At about two o'clock in the morning I succumbed to might well be the senile itch to write everyone who received Prof. Watts's email--a list which included all department faculty, grad students, and staff. . . .
My initial thought with regard to Prof. Watts's email was to let it pass, or perhaps poke fun at it by inviting one and all to the 1st Annual Gooney Left Open House.
Which, come to think of it, sounds like a not-bad idea. How does Sunday, March 6, sound? My place? Say from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.?
Having said that, well, I kinda hate to do it, but I guess I better step up to the plate here. My quarrel is less with Prof. Watts' suggestion that we all read Michelle Malkins than with his pronounced incivility. What is it about our country these days that people get their ideas about the tone of appropriate political discourse from shows like Crossfire (now happily defunct), Hannity & Colmes, and Scarborough Country?
Why at a time in our history when the stakes have never been higher, when we have good men and women fighting and dying every day in Iraq, when we have lost over 1,500 service personnel outright and better than 10,000 have been seriously injured, do we think it's okay not to hold ourselves to the highest standards as citizens? In my book, that means civility as well as engagement.
As a military historian who has lectured at West Point, the Marine Corps University, and the Army War College; who has taken officers (including on one occasion the son of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia) on staff rides of Civil War battlefields; who has sometimes spoken to lay audiences consisting mainly of Sons of Confederate Veterans; who has written a book which one critic termed "an apology for war," and who owns both an AK-47 and an M-1 carbine, yee haw!, I doubt that I could be considered a member of the "gooney left."
But who am I kidding? I disagree completely with the tone of Prof. Watts's email, with its evident itch to provoke, with its poverty of actual informational content.
And I haven't read the Malkins book.
And I think that at this point in the development of the historiography on Japanese internment her book would have to meet a high threshold of argument and evidence in order to merit reading.
And Prof. Watts has done nothing but lob a grenade.
And I don't like having grenades of incivility lobbed at my colleagues.
And I suspect that not liking it is all that is required to gain me membership--associate status, surely!--in the gooney left.
No, I've not read Michelle Malkins' new book on the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. I suppose that makes me hopelessly narrow-minded. Of course, I have on several occasions visited Ms. Malkins' web site, http://www.michellemalkin.com/ The book to which Prof. Watts refers is found here http://michellemalkin.com/books.htm, together with enough information about it, favorably portrayed, that I think one could at least get a handle on whether the book itself merits reading. The book's full title, by the way, is: IN DEFENSE OF INTERNMENT: THE CASE FOR "RACIAL PROFILING" IN WORLD WAR II AND THE WAR ON TERROR . So have at it!
I have now done more to publicize the book than Prof. Watts has done.
Actually, given some my personal research interests, the book sounds interesting to me rather than something to be avoided. How about if I read Malkin and Prof. Watts reads a book by, say, Noam Chomsky? We could then sing about our experiences together on the 50-yard line of Ohio Stadium. Or he could call me names. Whatever.
Prof. Watts has so far tossed, by my count, two grenades. (Hmm, actually squib or cherry bomb might be the more accurate analogy.) The first was aimed--to the extent that such a whopper-jawed instrument of mischief can be said to have been "aimed"--at a graduate student who has been nothing but cordial to me as I have asked questions, some rather personal , about the lived experience of race in this country. The second was directed, more or less, toward a colleague whom I hired, so to speak, eight years ago, and who has gone on to compile one of the most distinguishd records of scholarship, teaching, and service of anyone at this university.
I like them.
Better than I like Prof. Watts, whom I have known since I was an undergraduate and who once upon a time struck me as a decent kind of guy.
But who right now would do well to recall the biblical adage--did I mention I am also an evangelical Christian?--"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind."
PS - Don't forget the Gooney Left Open House. (Prof. Watts, you can come too!) March 6, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., my house. Please RSVP by email by Monday, February 28.
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