The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: Bob Meagher

Bob MeagherBob Meagher, professor of humanities, holds an A.B. from the University of Notre Dame and an A.M. from the University of Chicago. He has held regular appointments at Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame. He has held visiting chairs and professorships at numerous colleges and universities, including Trinity College Dublin, Yale, the University of Missouri, the University of Tennessee, and Willamette University. His publications include over a dozen books, as well as a number of translations (Aeschylus and Euripides) and original plays. His most recent books are: Herakles Gone Mad: Rethinking Heroism in an Age of Endless War and Ancient Greece: An Explorer’s Guide. He has offered workshops on the translation and contemporary production of Greek drama at a number of colleges and universities, here and abroad, and has himself directed productions of ancient dramas. Dr. Meagher facilitates Mass Humanities Literature and Medicine Program at the Northampton VA Medical Center.

Storytelling and Human Survival

veterans storytelling

For Memorial Day, a reflection on war and how storytelling can help veterans heal.

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The Dark Matter of Moral Injury

By now most every American is painfully aware of the runaway suicide rate in the military, averaging 33 suicides per month in 2012, roughly one every seventeen hours. Even this number—representing confirmed suicides among active duty troops—falls far short of the dark truth. Off the DOD’s map and spreadsheets are the veterans who, weeks or months or years after their war service, take their lives, often without much national or even local notice.

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Just War is a Deadly Lie

I, for one, am neither impressed nor reassured by President Obama’s personal study of and commitment to the writings of Augustine and Aquinas on just war to guide his own conscience and conduct of drone warfare and targeted assassinations. In a few words here, I will do my best to suggest why.Just war theory is a dead letter. It was never more than a theory and at its worst it was a lie, a deadly lie.

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The Ancient Art of Un-forgetting

These few words were written to introduce Jon Peede and Andrew Carroll, the creators and guiding spirits of Operation Homecoming, at a recent public meeting of the Pioneer Valley Veterans Writers Project, sponsored by the Veterans Education Project.

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Re-entry

It’s August 1st and a faint scent of the new academic year is in the air, detectable only by returning teachers who with a mix of melancholy and excitement begin to brace themselves for re-entry. We have learned to expect neither understanding nor pity from our fellow citizens, unemployed or employed. After all, we have jobs and we have three solid months of more or less paid vacation.

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Conscience in War

As the savage harvest of World War I was underway in Europe, Sigmund Freud offered this less than prescient comment in an essay entitled “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death”:When the frenzied conflict of this war shall have been decided, every one of the victorious will joyfully return to his home, his wife and his children, undelayed and undisturbed by any thought of the enemy he has slain either at close quarters or by distant weapons of destruction.

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Into Harm’s Way

Several weeks have passed since President Obama delivered his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo; and, despite my strong admiration for him and my respect for his convictions, some of what he said still deeply troubles me. As Commander-in-Chief, his hopeful invocation of traditional just war theory and his outspoken commitment to “follow the rules of the road” are no doubt heartfelt, but inescapably hollow.

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War Readings and Films

Suggested readings and films.

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100 Faces of War Experience: Portraits & Words

A selection of portraits from Matt Mitchell’s 100 Faces of War project is on display now through June 13 at the Springfield Armory Museum National Historic Site. Bob Meagher, who teaches comparative religion and other humanities courses at Hampshire College, provided this exhibit essay and an accompanying list of recommended readings and films.

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Athenian Democracy: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Here, for the first time in my brief career as a Public Humanist blogger, I am writing to an assigned topic–"Athenian Democracy"–a topic I accepted during the summer because I was reasonably confident it would provoke thought (in me, for a start). After all, I teach courses on ancient Greek history, philosophy, epic, and drama and I am about to cast a ballot in what is likely to be the most pivotal election of my voting lifetime.

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Socrates on the Campaign Trail: Fear and Hope in the Public Realm

Here in America, we are, at least to all appearances, spoiled for choice in the wide, well-stocked aisles of our daily lives as consumers. Cars and computers, colleges and health clubs spread out across the open price range, each promising to be “worth it”. In our political lives as citizens, however, we have fewer choices. In fact, we may have only two at the end of the day, when the buzz and frenzy are exhausted and we are left alone with our thoughts.

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Friendship First

Ancient Greek literature is replete with stories about,tributes to, and reflections on friendship. It might be said that, for anyGreek with his or her head screwed on tight, friends, not diamonds, areforever. My parents, while not Greek, were convinced of this and passed thisconviction on to me. To this day I own no diamonds, but I have been blessed with many friends who meet the classical standard.

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The Rest of the World

A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Ireland, one of the foreign ambassadors posted there (who I suspect would prefer to be left unnamed) told a story at a dinner party. It went like this. The United Nations recently sponsored an international survey, asking the populations of 90 different nations to “offer their personal opinions on the relationship between prosperity and want in the rest of the world.” The results were predictably disappointing.

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