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Editor's Introduction to the 26th Issue

Aubrey Immelman

I write this preface to the 26th annual edition of our faculty journal as we enter the 7th year of our nation’s costly occupation of Iraq. Last year’s cover of Headwaters featured Anna Lisa Ohm’s “Honk for Peace,” depicting students demonstrating in opposition to the Iraq war. Thankfully, the worst of the bloodletting in Iraq has abated, though the region remains destabilized and its future uncertain. Meanwhile, the security situation in Afghanistan is in a downward spiral, with a 35 percent increase in U.S. military deaths in 2008. And yet, in the grip of an economic crisis whose depth and abruptness is reminiscent of the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union, those national security challenges have now seemingly receded to a mere footnote in our national consciousness — a dramatic turn of events almost inconceivable just a year ago.

Three years ago, when I accepted the charge to edit this journal, I had a vision of raising the profile of Headwaters as a vehicle for faculty to bring their specialized disciplinary knowledge to bear on important questions of our time. It is my hope that this difficult juncture in our nation’s history will inspire all of us to explore new frontiers in the broad reach of our richly diverse intellectual domains to grapple with the pressing issues of our day.

This year’s cover photograph, “The Great Wall at Badaling,” is part of Bill Lamberts’ chronicle of a study tour for eight students he directed as part of CSB/SJU’s Summer Research Exchange Program with Southwest University in Beibei, Chongqing.

The cover photograph sets the tone for the lead article in this year’s issue, “Did the Hakka Save China? Ethnicity, Identity, and Minority Status in China’s Modern Transformation” by P. Richard Bohr. Coincidentally, the connection between the Hakka and the Great Wall couldn’t be more dramatic, as the Hakka’s original North China homeland — before they were pushed out by invading central Asian tribes, beginning in the fourth century — was nestled against the Great Wall. Thus, the wall is a powerful symbol of the Hakka’s lost domicile. Indeed, it was the effort to redefine “home” as community rather than native place (the very definition of identity for all other Chinese) that made the Hakka the unique and revolution-prone Han Chinese people Bohr describes in his article.

The theme of “home” or “place” as community — an integral part of our Benedictine heritage — is echoed in Sophia Geng’s short story “Celery’s Dream,” which captures critical moments in the lives of rural Chinese villagers confronting the modern challenges of urbanization and globalization.

Consonant with the mission of Headwaters under my editorship to bring colleagues’ diverse disciplinary knowledge to bear on pressing issues of our time, Bruce Campbell, in “Truth, Justice, and the Critique of Globalization in a Mexican Superhero Parody,” explores the comic-book superhero genre in sociohistoric and cross-cultural context, touching, in the process, on institutional failures such as public corruption, government inaction in the face of poverty, and unethical private enterprise; U.S. intervention in international conflicts, imperialism, and human rights abuses;  the globalized economy, unemployment, and declining wages; and illegal immigration.

Contributing to the theme of international education in this issue of Headwaters, Michael J. Borka, in “Culture: Conversations and Questions,” reflects on insights gained on a faculty development trip to New Zealand, including a more acute awareness of how tradition, language, and culture shape the individual and how teachers might support the diverse voices these individuals bring to today’s classrooms.

Echoing Borka’s cultural theme — and demonstrating that native people here at home can teach us some of the same lessons as the Māori of New Zealand — Lynn Moore, in “Red Lake Revisited,” recounts her experiences with American Indian children in Red Lake spanning 40 years, lessons learned about the critical role of community, tradition, and oral language in education, and, ultimately, the realization that “to teach is to listen.”

In “Tongues of Fire,” Ozzie Mayers adds an interesting perspective to the cross-cultural insights provided by Borka and Moore. Returning to the small Cajun town in Louisiana that he left 35 years ago, Mayers deepens his understanding of how confronting his own past informs his teaching of literary analysis. Indeed, as Mayers concludes, “for me and for those who are willing to listen closely enough, the tongues of our past keep revealing to us the stories of our lives.”

Jean Keller, in her essay “25 Years of Care Ethics: A Personal Retrospective,” also takes an autobiographical approach to understanding her academic discipline. Claiming that “care ethics and I literally grew up together,” she uses her personal story as a way to reflect on care ethics, its development, and its critical reception over the past quarter century.

The life story of Robert L. Spaeth Teacher of Distinction Award winner Mark Thamert, OSB, as recounted in his SJU convocation address to the class of 2012 in “Wean Yourself,” bears further testimony to the deeper truth that past is prologue. But Fr. Mark takes that truth to a new level, namely, that to become all you can be, it is necessary from time to time to lay down one’s old life, as it were, and to create a new one; to free oneself from one concept of self and enter another that means more, that is closer to one’s passion, closer to what one can do in the world.

Inspired by his passion for the St. John’s maple syrup operation, Sister Mary Grell Teacher of Distinction Award winner Stephen G. Saupe, in his CSB convocation address, “Find Your Sugar Shack,” invites the class of 2012 “to become deeply involved in some aspect of the academic, spiritual, or social life of the college,” because “whatever it is that turns you on and connects you to the heart of our institutions” will change them as persons — as it changed him — and profoundly link them to our Benedictine heritage.

In “Uncovering Issues with Coordination and the Impact on Mission Implementation,” Carie A. Braun and Philip I. Kramer explore issues surrounding the coordinate relationship of St. Ben’s and St. John’s. They conclude that being coordinate is not our mission, but that conducting the mission in cooperation is instrumental to achieving our fundamental mission, the essential elements of which they capture with the terms very best, residential, liberal arts, education, and Catholic university tradition.

Following an interlude of three poems by Will Marwitz, the current issue of Headwaters concludes with a detailed, illustrated historiography of “Mary Anning of Lyme Regis:19th Century Pioneer in British Palaeontology” by Larry E. Davis. In the context of Jean Keller’s essay on feminist “care ethics” in this issue of Headwaters, I was struck by the suggestion in Davis’s essay that paleontology was one of the first geosciences in which women enjoyed some standing, because in 19th century Britain it was consistent with the perceived role of women as “caretakers of life.”

Finally, as we close the book on another academic year, we honor the memory of our colleague Br. Dietrich Reinhart, OSB.

I’m glad to be part of something that tries to make a difference in the world; that tries to be of service. … Saint John’s is a place of hope. … And everything I’ve seen says your best days are yet to come. That’s my mantra for Saint John’s — “Our Best Days Are Yet to Come.”

— Br. Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, December 10, 2008