NIU students could learn from Salinger

NIU could stand to learn a lesson or two from J.D. Salinger.

Salinger, the man who wrote Catcher in the Rye, was revered by millions of Americans as somewhat of a cult figure.

Although now he’s a recluse, his novel inspired millions of youths during the 1960s to change the world they lived in and to eliminate the “phonyness” which enveloped 1950s society.

The novel has a message which can be applied not only to the African-American community’s recent complaints about lack of equality, but to all of us.

Holden Caufield, the main character, has a haunting and recurring dream in the novel. He’s standing in a field of rye where thousands of kids are playing tag. This field happens to be located on the edge of a cliff, and it’s Holden’s duty to stop anyone from falling to their death.

Salinger was symbolizing his character’s obsession to save every child from the “fall from innocence” which he was experiencing. Does this “fall” not apply to racial tension too?

Robert Frost once warned never to take a fence down until you knew exactly why it was put up. He was talking about the Cold War, but does this also not apply to the racial dilemma? We are afraid to take down our fences. The white man still has his people and the black man his. We see where the lines are drawn in the sand all too clearly; we all helped to put them there.

I know, I know, we’ve all gained freedom since the 1960s, so, idealist, please save a tree or two. But if you look closely at the race question, we’ve managed to trample on each other’s rights in a race to gain freedom for “our people.” The only thing we’ve ever really accomplished as a “people” is to constrict the individual’s rights. Even Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t quite manage to deliver on the promises of his words: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools.”

This is the lesson which NIU must learn as a community, and that the NIU administration has yet to discover as a problem. It’s obvious the administration has its signals mixed. “Babs” Henley has been mysteriously quiet during these latest weeks of racial tension at NIU.

If students are truly fed up with the racial tension at NIU, it’s up to them to change it. It’s simply the way it is; it is simply the way it has always been.

The majority of students at NIU are not bigots, and in fact abhor racial violence, despite what the militants in the King Memorial Commons would have us believe. I wish I could say the same for the administration, but with their recent reluctance to listen to student concerns over racial violence and their half-assed handling of the Grant Towers stabbing incident, I can’t.

NIU’s students must take the initiative that Salinger’s tale sets. It’s obvious NIU students care about this issue more than the administration. Violence and destruction are not the keys to change, but the keys to armageddon. The students must begin to act as each other’s “catchers” in order to prevent all of us from going over the proverbial cliff of destruction. Only fool lemmings throw themselves over cliffs.