Prologue to the Letters
Letters posted here are personal, and often want a context, unlike postings elsewhere on this website that should stand on their own, such as articles, poems, stories, even obituaries. Therefore this explanation of the first several letters.
The first two letters I found, discarded. They were written by my son as part of the paperwork required by colleges and universities to know an ability of the person applying for admission, and something personal about them as well. They were left about somewhere on a floor or in a wastebasket, not valued by their author beyond fulfilling his immediate task. As a father, I valued them immensely and have saved them now, as of this writing, for a quarter of a century as tribute to a fine man who has grown from that boy to this special friend of mine. I show them, that he may be publicly honored—and because as an editor, I think they are very good spontaneous writing.
The third letter I also found. I had written it one night, alone, some thirty-two years ago, addressed to my son for him to find one day among my papers as word from the grave, an attempt to keep him company. He was ten years old then, and was forty-two when I came across the letter again. I was able to give it to him on his birthday—it really is not a good idea to so delay spontaneous outbursts of love until you die, but when he was only ten I wanted to protect him in a way he probably could not understand then.
The fourth letter was written by me in anger. In the winter of 2015--16 there was an uprising of sorts at Yale University among students of color over a variety of racist behaviors, including public remarks by some faculty. The debate in part was whether faculty and students (both white, I think) should feel free to say or do things of a racist nature in public, or whether such behavior should be repressed or even suppressed. The debate was framed as one of free speech against “political correctness”, the free speech position being that a university should be open to debate of all sorts of ideas. I think the problem for those objecting to political correctness is that there is indeed something politically correct, and it rankles to be called out when it is breached. This letter, excepting the third paragraph, was published in the Yale Alumni Magazine in 2016.
Finally, this prologue must conclude as a letter in itself, a tribute to my nephew, friend, and colleague Amiel Chanowitz who designed and maintains this website, a man who has become almost a second son to whom I have not written until now.