Can the Center hold?
Re: the article on the Thomas Merton Center ["Problem Center," March 31], an employee is quoted as follows: "I don't know that today's young activist cares that much about some dead white monk" -- the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. This opinion, whether accurate or not as a description of the mindset of younger activists, is profoundly troubling.
Merton was one of the most extraordinary intellectual leaders of the 20th century, especially in his critique of war -- Vietnam in particular -- and of racism and imperialism. In addition, he was one of the greatest advocates of nonviolent struggle against injustice and war, in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In the peace movement we have the privilege of having the giants of history to guide us, such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Howard Zinn, Martin Luther King, Dennis Brutus and indeed, Thomas Merton.
If we dismiss them as some dead something-or-other, we are in effect saying that we have nothing to learn from history and showing an incredible arrogance that we can build a future for the world unaided by the wisdom of the ages. This is the height of hubris, but further it is a very troubling interpretation of the struggle for peace and justice.
-- Daniel Fine and Bette McDevitt
"Problem Center" reflects some rather benign references to POG (Pittsburgh Organizing Group), especially by one Leah Samuels. They have no interest, she surmises, in a "dead white monk," i.e. Thomas Merton, after whom the Center is named, and whose spirit inspires its major mission. Apparently they prefer hitching their wagon to the star of a dead white Russian anarchist, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin.
Far from representing the flower of Pittsburgh's activist youth and future (possible?) supporters of the Merton Center and its ideals, POG is a dead-end dis-organization that sounds the death knell of any umbrella group or institution that foolhardily gives it shelter and allows it to infiltrate its decision-making process. Their secrecy and arrogant verbosity reflect a 19th-century passé political approach to the resolution of society's problems.
Unrealized, likely, by most of its misguided members, a subtle hierarchical structure governs POG's decisions and activities, as has been the case historically of similar groups. Their motives are their own and may defy analysis. But in this case, the TMC is happily rid of POG. But I am sure it would offer a welcoming hand to individual members, in the spirit of Thomas Merton.
-- Robert Jedrzejewski, Tarentum