Notre Dame Post Mortem/Benjamin Button/Digression? Tuesday, 5/23/17

benjamin button

Some blog posts stand alone and some nag at you. I always update blog posts at the top of the post. I never thought about it much until this morning. The practice gives the writing a Benjamin Button feel, a backward chronology. This can be annoying — I certainly found the Benjamin Button movie to annoying (and cloying too — what was that picture about anyway?) and the short story left me unmoved (Gatsby it ain’t.)

But as an improvisational writer (and remember that doesn’t mean that I don’t rewrite and edit. It just means that I dispense with all that precious literary shit, which seems a waste of time. Just cut to the chase and say what you have to say — make it fucking useful!), I engage in the thinnest art form (which is a true irony). “Wear your character as you wear a hat or coat,” is a grand improv truism. In other words, dispense with the bullshit. Say what has to be said now and forever. (Not saying that there aren’t great literary writers — I’m not stupid — but the ones I like have this quality. (A poet once told me that my writing was accessible but challenging. It made his head hurt. Thank you, sir. He was too comfortable anyway, secure in the rules of his poetry program. He really wanted to be playing basketball, but he was 67 and had bad knees.)

The thinnest art form is very well suited to the blog, which I can humbly say that I am elevating to an art form. I’m not sharing fucking recipes, here. A reader reads a blog backwards if they paddle beyond the immediate post. Or they helicopter over the winding river of words and check in with writing done at a specific earlier date. I would never archive my posts for just that reason. I wouldn’t archive memory, or a trace of past feeling. Those things live in me, forgotten and recalled by the changing moment. Our lives are one moment — that’s it.

So Fitzgerald was getting at just that with his Benjamin Button story, wasn’t he? I don’t care. I am less interested in anyone’s writing but my own. I had a long apprenticeship, reading other people’s words and conforming or rebelling to society’s idea of itself. It’s my turn to do the talking.

The backward nature of blog reading fits the nature of life. We don’t watch our story from beginning to end. We view it from the present moment to the past moment that resurrects in the present time. The present nature of blog writing fits life too. When else can I write but now? (Rhetorical question — the answer is no other time.)

Some friends of mine wrote notes to me in response to my recent condemnation of Notre Dame’s President Father John Jenkin’s invitation to the vile criminal Mike Pence to be the school’s commencement speaker. The atrocity of the speech occurred last Sunday, 5/21/17.

They sympathized with my point of view but pointed out that the valedictorian gave a nice speech and that a priest/hero of social justice also spoke. Each suggested or implied that I should listen to each speech online. They felt the viewing would comfort me, I reckon.

That is all very nice, but I don’t need to be comforted. The truth is I don’t give a shit about Notre Dame’s commencement. I only found out that Pence was speaking while reading another friend’s post on Facebook.

I don’t need to view the YouTube clips of the valedictorian and the saint. The clips won’t make me think that Jenkins redeemed himself by including angels on the same agenda as Satan (Pence). And I don’t need to be encouraged on this front. I know there is love in the world.

I wrote this comment on Facebook to the friend who brought up the saint:

My friend: This is great! However, Father Greg Boyle also spoke, and he’s a hero!
LikeShow more reactions · Reply · 1 · 12 hrs
Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas Oh, great. I didn’t watch commencement or read about it. I just responded to Pence invitation. I don’t think other worthwhile parts of program make up for Pence. It’s kind of a conservative ploy to bring out a hero from a wonderful charity. They would leave all such projects to churches and non- profits. But such charities are needed because criminals like Pence do not provide justice. I worked in a gang crime center of the IL Attorney General’s Office. People like Father Boyle do great work — but they care for people who suffer because of the great injustices of our economy, and education and justice systems. And Pence is and wants to make it much worse. Right wingers use charity in a sick way.
LikeShow more reactions · Reply · 11 hrs

Now here is my piece that goes after Jenkins. I have believed what I wrote here my whole life. What’s past again? Now I say it because I’ve found my voice as an artist, because I am 61 and don’t give a damn and because the pricks have gone too far and everyone knows it. Living in the moment means living your whole life at once AND living in all time.


COPYRIGHT 2017 Richard Thomas

5/20/17 — Dear Father Jenkins, Notre Dame President: You Disgraced ND by Inviting Mike Pence to be Commencement Speaker. Signed, An Alumnus

Dear Father Jenkins, the President of the University of Notre Dame,

I read that you were petitioned by many not to invite the illegitimate, immoral, and soon to be proven criminal and even treasonous President Donald Trump to speak at ND’s May 2017 Commencement Ceremonies. You agreed not to invite Trump and invited his complicit, dissembling, and immoral in his own right, Vice-President Mike Pence instead. That’s too clever by half, Father Jenkins. You disgraced yourself today.

Free speech doesn’t mean the University has to give stupidity and immorality societal authority. Let Pence pass out leaflets on the quad. That’s constitutionally protected. A university — especially a university like Notre Dame that claims to be so superior in the art of developing students’ personal characters AND minds — should have intellectual and moral standards. Have you been thinking TOO MUCH about money, Father Jenkins? Is all the high-minded rhetoric just marketing? Stop worrying about buildings and endowments and return to your spiritual vocation.

You invited a commencement speaker who supports and facilitates cover-ups for treason, the unconstitutional persecution of immigrants, attempts to steal people’s right to health care and rob their lives of decency, and an ugly debasement of our democracy and civic culture. We’re not going to have a democratic discussion with autocrats who hate democracy no matter how much you try to shove it down our throats. I’ve known other priests like you who get to live like the rich by sucking up to them and giving them phony moral cover. Your thoughtless act of giving a platform to the authoritarian and criminal cabal that is threatening our way of life as if they were just politicians who some would agree with and some would oppose is stupid and immoral in and of itself.

And if you are actually a supporter of Trump and Pence, as I suspect that you are, fuck you. Your collar is a joke. Did Pence do you favors while he was Governor of Indiana? Did you trade sanctimonious pleasantries with him at cocktail parties while you ignored the devastating effects of his policies and beliefs?

This is such an unsurprising embarrassment at my disappointing alma mater. I am now just adding it to my other embarrassments related to ND: its conservatism, commercialism, careerism and greed. There are people who take the social justice teachings of the church seriously at ND. My old hall Keenan is a bastion of such thought, for example, and it makes me proud. But the administration of ND uses the same moral compass as the administration of Liberty University. Father Hesburgh (a great liberal President of ND who made the school into a major university) would have handled this much differently. He wouldn’t alienate the conservatives, but he wouldn’t blaspheme Jesus with Pence. The commencement speaker at ND is a big deal and this year the choice was an immoral act. You gave an endorsement of this the legitimacy of this administration for all of American Catholicism. That’s what a Notre Dame commencement speaker invitation does. How could you have such an imprimatur on a man like Pence ?!?

All the well-regarded universities that would never invite Pence to speak — and you make Notre Dame the exception!

I am proud of the students that walked out of the ceremonies today, but you should have never put them in the position to have to do so.

And on behalf of all the non-wealthy alumni of which I am one, thank you for not considering our feelings on this matter, or the circumstances of our lives that are being greatly affected by the depravity that you pass off as mere political opinion.

But then you know where your bread is buttered, don’t you, Father John?

Shame on you,

Richard Thomas, Class of 1977

Copyright 2017 Richard Thomas

One thought on “Notre Dame Post Mortem/Benjamin Button/Digression? Tuesday, 5/23/17

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s