Non-Lies and Truths

Peter Gillette

Trying to shut up Alison Miller is like plugging an oil spigot with a piece of gum.
For over a year now, I’ve maintained a fairly strong acquaintanceship with Alison, but none of that prepared me for what I came to see at the beginning of the term. Sometime first week, I think at a party, she came up to me and started talking and just wouldn’t stop. She had just come back from St. Bernard’s Parish, near New Orleans’ devastated lower 9th Ward, and she clearly left her priorities there.
“Hey Peter,” she asked, “what are you doing for Spring Break?” At Lawrence, anytime anybody asks me what I’m doing at a particular time, I begin reflexively stacking up excuses. I’m going to be working on an independent study. I’m going to be recovering from second term. I’m going to visit graduate schools. I’m going to .
“Come to New Orleans.” You see, over the summer, I am a cable news junkie. It’s depressing but addictive, like so much else in life, to sit and watch bombs and rising water and oil spills and lost children and spinning economic indicators
and to find myself unfortunately engrossed – engrossed, glassy-eyed, and immobilized. But the worst part is that . it’s kind of enjoyable to watch.
“New Orleans?”
“St. Bernard’s Parish . the houses there have been destroyed. It looks like a war zone. Since everybody has fled, whoever
is left has been left jobless. There’s no food. They need medical supplies. Houses are covered in water.”
She kept on going, with a bit of fire in her eyes. I thought it through, and couldn’t think of anything better to do, and so I’m going. I’m a bit scared, because I’ve never really done a damn thing about anything worthwhile in my entire life. I helped build some houses near Tijuana once, but I couldn’t even drive a nail straight. Alison doesn’t care.
She wants you to come too, and whatever you can bring with you, whether
you are a faculty member, a student, an executive, a fund-raiser, a Democrat, a Republican, a Tory, or a Whig. Just do something.
The next time I saw Alison, and the time after that and after that, she asked if I was still coming, and I said yes. “Great!” she’d say, and then tell me of her evolving plans, much of which was covered in last week’s Lawrentian. Since that article went to press, LUCC came through with over $4,000 of support. With Alison’s tenacity
at the head of the charge, I imagine whatever else is needed will fall neatly into place, but I’m sure whatever you’ve got to give she can find a good use for. (Anybody have a well-placed contact at a bus company?) E-mail her at
In this age of educational cooperation
and tolerance, developing collaborative
plans is certainly laudable.
But before making any plans, someone
has to make a lot of noise about whatever is worth valuing. The noise is the first step towards taking it to the streets, using whatever means necessary-
including appeals to reason and compassion, the use of the media, and even the willingness to shame friends-in order to jar their peers, people like me, out of our collective complacency.