life
Concerning “The Art of Giving” [“Arts,” Jul|Aug], I must add a personal note. At a pre-50th Reunion (2017) gathering, more than 30 of us in the Class of 1967 viewed the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Collection of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on June 29. It couldn’t have been any better.
Keith and Kathy were our guides. We were enthralled not only by the art, and how it was curated and presented, but by something even more special: the intensely personal connection between the Sachses and the art. Listening to Keith and Kathy, you quickly learn that each piece of art has a story. In many cases, the artists and the Sachses became personal friends. Keith and Kathy relished the art because they understood and appreciated the artist and the thinking that drove the artistic creation.
As captured in the Gazette article, the collection represents an intensely personal connection and collaboration between Keith and Kathy. They met at Penn. Kathy’s first gift of art to Keith was an antique print of the school. They pursued their collection together, sometimes relentless in their acquisition of a piece of art that an artist was reluctant to sell. Their home and their art were one and the same.
I’ve known Keith for several years and have chatted with Kathy. But I learned so much more about these giving, sincere people on a beautiful summer evening in late June. Their love of art reflects a love of life reflected by their paintings, prints, and sculptures. Their choice of the venue represents their love of Philadelphia—and two of its notable institutions: the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania.
Howard S. Freedlander C’67 Easton, MD
Thoughts on Missing Friends
As likely do most Pennsylvania Gazette readers, I scan the obituary section of each issue I receive.
The May|June issue briefly noted the November 12 death of Keith Stone WG’69. He was a wonderful, cerebrally charming, dedicated professional. He and his wife, Dr. Katherine Stone, raised three accomplished children. Keith and I remained friends since Wharton Grad, where he was on a scholarship from his undergrad college in the UK. He and I were marketing majors. After he earned his MBA, Keith was hired by McKinsey. His McKinsey responsibilities gave him precious little social time for his Wharton mates in Manhattan, yet he worked hard without complaint for a few years. Katherine and he married, then moved to Dallas, where Keith worked for Trammell Crow, a top-tier commercial-real-estate firm. Keith was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, whose intelligence extended to a wicked wit. Some of that wit was directed at the several members of the WG marketing faculty, whom Keith could not resist mocking. He had a point. These guys had tenure, but no business teaching; they stayed on due to lucrative outside consulting contracts. We agreed that today’s WG marketing faculty is worlds better than nearly 50 years ago. A year ago Keith wrote a touching, candid farewell letter to his friends that was enclosed with the family Christmas card. It is remarkable in its content, candor, and erudition, and is truly a keeper.
Two weeks after Keith’s November death, Jim Bernhardt WG’68 died of ALS. He gamely fought this devastating disease for about five years. Bernie’s wife, Lindsey, and he lived near Greenville, South Carolina. Sadly, my wife, Cindy, and I were unable to visit them during his illness. Bernie and I did, however, frequently speak by phone to discuss politics, sports, mutual friends, reflections on our respective undergraduate alma maters (Bernie’s was Lafayette; mine, Bucknell) and stories of our valued classmate and friend, the late Andy Petty. Bernie and I once worked together at ad agency D’Arcy McManus & Masius for two years on the Colgate Palmolive account. He was a skilled, hard worker who had had the gift of anticipating client requests. Lindsey and Bernie raised two terrific children, Amy and A.J. While Bernie and I had our share of good times over the years, they were not enough. His marketing career took him from the New York City area 40 years ago, as he worked in senior marketing positions for Texize, then for DowBrands. Lindsay and Bernie returned to the Northeast in the late 1990s, when Bernie became chief marketing officer for Miracle-Gro. Cindy and I were able to enjoy their delightful company any number of times before Bernie retired and they moved back to Greenville. Bernie was a brave, perceptive, caring gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor. I miss him right now, as I do Keith.
Jim Rowbotham WG’69 New York