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The Intellectual Patriot: Social Conscience and Moral Courage in Challenging Times

Tom Palaima, Professor of Classics at University of Texas at Austin, was a dear friend of my mother, Joan Morrison. He invited Joan to speak to his class on war at UT, and they were kindred spirits.

In his latest piece for the Austin-American Statesman, “Moral conscience is hard to find in the limelight,” writes about Joan and her writings. Here is part of what Tom has to say. I urge you to read his whole piece.

Many years back I was blessed to review the late Joan Morrison’s magnificent oral history of American culture in the 1960’s “From Camelot to Kent State.” Joan was a genius at discovering, preserving and communicating the essence of human experiences. She was what former NFL great Jim Brown called NBA superstar LeBron James. Asked on ESPN whether James had become an athlete with the same kind of social consciousness that Jim Brown has always had, Brown remarked ‘What about a human being with a social conscience?’…

My mother and brother's book, From Camelot to Kent State.

My mother and brother’s book, From Camelot to Kent State.

Joan’s oral history makes clear that the widely acknowledged phrase “the banality of evil” has a companion. We apply banality of evil to those who are responsible for monstrously harmful and evil acts, but do not seem evil or cognizant of the harm they cause.

But there is also a “banality of goodness.” Many students who protested during the late 60’s did so with no real consequences. Even before the draft ended and the last American soldiers came home, student protesters, myself among them, went back to their normal lives. They did not work to see to it that wars like the Vietnam War would never occur again.”

You will find the entire article moving and important. I’m touched at Tom’s deft ethical hand in raising key issues for us as we celebrate July 4th this year. And at his saluting my mom as an “intellectual patriot,” an incredible compliment she would have savored.  I salute Tom for making us profoundly think.

2 responses »

  1. Frank Galbraith

    Thanks Susan…and belatedly happy fourth!! Frank Galbraith Knoxville, Tennessee


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