College campuses across the state are preparing to welcome back a full contingent of students, faculty and staff starting next month, and it makes me wonder — will the maples radiate more vibrantly come November?
I think they will. Very few contemporary American institutions resonate in the public consciousness as much as the one so famously modeled by drunken degenerate-turned-U.S. senator, John Blutarski.
Bluto, of course, may represent the most iconic college character ever from what certainly is the most iconic movie about college. (Those among you who bothered to study in advance for exams — or at all — probably just hung your head in a moment of disappointment flavored ever so slightly with acknowledgement.)
That movie, Animal House, was released in 1978. I was only 12 or 13, and it was rated R. (Ratings used to mean something.) But this time, I drew an “advance directly to Go” card — my mom and stepdad wanted to see it.
My stepdad — let’s call him Jack — now rests in peace but then was a prominent Little Rock attorney. And a little bit to my surprise (and much to my relief), he and Mom hee-hawed through the whole picture. Turns out, Jack’s experience as a Sigma Nu on the Hill in the early ’50s wasn’t too far removed from some of the Delta exploits in Animal House. And John Belushi’s Bluto reminded him of a particular fraternity brother. (If in the wee hours any Sigma Nus caused the death of a horse inside the old president’s office in Vol Walker, my stepdad was mum.)
Jack’s “Bluto” was none other than a young man who would go on to run one of Northwest Arkansas’ Fortune 500s, a global leader in its field. Let’s call him Dave. And everybody loved Dave. On the drive home, Jack shared a story from his Sigma Nu days, one he would often retell, that helped explain why the movie had so strongly resonated.
One Sadie Hawkins Night, as brothers milled around the house waiting to be picked up, Dave was nowhere to be found. In fact, no one had seen him for a couple of days. Eventually, Dave’s date arrived. A couple minutes of searching seemed to confirm the general consensus, that he wasn’t in the house.
But then a loud commotion from upstairs drew everyone’s attention. Seconds later, Dave came flying out of the ground-floor laundry chute, headfirst. Bellowing out something not unlike a maniacal scream, he burst through the front door and out into the cold Fayetteville night. Not naked… but not fully clothed.
And that was the last they ever saw of Dave — as a student.
So the story goes, anyway. Like Bluto, Dave had a backup plan. He didn’t need a classic college education to grow his family operation into a Fortune 500 giant.
Many of us are strong and wise enough to bypass the traditional college path and recognize early on what lies ahead. Many more aren’t and don’t. We need molding and heaping helpings of knowledge. While certainly not perfect, and cafeteria food fights aside, the on-campus/in-person model can provide those things. Or at least the opportunity to attain them. Wisdom, on the other hand…
Despite some of the crazy things one hears about academia, and there are some mind-blowing things straight off the pages of Orwell, it’s good to have campuses preparing for students’ return this fall. We need a place for Blutos to find their wisdom.
I’m still not quite ready to fully revisit this past college baseball season and the cold, dark reality of its finish in Fayetteville. But Kevin Kopps is a Mount Rushmore Razorback, not just for baseball, but for all sports.
That said, football can’t get here fast enough.
A recent trip to Kansas City included a visit to Leavenworth, Kansas, where my wife, Anne, has strong family connections. Her maternal grandfather, a World War II veteran and former administrator for the VA medical center there, is buried in Leavenworth National Cemetery.
Anne, of course, spent lots of time in Leavenworth as a kid when visiting her grandparents, who lived on the VA campus next to the cemetery. I had been looking forward to seeing it, and my expectations were exceeded. Leavenworth — not the fort or the penitentiary, but the cemetery — is Arlington on a smaller scale. Something all Americans should experience.
So often, those ideals for which so many have been willing to sacrifice their lives simply outpace our increasingly material, individual natures. And we’ll never catch up to them. Not on this earth, anyway. But isn’t it nice to live in a country that, at the very least, aspires to do so?
Back to Orwell and with a nod to his cautionary fable, 1984, the word of the month for July certainly is recognized by some self-processed warriors, at least in theory, if not just yet by Webster, et al: “crimethink”.
Crimethink in the novel is committed by having “unorthodox or unofficial thoughts.” It and other party-isms from the book — doublethink, newspeak and unperson among them — seem to have found in this day and age an inviting laboratory.
As always, thank you for reading. Let me know how we’re doing, good or bad. Hit me up anytime at MCarter@ARMoneyandPolitics.com.