Stories of identity in this month’s magazine

There isn’t one of us who hasn’t had an identity crisis sometime in our lives. Whether it’s figuring out where we fit in high school, trying to balance our adult identities as parent/spouse/employee, or shifting gears from on-the-job to retired, we go through stages of self-definition.

Nations have an identity too, and that self-image is not set in stone. Just after the March victory in the Gulf, we asked four UW experts on American political culture if the United States’ identity has changed. Their answers are in an article titled “In the Wake of War.” Other magazine articles touch on identity as well. In our cover article, National Book Award winner Charles Johnson speaks at length about his identity as a writer and as an African American. In a story titled “The Final Prescription,” doctors confront their identity as “healers” in light of a ballot measure to allow physician-assisted suicide.

Most of you who hold this magazine are certain of at least one identity—you’re a graduate of the University of Washington. But a few of our readers have a confused self-image. They haven’t graduated from the UW, but Columns still arrives in their mailboxes. “It’s great, but why am I getting this?” one recently asked us.

The answer to that identity crisis is simple. Those who have made a donation to the University also receive Columns, even if they graduated from another institution. Under these circumstances, there are times when people who get this magazine don’t want it. There was a card in the last issue enabling readers to purge duplicates, change their address or cancel their free subscriptions. More than a thousand cards came pouring back in the mail. We appreciate your feedback. With non-profit postal rates rising by 40 percent—and another 15 percent hike waiting in the wings—we need your help to ensure that Columns reaches only those readers who want it.

Among those cards and letters, the most remarkable note was from U.S. Army Major Christopher Elhardt, a 1971 graduate in zoology. He was at the U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, when he found a copy of Columns on a waiting room table. “I’d like to get a subscription as soon as I get back home,” he wrote. Now there’s a far-off Husky who is sure of his identity.