Duke senior and award-winning Chronicle columnist Kristin Butler’s Tuesday column didn’t run today. Kristin sent an email last evening explaining a non-emergency but time consuming family matter had come up recently "so my very understanding editors agreed that it wouldn't be realistic to write a column on no sleep and information overload.”
The good news for all of us who appreciate Kristin’s literate, gutsy, truth-telling columns is she’ll be back next week.
In the meantime, I offer a few Kristin Butler highlights for all of us who admire Kristin’s outstanding journalism.
The following are the first four paragraphs and the last one of her Sept. 19, 2007 “Is $30 Million Too Much?” column.
News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders doesn't think Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans deserve a $30-million settlement from Durham.I was taught one mark of fine expository writing was whether you could take a writer’s first and last few paragraphs, but them together, and have something a reader just coming upon them would understand.
The way Saunders sees it, "a fish sandwich, a Yoo-hoo and a one-way Greyhound bus ticket" would cover the "inconvenience" the "Blue Demon 3" suffered while waiting "for the magistrate to finish lunch so daddykins could post bail." On this point, Saunders feels so strongly that "if the city settles and pays an exorbitant amount without a fight" he's going to "go down to city hall and slap somebody."
"Like a bad rash," Saunders' hateful words rub this Duke student the wrong damn way. Reasonable people can certainly disagree on whether $30 million represents an appropriate settlement; as a recent Chronicle editorial pointed out, the proposed sum can seem "a little steep.... The 'bad guys' in this case are not the Durham citizens who will be paying the lion's share of that settlement, but rather Nifong and certain members of the Durham Police Department."
But as Saunders' screed demonstrates, the harm that's been done to our former classmates' reputations is as ongoing as it is real. Lest we forget, these young men's mugshots were broadcast across the country, accompanied by headlines like "Sex, Lies and Duke." They endured death threats, were driven from their homes by negative publicity and spent an entire year of their lives fighting sexual assault and kidnapping indictments. …
Too little has changed since Mike Nifong once ran roughshod over the Constitution. Just last week, the powerful Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People endorsed local activist and arch-bigot Victoria Peterson-who in addition to believing in Nifong's "integrity and goodness," said she feels that "approving... health benefits for sodomites ought to be illegal." When things like that happen, I strongly suspect that this may not be the county's last $30-million check.
Kristen did that with those paragraphs. They can stand by themselves as a splendid “short” column.
I went through The Chronicle’s archives to find Kristin’s first column. It appears to be "Impale Yale" which ran on May 25, 2006. The column concerned Yale’s decision to admit a former Taliban leader, Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, as a special, non-degree seeking student. Here’s some of what Kristin said:
[I’m] hoping that you will … be upset by his presence at Yale for two reasons.The entire column is here.
The first is the hypocrisy at the heart of Yale's conduct. The university cloaks Rahmatullah's admission in euphemisms like "increase understanding."
Yet Yale certainly doesn't apply this standard to the United States Armed Forces, whose ROTC programs it has deliberately banned from campus.
Yale can't have this both ways; considering that 281 American soldiers (as of March) have died since 2001 to defend all of us from the Taliban, how could Rahmatullah's voice be welcome when the military's is not?
My second, larger concern is the moral relativism that has infested Yale-and portions of academia in general.
Consider the words of Yale Law's assistant director of giving, who actually called one graduate's concerns over Rahmatullah's crimes "retarded" and "disgusting."
Indeed, this parallel universe in which Yale's administration obviously dwells is a place where a man's complicity in a regime marked by genocide, torture and rape constitute, in the words of Yale's dean of undergraduate admissions, "personal accomplishments that had a significant impact."
Clearly it's not the alumni who are retarded. …
It will be wonderful to welcome Kristin back next week.