I take exception to Senator Watts' attempt to slander the serious work of our colleagues with such name-calling.Kevin is one of those remarkable people who manages to combine keen intellect and high standards with great gentleness and genuine modesty. A class act, all the way. For him to send this email was the rough equivalent of me rubbing bear grease on my middle-aged paunch, walking to the center of the campus Oval, and bellowing at everyone within earshot.
From Poland came two emails from a colleague, Christopher Phelps, who is conducting research there. In one of them he remarked, "The Communist Party supported Japanese-American internment during World War II. Now there was a dubious left, pro-Stalin to the core. It seems they have their echoes on the contemporary right."
Initially I thought Kevin and Chris were taking Professor Watts too seriously. Possibly because I have known Prof. Watts for years and have watched his steady drift toward the right and his tendency (often though not always) to indulge in symbolism over substance. And like many Ohioans, I got to see him get stomped out of sight in a primary run for the U.S. Senate.
There was also my last personal contact with Prof. Watts some years back, when I reserved a classroom to conduct an evening review session with my students. Prof. Watts had the classroom before me. Like all instructors he was supposed to vacate the room when the first bell rang, but he wasn't finished with his lecture, so he kept going for as long as he pleased while my students and I waited in the hallway. He wasn't just self-absorbed about it. He did it with an air that clearly implied that he was more important than I was. You can learn a great deal about powerful people by the way they treat those who are lesser than themselves. I learned a good deal that evening about Prof. Watts, which on the whole convinced me that my initial impression of him as a young undergraduate had been mistaken--I once thought quite highly of him--and that this was a rather a venal, small-minded man.
Venal, small-minded, and now retired, with nothing better to do than spend thirty seconds tickling the keyboard to diss an event which others had spent months of effort to coordinate and plan. It seemed at first, well, kinda pathetic. I thought the best approach might be to laugh it off, to jolly it away by holding a "gooney left" party. Or maybe best just to ignore it altogether.
Should a man who sought public responsibility and received it be held to so low a standard that he should be treated in much the same way as some sad old man mumbling to himself at the edge of campus?
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