Editor’s note: Letters appearing in the summer 2017 print issue are marked by a double ##.
Food for thought
##The spring 2017 issue was, I suppose, the “food issue,” but the red meat was in the letters section. Wow. If one job of journalism is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, certain pieces in your prior issue fulfilled this purpose.
George Sibley ’75
##Reading the letters to the editor in the spring 2017 issue was a depressing experience. Most of the letter writers seemed to be very much dug into their opinions. So dug in, in fact, that reasonable dialogue between the two sides seems virtually impossible.
If these letters appeared in a local newspaper, the rhetoric and hard stances would not be surprising. However, I would have expected alumni of Notre Dame to demonstrate more openness to considering the opinions of others.
The biggest problem facing the United States is the extreme polarization that has gripped our people. A willingness to engage in respectful and open-minded dialogue about the major issues facing our nation seems to have vanished or, at a minimum, gone into hibernation. This may not be surprising for the population in general but, when close-mindedness and intolerance of opposing views becomes the norm for the alumni of a prestigious university such as Notre Dame, it is worrisome and sad.
The intolerance was repeatedly evident on both “sides” of the argument. If one or both sides in a disagreement believe they are always right and the other side is always wrong (or worse: immoral), productive dialogue is impossible. In the long run, coexistence may also be in jeopardy. Although many may wish otherwise, the United States is a pluralistic society and is becoming more diverse every day. We are also a democratic society. Can pluralism and democracy coexist? The way things look today, the answer is not certain and the implications of that are frightening.
Joseph Miltimore ’89M.A.
Recent letters to the editor have expressed strong but differing views on the present status of the presidency. The editor has advocated discussion and not discord — with truce when all else fails. He also says home cooking and conviviality provide “a happy respite from all the rest.” To this end, I offer these observations. First, let us enjoy the home cooking of Our Mother by praying the rosary in thanksgiving for God, our Father, loving us as his children. Second, for conviviality, we know that God provides us, his children, with all that we need to “be not afraid.” Third, a challenge: Let us give our Mother a million rosaries this year as a way to provide food for our table.
Morristown, New Jersey
Congratulations on your unprecedented “Letters” column in the spring 2017 issue.
As a retired member of an academic community, I can only dimly imagine the internal politics that inspired your previous issue and the lengths that you went to reflect negative reaction in the current one. You deserve a Purple (Blue/Gold ?) Heart. Carry on.
Thomas L. Bonn ’60
Hi, thank you for your excellent magazine. What most of the Letters to the Editor about the articles following the presidential election showed me is how thoughtful people who are trying to be virtuous justify to themselves about voting for Trump.
There is a huge disconnect. My first vote was for Nixon, and I voted Republican until Obama’s second election. I am horrified that anyone reasonable could have voted for Trump. I’m horrified at the rancor directed at Obama, an intelligent, thoughtful, dignified person with a wonderful family. No personal or political scandals. That he would be followed by D.J. Trump has made me feel like we’re through the looking glass.
If you imagined what the worst possible president would be like, Trump is it. It’s nonsense that he’s a stalwart against abortion. He suggested it to his second wife in response to her pregnancy. With the sexual history he boasts about it’s either naive or willfully in denial to believe he hasn’t paid for several. And how does his saying he’s against abortion make up for electing an unstable, truly dangerous president in the nuclear age.
I feel completely estranged from half our country. The history of the U.S. has great sins among its unique virtues, but the hope was that we were moving towards the ideals it was founded on. The letter to the editor which best sums up my opinion is that of Antone B. Perrone, where he describes Trump as evil, corrupt and vile, against everything ND stands for. If any of the terrible things which are real possibilities happen because he is president, then I hold everyone who voted for him responsible.
Nora Grace O’Donnell, ’77
I join several of your letter writers in their comments in your editorial pages that the ND Magazine publication has become another piece of “fake news.” When all you can write is one liberal side of any perspective, you lack credibility. Yes leftist propaganda and irresponsible “journalism” coming from the most noted Catholic university in the world.
You all must be avid followers of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and subscribe to socialism. Open your brains and allow equal print time to the Trump/Conservative supporters on campus. You might learn something.
Constance Esposito ’75
Newport Beach, California
I’m very disappointed in your decision to publish a letter in the spring issue of Notre Dame Magazine that states, “our new president won in a landslide.” In indisputable fact, Donald Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3,000,000 votes and his Electoral College margin places him in the lowest quartile of presidential victories in the history of our nation. I’m surprised that anyone with a Notre Dame education would consider this a “landslide” victory, but of course, we are all occasionally blindsided by our biases.
My true concern is that a publication by the University of Notre Dame — a publication that I would assume seeks to disseminate either factual or informed-opinion writing — chose to publish a letter containing blatantly false rhetoric. Dictators have long exaggerated their victories and/or their level of support in order to deceive citizens. Shame on Notre Dame Magazine for being a mouthpiece for that behavior.
I write to compliment Notre Dame Magazine on its broad-mindedness in publishing so many letters responding to the Winter issue, despite the fact that so many of them were filled with undisguised hatred, victimhood and vitriol. The magazine’s generosity was all the more noteworthy given the fact that so many of those letters were so unapologetically grounded in basic departures from reality.
This is not to express an opinion one way or the other on the writing in the Winter issue, but simply to observe that the phenomenon some of that writing alluded to (the abandonment of objectivity where objectivity is called for) was itself in such stark evidence in some of these letters. Just to extract a few real gems: “Perhaps you forgot that our new president won in a landslide.” He lost the popular vote by more than 3 million votes and his margin in the Electoral College was smaller than all but five other elections in U.S. history. One could characterize his victory in a number of ways, but “landslide” is one that fits none of the available facts. The same goes for the claim of a “crushing defeat of Hillary Clinton.” Or the claim that “the DNC has inflicted . . . same-sex marriage, no more Nativity displays in public squares, no more ‘Merry Christmas’ . . . , anti-Christian-led ACLU attorneys having a field day, etc. etc.” Where these are actual phenomena — and in several cases they are things that exist only in fevered imagination of right-wing talk radio and Fox TV provocateurs — they have been “inflicted” by the Supreme Court of the United States applying the U.S. Constitution to matters brought before it by aggrieved citizens. Or “Credibility? You are kidding me. How many times was Hillary exposed as a liar?” Without denying that Mrs. Clinton was caught a few times saying things that proved to be untrue, the best objective answer is that she was "exposed as a liar " about one-tenth as often as her opponent was exposed as a liar, indeed her opponent’s own autobiography ghostwriter commented that he lies so often and so casually that it’s not clear he even knows what’s true anymore. Or "Obama has increased the racial division . . . " How, exactly, did Barack Obama increase racial division?
Then there were the baseless attacks on Our Lady’s University itself, like “when the core principles of the faith are not publicly defended . . . the institution has lost some of its precious credibility.” The letter-writer selectively ignores the University’s decision to join the religious liberty suit against the Affordable Care Act, the fact that a delegation from the University led by Father Jenkins marches at the front of the March for Life in Washington every spring, as well as countless other ways the University publicly defends the tenets of the Catholic Church. But venture one negative opinion about the man the letter-writer voted for and you’re well along the road to Hell.
I could cite many more examples of this peculiar attachment to perceptions of the world utterly lacking in any factual bases. I for one would have considered the magazine entirely justified in printing only those letters that stuck to a close approximation of observable reality, but you are to be commended for keeping a more open mind; or perhaps you were simply bowing to the Zeitgeist in which we now insist on having all of our self-serving delusions validated, something from which I would have hoped more of my fellow alumni/ae would be more immune — which leads us back to the phenomenon the Winter issue was lamenting in the first place.
Michael Hogan ’79
I realize this letter is too late to consider for publication in your next issue. Living in Alaska, I seem to receive the magazine much later than most.
Regardless, I would like to compliment you on the Winter 2016-17 issue, especially Anthony Walton’s “Hope at Risk” feature. He accurately summed up the fundamentally flawed understanding of U.S. history by so many Trump supporters who bought into the “Make America Great Again” message with his phrase “deliberately chosen ignorance in service of a nostalgia-fueled half-dream of a time that never was, and can certainly never be.”
What disappoints me most is the strong support among Notre Dame alumni for the Trump campaign and the scathing, if not racist, criticisms of the Obama administration. Why the fear of diversity, of people who may not look like you, when that is exactly what has made America great over the years? How can sexual assault be so easily forgotten, especially when committed by someone campaigning for the country’s most important leadership position? How can anyone accept the inherent disrespect for women that continues to this day?
Where are those values and education of the “whole person” of which Notre Dame is so proud? Conveniently forgotten, it seems, in the interest of increasing border protection, making self-interest paramount, and making more money so that wasteful use of resources can continue. Those interests are what Mike Pence stands for as well, since he is as much a part of the current administration as anyone, and he compromised all of what he stood for in the interest of money and power. He will bring those hypocrisies to the university and deliver the commencement address. Don’t Notre Dame students deserve better?
I have always been proud to be a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Now I am almost embarrassed about it. I hold out hope that there is still some critical thinking going on among students and alumni, and I’m grateful that you shared that in your 2016-17 issue of Notre Dame Magazine.
Mike Tranel ’81
Several years ago Notre Dame spent considerable effort and expense to shield itself from the Vatican. But apparently that effort is not necessary to shield the University community from the federal government or the Trump administration.
Dan O’Neill, ‘60
Food for nourishment
##Your spring issue, especially “Redefining Fast Food,” focuses on initiatives that can arguably save this planet. It is doubtful that the world’s nations can come to grips with an exploding population and its environmental impact. Those organizations that harvest fossil fuels have both economic and political power, and now have an ally in the White House to sustain or even expand their initiatives. However, the business ventures described in this article, taken in a logical direction, can start a process desperately needed worldwide.
Instead of wasting valuable farmland and diminishing clean water on traditional methods of growing crops, begin to build upward. Envision mega complexes 10 to 20 stories high growing all of our food 365 days a year anywhere in the world — and the power to operate these “farm buildings” coming from renewable energy sources, as described in the article.
The second part of this equation is to massively reforest the planet, more than likely on the farmlands that will not be needed to grow produce. Why? Scientists are concerned we are either near or past the tipping point where the damage of burning fossil fuels has irreversible consequences. The only possible solutions that might bring us from the brink is the age-old knowledge that forests love carbon dioxide and, in return, pay for these gifts with life-giving oxygen. I am proud to see these initiatives from fellow Domers; they have young legs and the ability to move quickly to save this planet of ours.
Jim Kieffer ’70.
Nashua, New Hampshire
##You wrote a great article on Gotham Greens in the spring magazine. I am a big fan of theirs, and they have accomplished so much. Thank you for raising awareness about locally grown produce and what a better product it is. There are also others out there working in this movement, taking a number of approaches. Aerofarms, Green Sense Farms, Plenty, The Bowery, Bright Farms and FreshBox Farms are all growing produce in their communities for their communities.
What might be interesting for the Notre Dame community is to learn how much technology goes into many of these farms. Our own, FreshBox Farms, manipulates carbon dioxide levels, temperature, humidity, dissolved oxygen and nutrient solutions, just to name a few. We manage all these factors with software and use big data and machine learning to optimize our growth formulas. This is seriously smart spinach here!
As the largest modular vertical farm in the United States, we take pride in this technology and look forward to the continued development of LEDs, which make our indoor farming possible. LEDs are projected to halve their energy consumption every three years (similar to Moore’s law), which means our costs will always go down. Not something the competition can say.
Thank you again for raising these important issues about locally grown food. I hope the ND community takes advantage of whatever local grower is operating near them.
B. David Vosburg ’04
San Mateo, California
After graduating in 1983, I did three years of volunteer work in the Pacific Northwest. When I returned to the Midwest, I worked on several dairy farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Why? Because, I reasoned, Jesus was born on a farm, and American families often have roots in farming. What an education it was! This spring issue is a subtle celebration of our nation’s roots because in our journey as a people we find our place in salvation history: the Americas have even nurtured a pope from our lands. God bless America.
Jeff Monaghan ’83
##I wanted to thank you for the pictures by Barbara Johnston on the front and back covers of the spring issue. Both photos were very appealing but, maybe because I’m getting older, I found the back photo particularly eloquent.
Good luck with your work. These are difficult times, and I’m sure you find it hard to write honestly and maintain your composure despite what that honesty sometimes elicits. Given those circumstances, the faces of SuzAnne Akhavan-Tafti and Baby were especially satisfying, even consoling.
Joe Lee ’66
##What a great article about Father Bob Pelton, CSC, in the spring issue. As one of Father Bob’s many friends, I wish to thank Tara Hunt McMullen ’12 for the very nice life story of Father Bob and some of his many accomplishments. He is truly a great person and an outstanding Holy Cross priest.
One quick story, if I may, that exemplifies this humble man’s faith and love of God. When Father Bob was visiting Pittsburgh and stayed with my wife, Mary Ann, and me, he told us how over the years he asked Father Ned Joyce, CSC, to appoint him to the Athletic Board of the University so that, if the football team went to a bowl game, he could go with the team on the trip. Year after year, Father Ned, the executive vice president, did not choose him. Father Bob feigned “disappointment” at not being chosen with the comment “and he was my classmate in the seminary.” He followed that up by saying, “I guess I’ll just have to take it up with him in heaven.”
Frank Conte ’56
##I have been reading the magazine for over 25 years and have especially enjoyed the essays. Some have made me laugh, others have made me cry; the depth of emotion and sincerity amazes me.
In the spring issue I read the essay from a woman who struggled for years to learn to play the piano. An admirable task that I was never at first financially and later on brave enough to try. In my hometown in Italy I used to walk slowly past a music academy, catching only a few notes of the music I wished I could play. Impossible dream, during the Second World War.
In the essay, the mother tells of the agony of having a son in the war and adds, “the path he had chosen was noble.” I am sorry, but there is nothing noble about an American or an Israeli going to fight in Gaza. Nothing noble about fighting a population that lives in an open-air prison, without rights, without hope. I just attended a Jewish Voice for Peace conference in Chicago. I do not think my Jewish-American friends would agree that the path her son chose was “noble.” I am happy that he returned home safely, but what was left behind from the war on Gaza?
South Bend, Indiana
##When I was 10 and on my knees scrubbing the kitchen floor each Saturday, there was no rupture between faith and science. Instead, as those of us in the Brooklyn line of Leahy’s Legion trumpeted, Catholicism found expression in Notre Dame’s winning seasons. Even when an untimely loss to Purdue soured our pastor’s disposition at Sunday Mass, Monsignor, nonetheless, reminded us from the pulpit that the early Christians too suffered martyrdom.
When I was in high school and helping my father in his laundromat each Saturday, I heard Notre Dame games above the dryers’ whirl. Then senior year our Jesuit Prep saluted Ralph Guglielmino as the collegiate football player of the year. Holding the award aloft, he announced at our annual father-son sports dinner that it was the finest honor he achieved. It almost compensated for economic reality that I had to attend college locally rather than at Notre Dame.
When our children were only steps and stairs, late Saturday nights the TV compressed the highlights of the Notre Dame games. When the children were teenagers, the Notre Dame games appeared in their entirety on Saturdays. All this and Heaven too!
Then the rupture began, not between faith and science but between faith and science versus Notre Dame. I was discombobulated. On the one hand, Notre Dame Magazine, autumn 2016, cited, “Our responsibility as a university is first and foremost the safety and well-being of our students.” Catholicism at its best? Or merely hollow words? For shortly after, the January 15, 2017, New York Times ran the article, “This Is Your Brain After A Football Hit,” identifying the consequences of concussions, a university concern again cited in “Field of Vision,” in the spring edition of the magazine.
Here the findings of scientific investigation became immediately relevant to the ramifications of the Church’s teaching about “Thou shalt not kill,” which can also mean not to inflict harm needlessly upon oneself or upon another. On the other hand, the University’s endorsement of football, despite the undisputed facts about the intrinsic violence of the game and the cognitive trauma it causes, is violating the Church’s ethical teaching. This, as the king in The King and I says, “Is a puzzlement!”
James J. Magee
Mount Vernon, New York
Letter to the Editor about Letters to the Editor
I have read the letters to the editor in the Spring 2017 edition. I am appalled and dismayed to have read the sentiments expressed by some who claim Notre Dame as their alma mater. The letters to which I refer concern the Winter 2016-17 articles "Rancor and Reconciliation" and "Our National Malady."
Everyone is free to express their opinion, yet unfortunately Notre Dame failed fundamentally to instill "critical thinking" in some of its graduates. Take for example the comment one letter writer expressed, "Perhaps you forgot that our new president won in a landside."
The specter of having elected someone of the ilk of Donald Trump to be the standard bearer of a nation made great by extraordinarily perceptive and humanistic men and women who emboldened those who followed with principles of honesty (credibility), charity, self-sacrifice and freedom leaves one with a heavy sinking heart at the conduct and lack of character of our president.
Consensus of pollsters is that the overwhelming majority of those who voted for Trump lacked an education above the high school level. Opinions expressed, even from some with whom I graduated, such as "His positions on the moral and social issues of the day were vastly superior to those of his opponent," leave any clear-thinking person scratching his or her head. I'm wondering if the letter-writer was referring to Trump's nasty derision and ridicule on national TV of the handicapped New York Times reporter , or the "alternative fact" that former President Obama had ordered invasive personal surveillance of Trump and his family, or the conversation that excused sexual assault on women as "boys will be boys." To excuse Trump's "hateful rhetoric" as "sticks and stones" belittles whatever education the author of that letter received (or didn't receive) while he attended (or didn't attend) class at Notre Dame.
Concerning the very important issue highlighted in the Winter edition ("credibility"), Mr. Trump has none. I have been a trial lawyer for over 40 years, and credibility was the dogged pursuit in any significant cross-examination of the case. The cornerstone of justice is built on truth. It's too bad too many today think it is like something bought and sold on Ebay.
William J. Hickey '66