Letter from the Editor: The Sweet and Honorable
The Daily Texan, 4A
June 1, 2006
Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori
That patriotic morsel comes to you from the Roman poet Horace, but it speaks volumes to our America today. It roughly translates to "It is sweet and honorable to die for one's country." As of May 31, some 2,470 American armed service men and women have done the sweet and honorable in the smoldering sands of Iraq.
This ode seems hardly applicable to a welcome letter from The Daily Texan's new editor -- I'm already pissing away time meddling in a dead language -- but it will inevitably color my year's stewardship and this page's words. Because words, like nations, are temporary and artificial, built and employed by human thought alone. An invisible border in the woods somehow distinguishes a Canadian bear from an American bear. Rhetoric alone does not spill organs into the street like a roadside bomb.
The ideas that will be seared into newsprint on Page 4A in the coming year will sometimes enrage, enlighten, pacify and ignite Texan readers. Editorials, columns, letters and cartoons may sometimes poke around sore subjects, acting like a pointed finger adgitating festering scabs of corruption or injustice (or poor metaphors about open wounds). These writings will highlight selfless acts of heroism and courage, or they might mock the entire culture of consumption that glorifies the self over all others.
But the transcribed thinkings on this page are strictly ephemeral; their only threat is to silence and complacence. They are public thought experiments, aimed at cajoling and engaging a passive culture -- our passive culture -- of instant messaging and instant gratification into an active literary or political or artistic existence. And sometimes there will be dick jokes.
Most importantly, this page is your forum, open and broad. The Daily Texan does not belong to Chancellor Mark Yudof or President Bill Powers, and it certainly does not belong to me. It belongs to the students of the University of Texas, eager to educate themselves on and explore ideas about the infinite universe around them. Editorials on this page will not speak for students, but to them -- we encourage you to speak for yourself in response.
As editor, I am a filter (please, no libel) and an occasional commentator with (mostly naïve) aspirations to engage an incredibly diverse community in often difficult conversations. But the rest is up to you, without ideological exception.
British poet Wilfred Owen challenged his nation's use of Horace's phrase to trump up support for World War I, a conflict which eventually earned the British Empire a failed occupation of Palestine and Iraq. Himself a soldier in the war, Owen parted with sweet and honorable words a year before he was killed by German forces, demanding reflection today: "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori."