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December 11, 2001 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-12-11

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

OP/ED

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420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
daily. letters@umich.edu

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SINCE 1890

GEOFFREY GAGNON
Editor in Chief
MICHAEL GRASS
NICHOLAS WOOMER
Editorial Page Editors

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
I don't want this to
be seen as a Muslim mob
attacking a Westerner
for no reason. They had
every reason to be angry
... If I had been them, I
would have attacked me."
- British journalist Robert Fisk, quoted
by the BBC News, reacting to being
attacked by Afghan refugees after
his car broke down in Pakistan.

Colley. p as aj: C..o&as
dot' 4+e4 be s_ fi desTht or !VN)Fce
Coaled ColuwcbeO%

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Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the Daily's
editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

4

Taking stock of the Bollinger legacy
GEOFFREY GAGNON G-OLOCY

tanding just to the
right of the podium
yesterday in the
Clements Library before
the ceremony honoring
President Lee Bollinger, I
imagined that the whole
event would feel like
something I had seen
before.
I figured, only half jokingly, that as friends
and colleagues stepped to the microphone dur-
ing the University's official send-off for its
12th chief, they would shower Bollinger and
his wife Jean with gifts and praise the way pro
sports teams do the same when an aged hero
announces his retirement. If you can conjure
up images of the farewell tour of Laker-great
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a little over a decade
ago, and if you can imagine old Kareem
clutching his framed jersey or gushing over his
new Rolls-Royce while grinning for the flash-
bulbs, then you're not too far off from what I
expected to see - except without the jersey or
the Rolls.
As the event began it became clear to me
that this was more than a ceremonial send-off.
The more I watched and the more I listened the
more I came to realize that the Kareem com-
parisons started and ended with the gifts and
warm words. With apologies to Abdul-Jabbar,
the University did not assemble last night to
pay tribute to a hobbled veteran before they put
him out to pasture, nor did they memorialize a
man whose greatest work is behind him. Last
night members of the University community

simply gathered to say thanks to a leader
who'll leave later this month at the height of
his game, with his star shining brighter than
ever.
Yesterday's event made me wonder in the
vain of the familiar phrase, if we had realized
what we had before we lost it. What did we
really think last December when The New
Yorker said, "If you were called upon to invent
a perfect university president, you couldn't do
better than Lee Bollinger."
The trustees at Columbia University cer-
tainly wouldn't dispute that claim -- and nei-
ther would anyone who gathered yesterday to
pay tribute a man whose impacts at Michigan
are difficult to judge just yet amidst the glare of
his achievement.
Later last night, after Bollinger had shaken
the last hand and smiled for the last farewell
photo, I strolled through the first floor of the
Union along the corridor where the ghosts of
presidential past are immortalized in black and
white photographs. Just below the portrait
hung yesterday of Bollinger, a plaque rests in
which his four years as president are summed
up in a few sentences that describe a series of.
big initiatives that were begun under his watch.
His time is marked by his projects and his
tenure is etched in a metal plate as if his work
has been completed already. His brief bio
speaks of tasks just barely conceived from
which his legacy will be completed some day.
But where does that leave us now as we
struggle to add meaning to what Bollinger's
loss signals?
As I considered Bollinger's plaque and the

seeming need to have it completed before he
ends his tenure here on Dec. 31, I wondered
what it might say if I wrote it. I doubt that it
would mention just the enormity of the Life
Science Institute currently being constructed,
or only the importance of the forthcoming
Arthur Miller Theatre project. Rather, I'm sure
I would talk about the morning last week when
I watched Bollinger nearly drive off Thompson
Street while waving at grounds workers who
shook their heads as they waved back. Or I'd
discuss the professionalism with which he
treated the Daily, or the giddy stories passed
like legend from students who were on South
University on a chilly night in 1997 when the
new president opened his house to a throng of
frenzied Wolverines whose football team had
just clinched a No. I ranking. I'd also describe
the way he opened his home and talked with
my friends and me on a sad Sunday in Septem-
ber.
My version of the plaque probably
wouldn't capture the grandiose scope of
Bollinger's term or the vision and fortitude that
made him memorable. But my plaque would
capture what makes him unforgettable - his
charisma, sincerity and passion.
Years from now when a clearer picture of
his impact emerges in the shape of buildings
and programs and successful projects, that
plaque will mean more - and history will treat
Bollinger with the same type of warmth and
fondness he's shown the University.
Geoffrey Gagnon can be reached via
e-mail at ggagnon@umich.edu.

Goonies, evasive wretches never say 'die'
AUBREY HENRETTY NEUROTICA

he mere sugges-
tion that Chunk
might be dead was
too much for poor Mikey:
"Don't say that! Never say
that! Goonies never say
die." I could barely read
the first time I saw "The
Goonies," but I under-
stood Mikey's point: If
Goonies don't say die, Goonies can't die. Like
Mikey, I had already learned to fear certain
words, "die" occupying a central position on
the list - right between "teenager" and "base-
ment." I supported Mikey in his decision not
to say "die" because to say it meant to admit
death was a distinct possibility.
Once I realized people would go on dying
whether or not I talked about it, I grew out of
this. Some people never do.
Some people still insist on saying "Uncle
Stanislaus passed away last night." He stopped
breathing, his heart stopped beating, his vital
organs ceased operations and his brain now
has fewer electric currents running through it
than a bowl of lime Jell-O with a big plastic
spoon in it.
Who are these people trying to kid? He's
dead. Dead, dead, dead. But some people
don't like to say "die."
When a veterinarian euthanizes a dying
dog, it's called "putting the dog to sleep." But
it doesn't work with people. You wouldn't tell
a five-year-old that Dr. Kevorkian put Grand-
pa to sleep. That sounds terrible, doesn't it?
Same biological process. Different
euphemism. In times of war, dead civilians
become "collateral damage," we kill people
unintentionally with "friendly fire," dead sol-
diers become "casualties" and bombings

become "military campaigns." Personally, I'd
rather have bombings; somehow, our current
Commander-In-Chief seems better qualified
to bomb a country off the map than to run a
campaign. But I digress.
A euphemism's primary purpose is to
obscure the truth.
If somebody were to sever my left arm
with a hacksaw, I'd be eligible to join support
groups for people with "limb differences"
(Note: This phrase is not a figment of my
imagination. It is an an actual umbrella term
that describes missing, altered or otherwise
abnormal limbs). I could say, "I have a limb
difference" instead of "I don't have a left
arm." But I wouldn't. Why? Because talking
around a problem doesn't make it less of one;
no matter what I called it, I'd be missing an
arm, and all the verbal gymnastics in the
world wouldn't bring it back. Jumping rope
without assistance would be a near impossi-
bility.
Further, "limb difference" would suggest
that I had both of my arms, only there was
something unique about one of them. Some-
thing that distinguished it from other limbs
of the same name. If I had an arm made
entirely out of Spam or an arm with a built-
in digital television and wireless Internet
access, then I would say I had a limb differ-
ence. Not before.
There's nothing wrong with not having an
arm. Lots of people don't have one or both of
their arms. You could say they're unarmed.
And it wouldn't be a euphemism. If anything,
it would take away from the stigma. "Limb
difference" is sterile and intimidating; puns
are safe and (forgive me) disarming. More
importantly, puns are direct; they are beauti-
fully shameless, un-PC and easy to under-

stand.
. People looking to manipulate public opin-
ion, win arguments and discuss unpleasant
subjects design their euphemisms very care-
fully. An effective euphemism is one that
polarizes the issue at hand: Right and wrong,
moral and immoral, progressive and Nean-
derthal. Its words often avoid whatever both-
ers people about the issue (e.g. neither "dead"
nor "civilians" appears anywhere in "collater-
al damage").
Linguistic dichotomy encourages a similar
dichotomy of thought. It facilitates name-call-
ing, closed-mindedness and sweeping-moral-
statement-making. Abortion debate rhetoric is
a prime example of this. If I am "pro-life" and
you disagree with me, then you must be "anti-
life" or "pro-death;" you must think killing
babies is a great idea. If I am "pro-choice"
and you disagree with me, then you must be
"anti-choice" or "pro-fascism;" you must
think the government should have 24-hour
unrestricted access to my uterus, which
should itself be equipped with a tiny surveil-
lance camera and an alarm that would sound
if anything unsavory was going on down
there. Either way, you sound like a terrible
person and I win.
Don't let the sneaky semantics fool you;
things are what they are, and there's no reason
to be afraid of saying so as bluntly as possi-
ble. Using, timid, substance-free language to
describe what we do marginalizes even our
most courageous acts; heroes do not laugh in
the face of "passing away."
Listen critically. Speak clearly. Don't be a
Goonie.
Aubrey Henretty can be reached via
e-mail at ahenrett@umich.edu.

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V LETTERS TO TH EDITOR

Race-based affirmative
action 'simply creates
a new' wrong
To THE DAILY:
I am writing in response to yesterday's
letter "Raiji clouds real issues of affirmative
action" (12/10/01) in which the authors state,
"Even those minorities who are not impover-
ished come to the admissions process with
many disadvantages that white students could
never understand."
This is a dangerous statement. Basically,

suffered in the early 1990s, when "Buy
American" sentiment caused a largely forgot-
ten (or ignored) anti-Japanese sentiment?
What about the Chinese, Indian, or Arab stu-
dent who watches jokes made about his cul-
ture on television - jokes that, if applied to
African-Americans, would be considered
taboo? Have these people not endured disad-
vantages whites cannot understand? Why,
then, does race-based affirmative action not
aid them in admissions?
The "You just don't understand how
tough it is" argument falls flat because race-
based affirmative action decides who has suf-
fered the worst past wrongs, and ignores the

being clogged with complaints and defense
of Sam Butler's Nov. 27 cartoon involving
the Pope. For the first part, as was previ-
ously pointed out, it was more of a refer-
ence to Monty Python than an original
piece of work and is more funny in context
instead of in a poorly designed scenario that
would fit in a comic panel. However this
misses the larger point, which is the amount
of space devoted to backlash. Nobody
would have even remembered this unorigi-
nal and unfunny cartoon were it 4ot for the
large amount of people it seems to have
offended. OK, we understand some people
took offense to that. We understand that not
allCatnlie tkP hisetrP t'en ov

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