Wednesday, May 20
Addressing the Elephant (or Perhaps Donkey) in the Corner
I know a lot of you probably came here at some point this week expecting commentary about The Speech. I haven't read it or watched it, having had a busy and pleasant Sunday. I went to a well-sung mass, though between the Senegalese priest and the Mexican deacon, it turned out to be an incomprehensible accent demolition derby. Not that I can really complain, given my ethnic makeup. While I and my parents have the typical placeless Kansas anchorman accent everyone seems to have today (coupled with, in my case, a vocabulary equal parts British sitcom, Adrian Fortescue and Dave Barry), genetically, we're the meeting of the southern drawl with the odd Cuban-Spanglish habit of dropping whole syllables when the mood strikes. How my beloved late Abuelito ever got 'Creema' out of Christmas is a linguistic feat that still amazes me. I also enjoyed a delightful stage adaptation of The Great Divorce that was presented at Concordia University north of here.
Both proved much more edifying than muttering Jacobite slogans under my breath at the TV, which is my usual crisis mode. (You should have been there when my friends and I watched the vice-presidential debates in the basement of a Midtown bar surrounded by Emo-ish postmodern Young Republicans and Democrats. I kept humming Oriamendi and nobody got the hint.) But I digress, as usual.
Seriously, though, I think everything that could be said on this very sad moment for Our Lady's University was already said here weeks ago by my co-blogger Emily, and the masochists in our audience can go and re-read it if they want. I'm hesitant to say anything about this at all, since it's been almost exactly three years since I graduated, and usually this sort of intellectual guerrilla work is best handled by those students out there in the trenches. For my own part, I think this is not the watershed moment everyone claims it is. A depressing and sad moment, yes, but not one that really has changed the university.
The same students and the same student culture (both pious and less so) is still there on campus, and indeed, I'd say the caliber of the Catholic student population has improved since my time there. This one incident has not changed any of this. I agree something should be done--but I also think this event ought not to be exploited by those with some sort of beef against this place, or are unaware of how the territory has changed in recent years.
In any case, pray for this very special place. It is absurd to give up on Notre Dame on the strength of this large but relatively singular incident; we are not and have never been as far gone as many other Catholic universities, nor is an easy replacement or successor discernable, or even necessary. Those Catholics who are urging their children to go to state schools out of some misguided notion of avoiding hypocrisy ought to at least sit back and consider whatever problems we may have at the top, the grassroots are still strong and green, and the general ambience, if one keeps one's head and avoids bad company, remains pretty wholesome on campus. (One word: parietals. They're not going anywhere, and neither are the single-sex dorms. Try finding either at a state school, not to mention the Blessed Sacrament everywhere.) It's not for nothing they speak of the "Notre Dame bubble."
What pulled Notre Dame out of its '80s slump was mostly a small but dynamic orthodox core of Catholic students, whose actions are now now bearing fruit. The only way we can fix this problem is for more kids like that to come under the Dome. Pray like a champion, and please, try to get the facts before flying off the handle, people. It does our cause no good to do otherwise.
For a lot of us, it was a bit like discovering our dear old mother had a drinking problem. Something must be done, but watching others gleefully taunting her was a bit hard to handle, as right as they might have been in the abstract to rebuke her. She is still someone's mother, after all.
I leave you with the most powerful witness I can think of to prove that there is indeed nowhere else but Notre Dame: the "shadow graduation," mass and rally held by ND Response on the Commencement Weekend. (More info here, over at Lucy's, who has also some very cogent commentary on this subject as well.) These are the students (and in some cases, professors) that are the true Notre Dame.