As we all saw this weekend, a lot can change over 300 years. More specifically, recent events like the tercentennial celebrations and the bombings in Afghanistan demonstrate the degree to which Yale’s values have shifted since its inception. The wisdom that guided Yale through three centuries suddenly seems out of date: instead of “For God, for Country, and for Yale,” we have adopted as our motto “For Me, for My Right To Protest, and for a Whole New Anti-Patriotic Yale.”
I present as evidence the sights that would have greeted anyone walking down High Street Monday afternoon. Ambling along the sidewalk, any pedestrian would have been convinced of the un-Americanness of Yale.
Affixed to a window in Saybrook College was a sign that read “Peace and aid, not war.” Scrawled along the sides of Lanman-Wright Hall were the chalkings “The violence must stop!” and “When McVeigh murdered, did we bomb Michigan?” Farther down, near Jonathan Edwards College, a bulletin board boasted flyers advertising gatherings to protest America’s use of force against the Taliban.
Where, I wondered, were the signs supporting our troops? The endorsement of the president’s decision to retaliate? Where, pray tell, could one find any indication that Yale is still part of the United States of America?
I do not begrudge those who harbor anti-American sentiments their right to express their views. As the News correctly noted Tuesday, freedom of discourse has been a core component of our national character for some 225 years. I would further add that this same freedom exercised by pacifist protesters is what America’s men (and more recently, women) in uniform have protected for centuries.
The contrasting dearth of vocal patriotic sentiment at Yale is disturbing. Immediately after Sept. 11, there was some hope — the occasional American flag could be seen flying from residential college windows, and students here and there bore red, white and blue lapel ribbons to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attacks.
But in the following weeks, as people have settled back into their daily routines, the patriotism that flickered so briefly on campus seems to have dimmed. The reactions to our military action this weekend threaten to extinguish it altogether.
In that vein, I urge students to consider a few key points. First, I encourage them to contemplate Yale’s tradition of service — not just to local communities and oppressed peoples, but first and foremost to America.
I encourage them to sit in the Woolsey rotunda for a few minutes — to trace their fingers over a name or two engraved in the marble and to imagine the enormity of sacrifice those names represent. Inscribed on those walls are the names of students not unlike us: students who had the same aspirations, but loved their country so much and believed in her righteousness so fervently that they gave all to defend the freedoms we take for granted.
And now, men and women are risking everything again. They too have hopes and dreams, friends and families. Perhaps they are a few years older than we are, with promising careers and young children they look forward to raising. Perhaps they are our age, with all the possibilities for tomorrow that await us opening before them.
And even the sweetness offered by the pleasures and security of home, they have left them behind because they cannot turn their backs on the country they love. The question is, does that country love them? Walking down High Street, one would think the answer to be a resounding “no.”
But is this really the case? Certainly not. America is behind her armed forces, regardless of whether the same can be said of the so-called intellectual elite of Yale. America knows that the Taliban and Osama bin Laden started this. America knows Afghanistan wanted war and that in war, there is retaliation.
If America sees this, why can’t Yale? The University, which has historically produced some of this nation’s greatest patriots and leaders — from Nathan Hale to McGeorge Bundy to George W. Bush — seems to have turned her back on that legacy. The sons of Eli were there when our nation was forged from a colonial regime, they were there when the specters of fascism and then communism threatened Europe, and they were there on Sept. 11 — in the White House, in the World Trade Center, and around the world in military uniform. The question is, will the university that claims to be a cradle of this country’s leaders continue to answer her nation’s cry when duty calls?
I pray the answer will be yes. One need only compare our results in World War II to those in Vietnam to realize what a difference homefront support makes. In light of this fact, it is my sincere hope that the Yale wishing to produce national leaders will not remain out of step with the rest of the nation. It is my hope that the Yale wishing to produce global leaders will not remain alienated from global sentiment. It is my hope that those in the Yale community who are patriots and who support our president and the military will not stay silent.
As long as those who are un-American remain the only visible campus activists, Yale as a whole runs the risk of being perceived as un-American simply because a few of her students happen to feel that way. May the rest of us recognize our university’s patriotic legacy, and in so doing, honor the dedication and sacrifice of those fighting for God, for Country, and in some cases, for Yale.
Meghan Clyne is a junior in Branford College. She is Vice Chair of the Yale Conservative Party.