[Response to the Loyalty Oath]

By Jack Spicer 1925–1965 Jack Spicer
   We, the Research Assistants and Teaching Assistants of the University of California, wish to register our protest against the new loyalty oath for the following reasons.

1) The testing of a University faculty by oath is a stupid and insulting procedure. If this oath is to have the effect of eliminating Communists from the faculty, we might as logically eliminate murderers from the faculty by forcing every faculty member to sign an oath saying that he has never committed murder.

2) That such an oath is more dangerous to the liberties of the community than any number of active Communists should be obvious to any student of history. Liberty and democracy are more often overthrown by fear than by stealth. Only countries such as Russia or Spain have institutions so weak and unhealthy that they must be protected by terror.

3) Oaths and other forms of blackmail are destructive to the free working of man's intellect. Since the early Middle Ages universities have zealously guarded their intellectual freedom and have made use of its power to help create the world we know today. The oath that Galileo was forced by the Inquisition to swear is but a distant cousin to the oath we are asked to swear today, but both represent the struggle of the blind and powerful against the minds of free men.

   We, who will inherit the branches of learning that one thousand years of free universities have helped to generate, are not Communists and dislike the oath for the same reason we dislike Communism. Both breed stupidity and indignity; both threaten our personal and intellectual freedom.
                                                                         [c. 1949]

Source: Poetry (July/August 2008).

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2008
 Jack  Spicer

Biography

Although known primarily among a coterie of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time of his death in 1965, Jack Spicer has slowly become a towering figure in American poetry. He was born in Los Angeles in 1925 to midwestern parents and raised in a Calvinist home. While attending college at the University of California-Berkeley, Spicer met fellow poets Robin Blaser and Robert Duncan. The friendship among these three poets . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT School & Learning, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

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