The Colgate Scene
May 2003

Letters
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The Raider mascot needs definition

. . . After authoring the column for our Class of 1970 alumni news for the January issue of The Colgate Scene, I noted that a reference to my appearance at a football game in 1968 as one of two "Red Raiders" (mascots) was inadvertently edited to an appearance as a "Raider" on the football field. Unfortunately, the edited version misses the spirit in which the comment was intended. I am sure that the Colgate student body is well aware that for many decades, Colgate's nickname was Red Raider. I am curious, however, if the students are aware that Red Raider mascots appeared at football games in buckskins, complete with feathered headdresses and war paint.

A few years ago I read a Patriot League press release that suggested that the Red Raider nickname was chosen by Colgate in 1931, not because of the North American Indian, but due to the fact that the football team had chosen to wear maroon uniforms that year. Having majored in history and remembering a course in New York State history that I once took with Professor Howard Williams, I always assumed that the Red Raider was chosen as Colgate's mascot because of its close ties to the Chenango Valley. James Fenimore Cooper did depict the North American "Red Men" as wise and stoic lovers of nature who reluctantly became raiders when their established lifestyle became threatened by the influx of wasteful European settlers in upstate New York. During a recent family outing I noticed that a statue of a noble warrior, dedicated to Cooper, still graces the lakefront in a small park adjacent to the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, a short drive from the Chenango Valley.

I confess, not only to my role as a Red Raider in the 1960s, but to also being a lifelong Atlanta/Milwaukee Braves fan, and to playing cowboys and Indians as a child. I still believe that it was all about having fun and without any ill will. Nevertheless, in keeping with today's political correctness, I agree that the Colgate Red Raider should be relegated to history. Although some universities such as Texas Tech have retained the Red Raider, other arguably more enlightened universities have also retired their Native American mascots. The Stanford University Indian is now the Cardinal and the St. John's Redmen are now the Red Storm. Unlike Colgate, however, student mascots continue to appear at football and basketball games to help cheer on their college teams.

Colgate's change to Raider does seem appropriate to me since two Colgate Red Raider running backs from my era, Mark Van Eeghan '74 and Marv Hubbard '68, went on to become Oakland Raiders. I am mindful, however, that our current athletic director, Mark Murphy '77, did play for the Redskins, a team that is still favorite to conservatives and liberals in Washington D.C., and Colgate's Hall of Fame running back, Kenny Gamble '88, carried the ball for the Kansas City Chiefs.

As Colgate Raiders, it is time to define the identity of our mascot/nickname. Have we ever been able to watch our Raider mascot cheer on the football team or the field hockey team? Where can we find Raider souvenirs, etc.? Do we know who is rolling when we chant "Roll, Raiders, Roll" at football games? Is our Raider a pirate like the Raider depicted on the Oakland Raider helmet? Are the Raiders' fans the spike-headed, armor-clad and tattooed persons that we saw at the Super Bowl?

Princeton has its Tiger, Yale has its Bulldog and Duke has its Blue Devil. It is still all about having fun. For better or worse, the Red Raider, as a mascot, was part of Colgate's past history and tradition. Now that he is gone we should give definition to a more contemporary and enlightened Raider who is not afraid to appear in our newspaper, take part in our athletic events and show his/her face in our bookstore.

Further reaction to "Heading South"

. . . I will not address the many factual problems with Nathan Stock's cliché-packed account of his two years in the Gaza Strip. As someone who has lived in the turbulent Middle East for the past 22 years it seems incredible to me that Stock's main concern was that he might be inconvenienced at Israeli army checkpoints as he traveled around Gaza. Eloquent in detailing the human consequences of such delays, he appears unwilling to ask himself what makes them necessary.

As someone who teaches the course on War, Peace and Terrorism at the Hebrew University and who has served in the Israeli army reserves for more than 15 years -- which occasionally included manning checkpoints -- let me assure Scene readers that these checkpoints were not set up to delay Stock or humiliate his Palestinian friends, but rather to intercept suicide bombs and to capture the terrorists who plan to use them. Indeed, not a week goes by without such weapons being discovered and would-be terrorists being arrested at these very Israeli army checkpoints. Every time this happens, the lives of Israeli civilians are spared. Had there been more checkpoints, or more thorough ones, the device that killed and maimed so many young students in Haifa [on the day I write this] might have been discovered and defused.

Looking at the bigger picture, the article makes no effort to even mention the terrorist inferno that has taken the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis (while wounding more than 10,000) since Yassir Arafat shook Yitzhak Rabin's hand and signed the first Oslo interim peace agreement. Nor does it mention that Palestinian bombers from Gaza have repeatedly sown death in the restaurants, malls, open air markets, nightclubs, buses and at religious observances in Israel. Indeed, the word "terrorism" is omitted entirely from his article. Can Stock, who is writing a book about his two years in Gaza, be clueless as to the names of factions that recruit, train, arm and dispatch the bombers and gunmen? Is he unaware of the large cash rewards that Saddam Hussein and other Arab leaders donate to the families of suicide bombers? Has he never witnessed the raucous street celebrations that follow "successful" terrorist bombings in Israel? Hasn't he read the Palestinian public opinion polls that regularly express support for Iraq and the 9/11 terrorists, and that favor suicide bombing by a lopsided eight-to-one ratio?

Stock refers to his employer, the Palestinian Center for Helping Resolve Community Disputes, as "a great organization on the cutting edge of community development in Palestine." Yet when I looked up its website, I discovered that they teach conflict resolution between the various Palestinian terrorist factions. What public utility is served by teaching the thuggish Fatah Tanzim terrorists to get along better with their rivals, the fundamentalist Hamas terrorists? After all, both factions regularly take "credit" for suicide bombings. Neither accepts the existence of a state of Israel. Will the Palestinian Center for Helping Resolve Community Disputes teach them to be Boy Scouts in resolving their intramural differences? Was this "cutting edge" organization, like so many in Gaza, unwilling to even address Israel as a legitimate and permanent sovereign entity? As their public relations and fundrais-ing officer, might Stock have suggested that his employer instead direct its efforts at resolving the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis?

. . . The essay by Nathan Stock '98 on life in the Israeli-occupied Gaza strip ("Heading South," January 2003) provoked two pages of letters in your March issue. One of these, by Kris Hopkins, calls for "balanced, open-minded and tolerant consideration of others' points of view, even -- or perhaps most especially -- when they may differ from our own."

The late Senator Paul Wellstone was a fine model of such tolerance and empathy; as a Jew and a strong supporter of Israel, he was also able to see the Middle East conflict through Palestinian eyes. He said in 1991, after visiting a West Bank refugee camp, "I looked at small Palestinian children, ages five and six, and I said to myself, `If I were their father, I would be angry about the conditions of their lives and I would never settle for the conditions of their lives and I would know that I have to struggle for change . . . I think that if we continue with the present course, Israeli and Palestinian children will kill each other for generations to come . . .'"

The other eight letters in your March issue display a very different spirit. They join in criticism of Stock's "one-sided picture," "simplicity of perspective, a self-justifying myopia and ignorance of the bigger picture in the Middle East," his "offering subjective opinions as facts," his "naïve understanding of the conflict," "lack of perspective," his "two-page diatribe against Israel," "highly politicized and distorted piece," "one-sided and intellectually skewed [essay] that is a polemic, and not an honest observation."

I read Stock's essay, and these critical letters, quite differently. In my view, "Heading South" provided just what the title promised, a personal, experiential account of what it felt like to be there, to wait indefinitely at those military checkpoints, to feel the humiliation and powerlessness of being under the gun, to fear being shot without warning. Nowhere did I get the impression that Stock thought he was writing an objective account of the Middle East crisis, or that the Scene editor was presenting his piece as such. I read it as I would read, say, the personal account of a young alumnus who lived in an Israeli city subject to terrorist attack, or served in the Israeli army, and sought to convey what it felt like to be in that situation. As I read the letters criticizing Stock, their subtext is this: his essay is one-sided, subjective, and dishonest because it is not pro-Israel.

Arthur Lilienthal, an American Jewish scholar who, like Wellstone, has that rare ability to empathize with the "other," in his 1978 book The Zionist Challenge wrote: "The media has succeeded in getting Western man to accept a double standard: that Jews and Zionists have been freedom fighters in pursuit of a moral, legal, historical imperative -- namely, the establishment of their own state, Israel. On the other hand, the media has stressed that when Palestinians resorted to armed violence to regain their homeland, they were terrorists. Whereas the Hitler experience was readily invoked to condone Zionist intemperate acts, the desperate frustration of being deprived of their homes for 30 years, and [of] any hearing for their grievances, was deemed no excuse for Palestinian excesses."

Vivid illustrations of Lillienthal's double standard can be found in many of the letters critical of Stock's essay, despite their insistence on a balanced perspective. The first letter, for example, calls Palestinian fighters "murderers of children." The charge is harsh but true. What is not acknowledged is that this same unwelcome label must be applied to Israeli soldiers occupying the West Bank and Gaza, by anyone who claims to take an honest, consistent, balanced perspective on this agonizing issue. In such a perspective, the central question shifts from "Whose hands are bloodiest?" to "How can we stop the murder of children by both sides?"

. . . I was amazed to find such naïveté in Nathan Stock's article "Heading South." Israel never wanted Gaza and attempted to give it back with the Sinai, but Egypt wouldn't take it. Under the Barak plan, again Gaza would have been returned, but instead Arafat chose adolescent suicide bombers who kill Israeli children. Did Arafat ever really want peace? The Palestinian charter still calls for the total destruction of Israel. Yes, the plight of the Palestinians is lamentable. As Golda Meir said, "I can excuse the Arabs for killing Jews, but I can never excuse the Arabs for making Jews kill Arabs." When will we hear the same sentiment from the Palestinians? Four Arab-initiated wars and two intifadas later, Israel still exists. Israel could have destroyed every Arab capital and the Palestinian Arabs, but has sought peace.

Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs realize that war and terrorism is not the route to peace. When Arab leaders are brave enough to seek peace and not war, Israel will be waiting.

. . . The only mistakes you made in connection with Nathan Stock's "Heading South" were to underestimate the intelligence of your audience and to pander to political correctness.

I do not personally agree with Stock's point of view. However, like most Colgate graduates, I have sufficient education to recognize that the essay, like most essays you publish by students visiting foreign lands, was subjective and not intended to present a balanced analysis. Such pieces almost uniformly present the personal experience and feelings of the author, and a sympathetic view of the host country. The only difference is that Stock's work deals with a political hot potato and may spark debate. Hardly a reason for a university to shirk from publishing it, especially when you are willing to print letters with opposing points of view. A school that can't publish "charged" material without apology lacks both the courage and the intellectual fortitude necessary to be a leading institution that produces open-minded leaders who are willing to voice their views.

. . . Thank you from the bottom of my heart! After reading the article "Heading South" by Nathan Stock '98 in your last issue, I was moved. I was elated and overjoyed. I was ecstatic, and most of all, I was proud. I was proud of the fact that a Colgate-sponsored publication actually had the wisdom, open mindedness and the utter courage to print potentially unpopular words. It is indeed a bold and heroic move worthy of applause. Although I am sure there are many across the country and undoubtedly within our own community that would disagree with them, none of us can argue that these events and words are very real to Stock. None of us can deny him his experiences in Palestine or fault him for sharing with us.

I am also proud because with this article Colgate marches into the forefront of one of the few universities that takes to heart its proclaimed commitment to diversity. Colgate has stepped up to the plate, so to speak. Furthermore, I am proud that there are alumni, besides myself, who support Colgate in this endeavor. We have demonstrated that not only cultural, economic, racial and religious diversity, but also intellectual diversity, are valued by Colgate and those of us fortunate enough to be a part of this community. This has never been more apparent than in the publication of "Heading South." This occasion has provided us with clear evidence that different ideas, perspectives, beliefs and opinions are welcomed by us and not to be feared. Finally, we at Colgate publicly recognize that there are often at least two sides to every story. It is impossible to be absolutely and honestly committed to Truth without at least lending an ear to those with a quieter voice and less money. As an alumna, I am proud that we can embrace and encourage each other, our experiences and opinions, as we are all members of the Colgate community.

. . . The decision to include Nathan Stock's account of daily Palestinian life "Heading South," in the January edition could not have been a more timely and significant decision on behalf of the editors of this publication. When reading the article, I could only think how refreshing it was to finally see another side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Truth be told, mainstream media outlets tend to only examine the Israeli side of the conflict while demonizing the Palestinian refugee cause as just another face of terrorism. Because Colgate is one of the most prestigious institutions of learning in this country, I think it is so important that we promote the critical study of such complex issues, as just that -- complex, with many different factors that determine the current situation. The publication of "Heading South" is a testament to the fact that the Colgate trustees and administration are indeed willing to support a true, balanced education in which many different sides of the same issue are brought to the forefront. Colgate's commitment to diversity has recently been quite the topic of debate on campus. When President Rebecca Chopp accepted her new position, she publicly devoted herself to "diversity issues" among other concerns. When [the] controversial speaker David Horowitz came to campus, Dean Adam Weinberg affirmed the need for intellectual diversity on this campus and supported Horowitz's right to address Colgate students. Printing Stock's article is just another example of this esteemed institution's commitment to the diversity question on this campus. I hope this article will be the first among many to demonstrate this devotion of the Colgate trustees and administration to the cause of intellectual diversity and a true education.

. . . While I appreciate the editor's note (March 2003) regretting that the Scene published Nathan Stock's '98 pro-Palestinian essay, don't beat yourself up.

I'm not sure how you could have achieved "balance" with an issue so tangled as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The responses, compelling in and of themselves, ultimately achieved this purpose.

Should the Scene regularly be a forum for political debate? Probably not, but it's hard to divorce information about what Colgate students and alumni do from the convictions that drive them to do it. Nor should the Scene shrink from showing us the stark contrast between students' and recent graduates' views of the world and those of the people who walked the Quad before them.

. . . Frankly, I was quite surprised to see the lengthy and vitriolic letters in response to Nathan Stock's article about his Gaza experience in the January '03 Scene. To me, the article was quite benign. On reflection, I was not so surprised since I have become used to the reflexive pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian stance of most Americans, fueled by a pro-Israeli press, stocked by pro-Israeli governmental posture, orchestrated by pro-Israeli political lobbies.

I am sorry to see the Scene apologize for printing the article, though I think I understand some of the obvious, and perhaps less than obvious, practical reasons for their mea culpa -- this being a family newspaper, so to speak.

I have thought long and hard about these issues, not the least being the implications of the obfuscation of the political/religious issues inherent in the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma: the emotional overtones often intentionally left unclarified between the political entity and behavior of that state called Israel, and the separate existence of that religion called Judaism.

The Scene is wrong in apologizing for not making room for countervailing opinion. The article was not blatant political advocacy. Sadly, this makes my point about the brainwashing afflicting Americans when it comes to Israel. What other such article would have elicited such abject soul-searching on the part of the editor? It almost amounts to pandering.

For what it's worth, to my fellow alums, including those writing against the article, some of whom might be Jewish, and no doubt were motivated by high moral purpose, I wonder where were they during P & R and the other mind-opening courses we were meant to attend.

Finally, since the painting of Americans of Jewish heritage as a monolithic political/religious bloc seems to be endemic, it is important that you realize that my own matrilineal heritage is as a Jew, replete with a history of European oppression and death. I prefer to think of myself as a human being.

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