Page 25


DIALOGUE / MAN BITES DOG The San Antonio Express-News editorial on the death of Willie Morris was written by Cary Clack, the first African-American editorial writer in the history of the News \(“Willie Morthat would warm the heart of my old friend, Willie, who I met through Ronnie Dugger. About three months ago, more or less, I talked long distance with Willie. He told me his book, My Dog Skip, had been made into a movie and that he did the voice narration on it. That the movie. was done in Mississippi, “and Maury, they brought the dog movie actors from Hollywood. Every morning the make-up people would put lipstick on the dogs and get them ready for the cameras.” Doesn’t that sound like Willie’s delightful Mississippi humor? Maury Maverick, Jr. San Antonio HUMANITAS VENINGA Sorting out James Sledd’s fusion of Monica’s Story and The Humanities and the Civic Imagination in his July 23 review is not entirely easy. I gather that your “curmudgeon emeritus” thinks, inter alia, as follows: 1.Humanistic inquiry is supposed to do something for ordinary people. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky are ordinary people, and got “!exposed to education.” Ergo, the claims for humanistic inquiry are bogus. Really? 2.Anyone who hopes that humanities education can nurture a society that encompasses –democratic, spiritual, and intellectual ideals is implicitly among “the haves” who “spout piety while they hide away within the walls of corporations, the brutally hierarchical non-governmental governments that pretend to be just folks.” There are people who recognize Texas for the third-world economy that it is; who are not deceived by the cynical deprivation of marginalized populations and neglect of the powerless; who take opportunities to dirty their hands in the desire of making their society more humane; and who, for all that, find sustenance for their efforts in the exploration of their own community’s past, and in the help and insight that great thinkers and artists from any time or place provide in coming to terms with Texas here and now. Mr. Veninga’s career has been an endeavor to promote such sustenance. 3.Mr. Veninga’s conceptual clarity and his prose style leave something to be desired. If this is the case, it does not mean that Mr. Veninga’s efforts have been wasted, as Mr. Sledd grudgingly admits. Mr. Veninga has until recently occupied a peculiar niche: an administrator under the pressure of reconciling the resources of National Endowment for the Humanities State Council program with the sensibilities of a diverse community, represented in the T.C.H.’s Board. He has been in many ways a referee, a go-between, a reconciler, and one may fairly observe that his literary style has suffered accordingly. He is not a radical critic; he is at times a nurturer of radical critics. Even at that, Mr. Sledd fails to offer any notion of his own of “the humanities” against which to measure Mr. Veninga’s. 4. Imagining a Texas Legislature whose priority is the pursuit of goodness, truth, and beauty requires “powerful stimulation” ciety’s pursuit of these values are a misdirecIn short, Mr. Veninga, and those like him who believe in rational discourse as a means to a more humane community, even in Texas, deserve better. Anyone familiar with the T.C.H. programs that have borne the stamp of his ideas will harbor a quite different idea of his contribution than that conveyed by the reviewer. Edward V. George, Former Chair Texas Council for the Humanities, Lubbock LONG LIVE FREEDOM An open letter to Freedom Fighters everywhere: You know, somebody mentions Pacifica Radio and my ears perk up \(“The Crisis at some of you know why, but it’s amazing how fast history is forgotten around here. Pacifica’s in the news these days. Let’s just look at Texas. There are two institutions which stand equal as the leading guardians of free speech and individual liberty and freedom in this great land we call home: The Texas Observer and KPFT-FM/Pacifica Radio in Houston. These two precious jewels are so important to the future that I sometimes lie awake late at night trying to visualize what See “Dialogue,” Page 23 SEPTEMBER 3, 1999 2 THE TEXAS OBSERVER