When I first read Bob Graf’s viewpoint on Jan. 28, “Alum: ROTC has a place at Marquette,” I cheerfully admit that I was not the most astute of readers. My mind was in a few different places: my morning at an internship, the hour-and-fifteen-minute class that had finally ended and a meeting I was anxious to get through so I could take a nap before dinner.
Regardless, I found myself flipping through a copy of the Tribune in those few minutes before my meeting and my butterfly attention span alighted upon the headline of Graf’s article.
Intrigued, I read the lead paragraph with gusto, which introduces the reader to Graf, an alumnus whose previous pacifist opinions changed after an investigation into “the truth of this moral and ethical question of military training on a Catholic university campus.”
From this paragraph I made two assumptions that blinded me from seeing the rest of Graf’s position clearly. First, I (rightly) assumed that this change in understanding was the article’s thesis.
Second, I (wrongly) assumed the mutually exclusive duality of that thesis; that is, if Graf is no longer explicitly an anti-military peacemaker, then he is clearly a pro-military extremist.
And so, with that faulty conviction triggering a tsunami of anti-war sentiments within me, I committed the mortal sin of journalistic reading: I skimmed.
Only the particularly preposterous phrases caught my hyper-selective attention: “killing on reflex without conscience,” “increase the effective use of weapons to kill the enemy,” “Secretary of Defense to deny federal grants … if they prohibit or prevent ROTC,” “Marquette surrenders oversight of the military curriculum to give credibility to the teaching of war …”
My mind morphed into a tangible passion as my pulse quickened and my hands trembled. Frustration pumping through my veins, I revved up my computer and waited for the Internet to connect me to Graf’s link: nonviolentcow.org.
As the wireless connection chugged along, I reread the article, but this time with more patience. I read again those phrases that had so captured my attention and realized that, in my haste to affirm my own convictions, I had totally missed the biting sarcasm with which Graf writes about Marquette’s military affiliation.
It was my mistake, absolutely (and yes, I laughed!) This truth of my own experience, though — that my conscience was so irritated, even outraged, by this absurd contradiction between creed and deed right here at our beloved school — is not to be overlooked.
This response is not a politically heated or religiously charged stance against the presence of ROTC on Marquette’s campus, although I can’t shake the notion that the presence of a military force in an educational setting essentially is “the teaching of war and values contrary to the Catholic faith and Gospel” that Graf says has no place at Marquette.
Even more, I can’t shake my belief that the roots of creative nonviolence can be traced deep into the ground of humanity’s desire to love and be loved. And these roots of human impulse run so deep within us that they render the word “religion” meaningless.
Anyway, I digress. This response is simply a nod of gratitude to the ridiculously educational moment I had today — one that, as college students, I hope we’ve all had — that things aren’t always what we think they are, and that truly educational experiences often come when we least expect them.
Leah Todd is a sophomore in the College of Communication.