Jim McCurley’s Open Letter to Thio Li-Ann

This is a great letter!

An Open Letter to Dr. Thio Li-Ann
Posted by Jim McCurley , Class of 2010 at NYU Law on July 8, 2009 at 2:15pm EDT

I read your recent e-mail interview with Inside Higher Ed with some interest. It seems that you may be a little concerned about what awaits you at NYU this fall. As a gay person and a law student, I wanted to take the opportunity to reassure you and to welcome you to the university. I’m not sure if you’ve been to New York before, but I gather from your CV that you got a quite a fine education in the UK. Because of a few phrases you used in the interview, it occurred to me that you may not be familiar with some peculiarities of American English and I want to point out a few that may come in handy. First, we call chips “french fries” and crisps “chips.” Second, we generally call Members of Parliament “elites” and law students, well, “law students.” We don’t really use the word “diktat” a whole lot.

New York being New York, you may also find a few Yiddish words to be useful. Foremost among these is “chutzpah.” “Chutzpah” is hard to translate directly and its meaning is perhaps best illustrated by example. New Yorkers would say that a former NMP and graduate of Cambridge and Oxford who denounces gays in a rather vulgar manner on the floor of Parliament in a successful bid to enable their imprisonment calling the highlighting of her remarks by a few law students “ugly politicking” based on “their own prejudices, from whatever sources” has a lot of chutzpah.

Now, having grown up in a farming village in Kentucky and spent a number of years in the enlisted ranks of the Army, I share your distaste for both “ugly politicking” and “elite diktat.” As I’ve been called a “faggot” and been beaten up a few times, I don’t care much for “bullying” either, although I’m not sure having one of one’s own Parliamentary speeches circulated really qualifies as such. This may be yet another peculiarity of American English.

You are quite correct, however, that in the face of bullying, one must have courage. It also helps to have supportive gay friends. One of the nice things about gay folks is that we tend not to belong to either the “liberal camp” or “communitarian camp” which you described in your speech. We’re just into camp. Likewise, the gays at NYU don’t by any means have a problem with you, your right to your views, or academic freedom. We just don’t think that state power to imprison or discriminate against sexual, racial, or other minorities is a particularly “academic” question. Again, that’s American English for you.

Another generally appreciated feature of the gays is our sense of taste, which has been highlighted in television shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” You are a bit mistaken if you think that the gays at NYU want to censor you. It’s just that, like mixing polka dots with plaid or having George Wallace teach a course on civil rights in the American South, we tend to think NYU’s hiring you to teach a class called “Human Rights in Asia” demonstrates a lack of taste.

Dr. Thio, if you’ll have me, I’d like to be your supportive gay friend. We can have lunch, dish about men and listen to music together. I know a great tapas place in Greenwich Village and, as an American, I’d like to disabuse you of the notion that I have any interest in “refus[ing] to engage with dissenting views” or directing “intolerant animosity” at you. There are also a few great American songs I’d love to introduce you to. One of my favorites is called “Cry Me a River.” It was written by Arthur Hamilton.

I must make one friendly request before I let you go, however. We American gays are doing fairly well post-Lawrence v. Texas. Unlike our Singaporean brethren, we can’t be arbitrarily thrown into prison and can generally defend ourselves under the law. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our friends, the straw men. From “human right to sodomy” to “Americans … appropriating the rhetoric of human rights … [to] impose their views on a sovereign state,” you’ve spent a good deal of time knocking them down. Last I checked, they hadn’t done anything to you, so why not go a bit easier on them?

All the best,

Jim McCurley

NYU Law Class of 2010

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3 Responses

  1. […] what purportedly goes on behind the the private bedroom doors of a minority group. Student Jim McCurley, Class of 2010 at NYU Law, even offered to have lunch, dish about men and listen to music together. […]

  2. Hi Ovidia,
    Recalling your posts regarding your health, I hope you will not be overly worked up by yet another member of the Thio clan.
    Wish no ill of such sad people.
    I, for one, hope that they all live a long long time because, if we look at the views of the young and the progress in other countries, gay acceptance is coming and unstoppable. I hope they live to see and feel the marginalization of their views.
    hugo

  3. That’s awesome, thanks for highlighting it. It was buried in the comments of that article, and not many would’ve been able to find it, otherwise.

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