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Gorlin, continued from page 27 chosen a path of art, it’s more just about trying to understand things than really choosing a side. It’s understanding why people act the way they act. I don’t know if you really see my politics in the film. I hope you don’t, because it’s a coming of age story, it’s a love story. TO: Does that take a top priority over the film’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? EG: What does it mean to take a stance on a conflict? It’s like passing a bar and seeing two people beating the shit out of each other…[the film] is a coming of age story. Christians have the prodigal son story. The Jews have something similar, a parable of the Jewish experience and the diaspora about this young prince who lives within the walled corn pound. He’s just so curious about the outside. He scales the wall and he sees all the regular people, the prostitutes, the dockworkers, and he so badly wants to experience life on the outside. His father, the king, says, “What, are you crazy? You’re the prince. Everybody wishes they were you. Trust me. The last thing you want to do is go to the other side.” But he’s so curious. He scales the wall, and at first it’s very exciting. He meets all these people, but little by little he gets messed up with everybody he meets. Finally he comes back bleeding, on his last breath, after everybody’s robbed and beaten him. He knocks on the gate and the father, the king, says, “OK. You’ve learned your lesson. You can come home. ” Even the story of Buddha is kind of similar. It’s just a powerful legend. It’s about loss of innocence, it’s about growing up. When you grow up pampered and sheltered, you assume that if you can . just break those shackles and get to the other side, then everything’s going to be one big party. That’s basically Mendy’s experience. He finally feels like he’s breaking free from these religious constraints and now he can live life. But what does he learn about life? It’s about sexual slavery, it’s about ethnic hatred, it’s about army brutality, terrorism…lsrael was a great context to show that. You could have done the same story in America, but the craziness wouldn’t have been as easy to see. Former Observer intern Helen IvorSmith was last seen driving east on I-10. We wish her well in her new life in Washington, D.C. into the hands of a committee whose leader was supposedly a great liberal; he wouldn’t even give it a hearing. I went to see him with the man who had sponsored it in the House, and I said, look, I know this bill won’t pass, but if we can get a hearing in your committee, it would get publicized. People would hear what goes on at UT. But they didn’t. There was no hearing. At one point in our conversation I asked Sledd if he had made the right people angry. “I made so many people angry, ” he replied, “some of them are bound to be the right people.” We all roared with laughter.When we quieted, he said that if he made some people angry unnecessarily, that was just the way he was. “But unless you make some people angry, in this society, you haven’t done your job. This society is corrupt, the people who run it are incredibly brutal, and you ought to say so. Unless you’ve made people mad, you haven’t done what you should.” We live in times when idealists and purists, even of honorable ideas, are called radicals, and Sledd disagreed that he was one. In a rare autobiographical essay, written in 1961, Sledd described himself as “a middle-aged conservative white Southern academic from an educated middle-class Protestant Christian family” Thirty years later, he boiled that down. “I am a paleo-Methodist,” he said in an interview in 1993. He was interviewed by a former student, Richard Freed, who now teaches at Eastern Kentucky University and collected many of Sledd’s essays in a book, Eloquent Dissent. There he wrote that Sledd is radical, “primarily in his insistence on integrity, regardless of the consequences, though his basic values are as traditional as humanism itself.” Throughout his own academic career, Freed says he has kept Sledd’s ethics as his standard. “I always ask myself, is what I’m doing worth doing? Is it honest? Am I hurting anybody? What would Jim do?” For all the political thunder and theological lightning that surrounds what Sledd wrote and did, it is worth remembering that everything he lamented and criticized was intended to benefit one group of people: students. He did not romanticize them, but he didn’t also resent them. “You can’t teach writing unless the students want to write, and most of them don’t want to,” he told me and Chris, and hole diggers that we were, we knew what he meant: you have to take off your gloves and use your hands and cajole, frighten, entice, and persuade people into knowing better than they do. Such humility before the work, and the work itself, is the center of the educational project, and that is the center that James Sledd tried to hold. After a two-year hiatus, contributing writer Michael Erard is again digging post holes at UT 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9112/03