|2002 Bainbridge Island, off Seattle, hours before his death from AIDS, my brother Chris, exhausted and in pain, takes a profile shot with me of the "Keane noses" raised high in defiance of death.|
|My Mother and my baby brother Chris in 1946|
From Today's NYT "Feigning Free Speech on College Campuses" (link)"Civility is nice, but on college campuses it often takes on a bizarre meaning. In 2009, Yale banned students from making a T-shirt with an F. Scott Fitzgerald quotation — “I think of all Harvard men as sissies,” from his 1920 novel “This Side of Paradise” — to mock Harvard at their annual football game. The T-shirt was blocked after some gay and lesbian students argued that “sissies” amounted to a homophobic slur. “What purports to be humor by targeting a group through slurs is not acceptable,” said Mary Miller, a professor of art history and the dean of Yale College."
I was recently censored by the Yale Daily News for quoting my own mother who had told me that my great great great great great great grandfather had married an Indian "squaw".
Well, that's what she told me.
The Yale Daily News's censorship of my "squaw" posts seems particularly ironic,since my mother's own mother, my grandmother, was ashamed of the "inter-marriage" into our precious white blood, and scolded my mother for mentioning it aloud.
My Mother's telling me of the "squaw" grandmother was actually a form of boasting about her own indifference to my grandmother's false, pure-blood family pride
(We came from good "shanty-Irish" background as my great Aunt Bertha used to say.)
So much for the Yale Daily News's politically correct understanding of the past.
And my mother had a heart of gold. She would be 101 if she were alive today and she always treated people with respect rather than hurt their feelings, regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual preference.
Pretty liberated for her day.
She served as Assistant Registrar of Vital Statistics in the Town Clerk's Office in Hamden, Connecticut for twenty years. She was responsible for marriage licenses and birth and death certificates, dog licenses, etc.
One afternoon in the early 1970's, the Town Clerk was away and my mother was alone in the office.
She received a phone call from a neighboring Town Clerk's office alerting her that "two men were on their way to Hamden Town Clerk's Office to seek a marriage certificate", having just been turned down by the caller's office.
My mother was above all else, a "lady" with a capital "L". And a lady would never hurt another person's feelings intentionally.
This put her in a bind. Since there was no one else in the office, my mother would have to refuse the men the marriage certificate, since there was no provision in the law for it, and risk hurting their feelings by trivializing their desire to legally honor their love for each other.
Rather than violate her personal code as a lady, my mother chose to go to another office and wait until the men arrived, found the Town Clerk's office unoccupied, and left when no one reappeared .
This seems timid to today's generation, just as my mother's telling me my Great (x6) Grandfather had married a "squaw", but it was really rather sensitive and empathetic.
Perhaps she knew intuitively in the marrow of her mother's bones, that in 2002, nineteen years after her own death, my only brother, (her second son born in 1945 when I was one), would die of a fatal disease called AIDS.