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Much of the world despises our way of life, one reason being that solemn religious holy days have become fun-filled holidays when sales are brisk. Christmas is no longer "Holy Night, Silent Night". Easter is a time for sales of new clothes, not for rejoicing at man's salvation. Two solemn days have lost their sad meaning. Carnival was the day to get rid of meat on the eve of lent, preparing for the saddest day of the year, the Crucifixion. Halloween was Holy Evening, preceding the commemoration of the dead, saints and sinners, awaiting the Last Judgment.
Last year I protested against the rowdy celebrations at the Mausoleum where the Stanford are buried. In response the Stanford Daily published a letter from a student inviting me to enjoy a keg of beer with him. This year I renewed my protest, commenting on the fact that the Mexican-chicano group at Stanford was organizing a solemn day of the dead, with special concern for the victims of the World Trade Center disaster. Likewise in San Francisco two artists, Mexican-American women, staged a multimedia altar with a replica of the Center to mark the Day of the Dead. Headlines in the San Francisco Chronicle (27/10/01) proclaimed "Altars for the fallen. Dia de los Muertos celebrations honor victims of Sept 11 attacks". The two women wrote sensitive pieces about their sorrow for the victims.
In response to my renewed criticism this year, the Stanford Daily (26/10/01) ran a front-page article entitled "Mausoleum hosts Halloween haunts", illustrated with a photo of last year's carousing students. The article began "Students, never fear--Halloween at Stanford this year will be as festive as ever. Despite the terrorist attacks and war that have dominated the headlines, Halloween celebrations on campus will go on as usual. One of the biggest Halloween parties slated for this year is tonight's annual Mausoleum party...The alumni Association has helped organize this event for about the last ten years".
Why can't the Stanfords enter into the spirit? When little Leland died, Mrs Stanford should have roared with laughter and asked for another beer. Ditto when Senator Stanford died. All three must be roaring with laughter in their graves. It should be clear to all sensitive people that the Mexican Americans and chicanos are better Americans and better humans than the party-goers, who unfortunately are more typical of our way of life.
On Saturday I attended a memorial meeting for Paul Basch of Stanford Medical School, who died unexpectedly. In their addresses, his children stressed that it was not a day of sadness but of rejoicing in Paul's achievements. His life was like that of other Jewish Americans. He was born of Jewish parents in a store in a small Austrian town. When the Nazis took over the country, the father displayed in the store window the medals he had won in World War I. To no avail. The family escaped on the last train to Holland, where they were greeted by nuns who served them cocoa. Then it was on to London until the children were evacuated to a small town during the Battle of Britain. Then it was on to New York in a ship which escaped torpedoes. With incredible determination, Paul achieved an education which led to a professorship at Stanford. His scientific curiosity had been aroused as a boy by Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle. He traveled throughout the world, collecting specimens for his work in public health. He was a loving father, and his children loved and respected him. I was among his many friends. The meeting was a pleasant affair as people recalled this friend they had lost.
Instead of students acting like louts, why could there not be a meeting at the Mausoleum, with food, like the one celebrating Paul Bash? Or one like the celebration of the Day of the Dead organized by the Mexican-American and chicano students? The Stanfords would appreciate this expression of gratitude. So would sensitive people.
Ronald Hilton - 10/28/01