Harvard Is Pop King of Sick Country

IVYPeople keep asking me this week about some fellow with a funny, stuffy name, and I am always like, “I’m sorry, who?” There is some story that is in all the papers-all of them-that I have been avoiding, because there is no reason at all for me to read it. It is about a tragedy, which, from what little I have heard, sounds terrible! And we are hearing about it because it took place at a famous university. Jack Shafer trots out a number of reasons for this coverage, among them: “Members of the elite press identify with Harvard and Yale-even if they didn’t go there. They may work for someone who went, or wish they’d gone, or hope their children go.” I would go a little further! Members of the elite press all work with or for someone who’d gone to Harvard or Yale-and also nearly all of them applied to those schools. The wild fervor for riches and exclusivity that those schools appeal to through their imaging and mythology, and the vast dark mammalian streak of competition, conspire to put Harvard and Yale in this special little filing cabinet in our minds, pretty near where many keep Sex and the City and Mercedes-Benz. And lottery-winning. These brands are essentially famous people, and a murder there is nation-wide damage to our aspirational psyches; and, in a way, since so many people wish they’d gone to those schools, it is as if they actually did. In the end this is all rather gross and sad and weird and classist and cheap, and I feel like it’s a good mental health choice on my part-and I mean personally, not editorially!-to sit out this particular ravenous soap-opera zoo-feeding-time party. But you know: ask me in a week, I may have become obsessed with it.