"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Where Have All The Flowers Gone? How Yale Turned A Happy-Go-Lucky Boy Into A Political Bore

Henry Lipton had grown up in a modestly well-off family.  His father had been a tradesman, his mother a housewife, active in the Women's Hospital Auxiliary and the PTA. The family attended church regularly and spent a week's summer vacation in the Berkshires.  

Henry's mother was a Daughter of the American Revolution and traced her lineage back to a gunnery mate who had fought at Lexington and Concord.  His father's family was mixed Northern European lineage, nothing royal or aristocratic, all tradesmen like him - coopers, carters, and cobblers.  

His family had proudly served in the War (his father had gone ashore at Normandy, and his mother volunteered at a nearby veterans' hospital, they were known as good neighbors and good citizens, and Henry remembered his childhood as a happy, untroubled one. 

In high school Henry was a popular boy, not particularly good at sports, but an outstanding student, promising actor, and a good, all-around fellow.  He moved easily among the cliques, was admired by most, and dated easily. 

All that changed after he got a scholarship to Yale.  In one short year he changed from happy-go-lucky, pudgy, up-for-anything classmate to a worried man. Something at Yale clicked the wrong way - perhaps it was the St. Grottlesex old money, the Gentleman's 'C', Fence Club, Park Avenue and weekends at the Plaza a la Gatsby and Fitzgerald that did it.  


Not that he was treated that differently, but suddenly all his very middle-class roots and generous appeal meant nothing.  He was overlooked.  He had been a champ back home, but only a bursary boy clearing plates and working the laundry shift at Yale. 

The Reverend Chauncey Phillips, former Harvard Chaplain and Visiting Yale Professor of Divinity, himself an Old Boy with patrician credentials, had had his progressive epiphany years before. Now at Yale he would use his credentials, his storied name, and his pedigree to make a difference to privileged students who thought only of themselves. 

He had met Henry at a Sunday service, saw something appealing in the young man, and befriended him.  Before long Henry was under his wing and soon one of his most ardent and faithful advocates for civil rights. 

Together they bussed to Selma and Birmingham and demonstrated and sat-in all over the South. Henry became a new man.  As he crossed the Pettis Bridge along with thousands of Negroes marching for Freedom, he knew he had found his calling.  Gone would be both the bourgeois, lawn chair life of his childhood and the patrician climes of Yale.  His life would lie with the black man, the oppressed, and the outcast. 

Epiphanies happen, but their illumination usually dims.  Clarity and vision get lost in other more mundane affairs; but not so with Henry whose reformist passion only grew. By the time he graduated, he had become an outspoken leader and progressive firebrand. Too well-brought up to consider the Weathermen or the white contingent of the Black Panthers, Henry was content to march in unison, join his voice with those who rebelled against the lobotomizing culture of the Fifties and demanded equality  and brotherhood. 


Little by little everything at Yale gave way to his political passion. Girls were a second thought, a distraction and a nuisance. The purity of his vision, now diamond clear, allowed for no interference.  The black man was owed that much, had suffered too much, and was too great and noble to be left on the curb by a cunt.  

As the months went on Henry became even more obsessed and driven, unhinged, noticed by his classmates who found the change in this nice guy with whom they sang Old Blue Fight songs in the Commons and played bladderball in the Old Campus off-putting.  

Not only was he there but not there, a Yale man in principle but not in fact, but who was becoming a royal pain in the ass.  Black man this, Negro that, wake up America, wake up whitey on and on ad infinitum ad nauseam. His classmates wanted nothing more to do with him, angled to get him a single room under the eaves, and avoided him at meals. 

It only got worse once he graduated and got tangled up with French Deconstructionists, immersed himself in 'irrationalism', the pulse of Leftist academia, and after two years every trace of home, church, family, and friends had been fully expunged.  He was as black as any white man could be, as far Left as the political spectrum allowed, and more unhinged than ever before.

Not one minute of the waking day was left alone, in peace.  The struggle was too important, the problems too great.  He became an Old Testament prophet, a Union Square Bible-thumping street preacher, a whirling Dervish, a St. Vitus dancer, a crazed, apoplectic lunatic. 


'Time tempers all' did not apply to Henry whose political apoplexy only got worse once more evils of American society were outed - women, too long under the yoke of male patriarchy; gay men forced to peek out of closets; peace-lovers bullied and cowed by the military-industrial complex; climate activists harried and shut up by climate deniers.  

He was peripatetic, indefatigable, unfazed by the number of issues that had to be be confronted.  He went from pulpit to revival tent to three ring circus and back again, all in the interest of the planet and its poor, benighted people.  He was savior, evangelist, and prophet.  

Even his wife, a kindred progressive spirit and spiritual companion began to lose patience as Henry turned one corner after another, wandering into intellectual ghettoes and asylums, struggling to find his way out.  Their marriage ended and Henry was left on the curb; but in his dementia he hardly noticed.  His living quarters became as unlivable as his mind - desperately inchoate, awful places to be.  He lost job, credibility, and friends.  Soon he was a homeless beggar sleeping on a steam grate in Farragut Square. 

Bartley Putnam, former classmate of Henry’s, wealthy Wall Street investor, resident of Beacon Hill, Palm Beach, and Nantucket, generous donor to Yale, and alumni secretary of his class was sorry to hear of Henry's sorry fate, but had few sympathies.  Yale was better off the way it was and always had been, admitting men of principle, decorum, manners, and respect.  What did they expect, harvesting from spare rows?

Others who knew him at Yale were more sympathetic.  No one should end up like him, let alone a man of righteousness.  Most of the rest said, 'Nutcase', and left it at that. 

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