Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

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Studs Terkel

Rick Coates - November 10th, 2008
Louis “Studs” Terkel passed away on Halloween, a fitting day for one of the great characters of the 20th century. Studs was a celebrated author, journalist, actor, activist and radio show host. For many a journalist, myself included, Studs was an inspiration.
He died at the age of 96, still enjoying his daily cigar and at least one martini. Up to his last days he continued what he enjoyed doing most in life: “Working.” He once wrote: “I took a vacation once - it involved a beach - and to tell you the truth, I had no idea what to do with myself. It was torture. Work is life. Without it, there is no life.”
Studs built a name for himself by seeking out the ordinary people of our world and showing them as extraordinary, and certainly seeking out the famous and making them appear ordinary.
“I have, after a fashion, been celebrated for having celebrated the lives of the uncelebrated among us; for lending voice to the face in the crowd,” he wrote in the opening line of his memoir “Touch and Go.”
He had a journalistic style like no other and scoffed at the notion of the most sacred word in journalism: “objectivity.”
“There ain’t no such animal as objectivity,” he once told National Public Radio. “We all have opinions. If there is not an objective, what is the point? Being objective means taking the status quo, when you question the status quo you are controversial. Anyone who questions authority is often called non-objective, so I object to that word.”

BLACKLISTED
Controversy followed Studs early in his career as he found himself “blacklisted” during the McCarthy era of the ’50s. His popular TV show, “Studs Place,” was dropped by the network after his phone was wiretapped and he was heard using the word “commie.” Later in life, Studs would express frustration as he joked about his wife’s FBI file being thicker than his.
Despite that “blacklisting” from television, Terkel found a home at Chicago radio station WFMT in 1952. Following that year, Studs would broadcast his popular morning show for 45 years, doing what he did best: carrying on conversations and bringing out things in people that other journalists were not able to do. He also wrote several books and articles.
Studs would win the Pulitzer Prize for his oral history of “The Good War,” about WWII. But while many have called that “America’s Greatest Generation,” he would tell the Chicago Tribune there was even a greater one.
“It was in the ‘60’s; there was the civil rights movement, it flourished, at least for a time, and the rise, resurgence, of feminism; the gays and lesbians coming out as free people. So that’s the generation, I think the greatest.”
He ended his radio career in 1998 with his traditional sign-off “Take it easy, but take it.” After radio, he continued writing books, and assisting the Chicago History Museum in cataloging 9,000 hours of tapes of his 45 years in radio. He also began to explore the concept of death, something that was driven home to him the year after he retired when his wife of 60 years passed away.
“We need to spend more time thinking about death,” said Terkel to the BBC. “It is something we don’t talk too much about.”

MY EPITATH
Studs flirted with death a couple times late in life. In 2004, he fell, requiring dangerous neck surgery for a person of any age. In August 2005, he underwent a risky open-heart procedure to replace a narrowed aortic valve and redo one of the five coronary bypasses he’d undergone nine years before. “To my knowledge, Studs is the oldest patient to undergo this complex redo,” said Dr. Marshall Goldin, the cardiovascular surgeon at Rush University Medical Center who operated on Terkel.
A few years back when he was asked what keeps him going and what his gravestone should read he responded:
“My curiosity keeps me going. My epitaph has already been formed: Curiosity did not kill this cat.”
Thanks Studs, for 96 years of “curiosity.” may you be an inspiration to future journalists. Rest in peace and hopefully the guy upstairs is “objective.”
To learn more about Studs Terkel and to listen to the archives of his radio shows and his great interviews with operatic singers, folk singers, popular singers, stage and movie actresses and actors, blues and jazz musicians, television personalities, writers, poets, playwrights, filmmakers, historians, political commentators, activists in community organizing, labor relations and civil rights; and countless everyday people... check out studsterkel.org.


 
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