Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Alma Mater's 200Th Birthday

My Alma Mater
Hamilton College
Recently celebrated its
200th Anniversary
I have very mixed feelings
About my four year
College undergraduate

When asked
I would often
Describe Hamilton as
A small all male
(At that time)
Liberal arts college
In upstate New York
(Clinton, New York
To be exact).
Where’s that?
Just outside of Utica
Would come the usual reply
And the usual response?
Never heard of it!

I do not often brag
About being a
Hamilton grad
(Class of 1969)
My tenure at Hamilton
Was marked by
Several incidents
That have left a distinct
Bitter taste in my mouth

To begin with
I was one of ten or so
Token Jews
Who were granted admission
(And there were only
A handful of Blacks
All of them tokens as well)
The enrollment at Hamilton
At that time
Was overwhelmingly
Half of the class was
Pre-med and the other half
Was pre-law
I happened to major in French
Following my heart and my
Then love affair
With all things French
(I spent my Junior year in France
Studying at the Sorbonne and at
The University of Paris)
(At the time
I was sure that
I was going to be
The world’s next
Jean Paul Sartre or
Albert Camus or
Andre Malraux
At the very least)

During my Sophomore year
The school student governing body
Saw fit to invite
George Lincoln Rockwell
The notorious American Nazi
To speak on campus
And though I refused
To attend his speech
I heard the next day
That his blathering
And thoroughly
Anti-Semitic remarks
Were well received
By all those who
Did choose to attend
This all American
Hate fest

As if this insult
Was not sufficient
In and off itself
To make me sour about
My Hamilton experience
There was the time
(Around the same time
As Rockwell’s appearance)
That one of Hamilton’s finest
Decided to display
A giant
Nazi swastika flag
Outside the window
Of one of the school’s
Dormitory windows
To his credit
The dean of students
(Hadley DePuy)
Forced the flag’s removal
Saying that he
And his whole generation
Had gone to war
So that the Nazi flag
Would never fly proudly again

The only place that
I have ever seen
The Nazi emblem
Displayed with so much
Love and affection
Was at Hamilton College
And that image
Is emblazoned forever
In my mind’s eye

So Happy 200th Birthday
To you
Hamilton College!
All of your dirty little secrets
Are safe with me

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

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