My (Unpleasant) Encounter with an Honest-to-God Radical ’60’s Professor Whom I Finally Got to SHUT UP…(Just Say No Deal)

I’ve been getting allergy shots for the past year and during that time have often encountered a retired professor with whom I’ve had some fairly interesting chats. I won’t name him, but he retired from Michigan State University in 1992 after a stint that began in 1966.

In appearance, he is a real throwback. Tall, with long, scraggly white hair down his back, he always wears a vest full of peace sign pins and the like. He is extremely loud and whenever I brought up a topic of conversation, he would launch into a rant. Frankly, I’ve always been polite and have let him talk, but I know that he was indifferent to the fact that other people in the room probably think he is nuts. My observation is that he simply LOVES to hear himself pontificate and show off how SMART he is.

The professor, according to Seekers and Thoughts, “received his master’s degree in political philosophy from Columbia University and his doctorate in early modern intellectual history from the University of Missouri. Under the name of Dick Martin, he taught in the Humanities Department at Michigan State University (1966-1992) where he also aided in the creation of the Whole Works and Contemporary Humanities programs as well as a course on England during the Enlightenment.” His previous book, Towards a History of Consciousness: Space, Time and Death, sells for anything from $80 to over $200…and is obviously geared toward college libraries and the academic crowd.

A few months ago he was frantically trying to finish a book for the German publisher Peter Lang, which is one of those academic publishing houses. The book is about humor and politics over the last few decades. He was fussing about making the deadline and needing to find certain information, so I, being a former librarian made a couple of simple suggestions which hadn’t dawned on him. He, at that point, fully embraced me as someone with a level of intelligence that he could accept.

We agree on many things…for example, that the United States no longer really exists…that it is now completely overrun by corporate interests. So, the other day, when I saw him for the first time in a long time, it seemed like a good time to catch up on political developments. I invited him to check out my blog.

I started to grouse about how I wouldn’t be voting for the first time in my entire voting life. He immediately started on about how he had NEVER voted and was shocked that I had even bothered. I explained that I was a bit younger than he was, so it had taken me awhile to reach this point. He then informed me that of all three running, Clinton was the worst and Obama was the LEAST OFFENSIVE.

Of course, I had to argue that point. The professor brushed aside my main complaint about the disenfranchisement of the voters of FL and MI, the unrepresentative caucus system, and the stealing of Clinton’s delegates at the RBC. My comment about how I thought Obama was behind it all and how the poohbah enablers were ruining the party and how democracy was dead in America was met with a combination of derision and glee. I added that the people surrounding Obama were destructive.

“OH, THAT’S WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! AMERICA HAS TO BE DESTROYED! he exclaimed with a big grin on his face and excitement in his voice.

I took exception to his delight. While I believe there has to be change and I’ve been protesting against “the system” since I was in college (from 1968-1972), I was never one who promoted violence.

Then came the CONDESCENSION, which really ticked me off, because it reminded me so much of the tone of the the Obama campaign and Obama followers, complete with that touch of misogyny that enrages me:


Well, I admit, my tone sharpened at that point. I happened to be in my freshman year at Cornell when the black students took over the student union armed with rifles. I remember how we were all confined to our dorms. I also remember after this event how I walked across campus with the MOST BRILLIANT student in my Roman history section, who happened to be black. (And Roman history keeps coming back to me.) She came from a fine family and was absolutely distraught. She was being forced to transfer because of the intimidation and harassment that the radical blacks were dishing out to her. She had arrived at Cornell on her own merits. She lived in my dorm, not in the “special” house for blacks. At that time, Cornell had top history and government departments in the Ivy League, and as a history major, she was being forced to leave the place where she deserved to be, not by whites, but by blacks.

Well, as is typical of the blowhards espousing this anger and dreams of destruction, who are also privileged and cowardly, the professor suddenly wanted to change the topic. He looked down and wouldn’t face me as he mumbled, “Let’s talk about something else.”

Luckily, I was called to get my shots checked so I let him hang. I was sick of the arrogance and the condescension and didn’t plan on carrying on the conversation anyway…and this is EXACTLY how I feel now about the Obama camp and the Democratic Party.

I’m not interested in “talking” with them anymore…because what they want to talk about is false and undemocratic. I value my INTEGRITY at this point more than any party’s empty talk.

10 Responses

  1. Good for you. When you see him again, please ask him why he doesn’t vote at all. And for you, dear transplant to NM, please check on this: I think your registration gets scrubbed if you miss one presidential election. I think the purges come after each presidential election. So please, hang on to your vote and find an alternative. In NM, there are usually multiple presidential options. May I recommend the Green Party? Read for yourself and decide.


  2. Well, I can vote for Udall or another party’s pres. candidate without being a registered Democrat! (I voted for him in the primary even though he was unapposed…)!

  3. In the 1960’s a professor at Temple told his class that if they went to Washington to protest the Viet Nam war he would give them an A for the semester. My neighbor’s son was in the class. He walked out of it. He did go to Viet Nam.
    Where did these people get the idea that our young people would sell out so cheap. They have no respect for the youth that they are supposed to teach.
    Most of these so called academics have had a good life in this country and disrepect it . I don’t see them sacrificing anything to help anyone.

  4. Wow, thanks for ascribing a ranting man’s perspective to all Obama supporters. If you think we have empty talk, you haven’t been paying much attention.

    I’m not interested in “talking” with them anymore…because what they want to talk about is false and undemocratic. I value my INTEGRITY at this point more than any party’s empty talk.

  5. I see ‘newt’ is here, a regular contrarian at other blogs.
    Why do you post here? I would think there are not enough entries and postings for it to be worth your while. Have been paying attention, please direct me to your postings that are thoughtful dissertations on the positive attributes and positions of Senator Obama. His website and speech on iraq are not acceptable.
    When you can provide a cogent, well versed reply on his merits, I will listen.

  6. I have no time for folks who get checks from a system and then shit on it….if he was a man of his convictions, he would return his pension checks…. I won’t hold my breath . . When you were describing him, I remembered in Franny and Zooey, how Franny spoke about her poetry professor and how she swore he went into the men’s room before class to mess his hair up even more .

  7. I remember a lot of this type during the sixties. They always talked a lot about freedom and democracy but only for those they considered worthy. If we didn’t climb on their band wagon we were part of the problem. Just shut up and follow was the real message. That and having sex with whoever wanted it whenever they wanted it. Then as now a woman’s place was wherever the menfolk wanted her. Preferably prone.

    I was a “peacenik” through and through. But as for thinking that somehow sleeping around made my life better or resorting to violence as a solution to a war, I absolutely refused to endorse such concepts.

    Like most people I had favorite teachers and professors. Usually they were the ones that made you think for yourself. Information in is fine, opinion, not so much unless labeled as such. IMHO.

  8. Bwahahahah!!!

    I used to know the guy you are talking about! I haven’t seen Dick M., now V. M. (changed his name to get back to his Polish roots, man…), since around 1989, when I saw him briefly at the bagel shop in Haslett, MI. Had been several years since I’d last seen him, so he got me up to speed on what he was into: “I slept with a MAN last night!” he excitedly proclaimed, eyes alight.

    Dick is/was a hilarious nut-ball character/clown. He used to bring pot (acted like we’d never seen it before) to my friend’s parent’s parties (circa 1970), playin’ the part of super hippie. He’d always push someone into the swimming pool and then all the rest would follow. My friend’s parents always complained about him, but he was always back for the next bash. I had his humanities course, where he would jump up on his desk, yelling “Blah blah blah! I’m a gargoyle! I’m a gargoyle!” Can you can imagine George Carlin on Dexedrine? He would discuss historical figures as if he knew them personally and as if they all spoke using hip street slang. Some of his talks were not bad, really, and very entertaining—never boring! He did have some knowledge of history, but not enough to avoid repeating some of its major pitfalls, I’m afraid…

    They used to show porn movies at M.S.U. in Wells Hall & I went along as he led a bunch of his followers over to see Deep Throat when it first came out. “Jacked off before we left, man—it’s the only way to see if a porn flick’s any good,” he pronounced. Amazing what you could learn from that guy… He’d just divorced his wife Missy & was getting’ it on with some of his students. He was really into women at that point and liked to brag about his sex exploits: “That chick last night is the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess Isis, man!” He was really influence by “New Age” mythology & pseudoscience and believed that rather than the burden of proof for a claim being on the claimant; it was the responsibility of the skeptic to prove a claim was false. If he could not do so (disprove a negative), then he should shut up and accept it as fact e.g.: “The Tooth Fairy is unquestionably real and I had sex with her last night!” “Dick, there is no Tooth Fairy…it’s all in your imagination.” “Oh yeah, well prove it, smart-ass, otherwise keep your closed-minded bigotry to yourself! I’d rather debate a Calvinist minister than to try & reason with an atheist like you!” [Translation: he knows he has lost the argument, but can not accept new data, perspective, etc.] This was the basis for most of his arguments, then, at least.

    The folks he bought the “Seekers & Sought” farm house & property from were like family to me when I was growing up & my own parents weren’t there for me. I used to shovel out the horse stalls & do other chores in exchange for room & board. Also used to hunt pheasants, deer, & rabbits on that property, which kept me from gettin’ too scrawny. The people who took me in there were exceptionally good, decent people who helped see me through a tough time. Of course, Dick called them ignorant, mindless bourgeois idiots…he was really into class warfare then, but had no idea of what it was like to actually work for a living, of course. After Dick bought the place (about ten years after I left there) it became overgrown with weeds and the pond stagnated & stunk really bad. I heard he was manipulating the kids and brainwashing them into his personality cult, though I only went out once to look around & see what he was up to—that was enough.

    After the commune was established, Dick would regularly hold court for a group of wide-eyed student followers he called his “West Bank” that used to hang out at Bunchs’ Café across from campus in the early 80’s. He’d sip white wine & BS ‘em about being friends with Jack Nicholson & Kurt Vonnegut: “So, I was rapping with Kurt the other day about the existential post-modernist continuum and he agreed with me that the collective consciousness of the infinite is really where it’s at….”

    I’d characterize Dick as a Timothy Leary wanna’ be, but without the acid, which to my knowledge he (wisely) never tried. Could you imagine that guy on acid?!!

    I guess the world needs crazies like Dick, I’m just glad I don’t live anywhere near him anymore!

    • Well, that’s really an interesting rundown on the old prof!

      I haven’t seen him now for ages…wonder where he is now? I know had hadn’t been feeling very well in the weeks after my last direct encounter with him…and that’s nearly 2 years ago already!!

  9. We all used to laugh about how crazy it was during the 60’s & 70’s, but I worry about what’s happening now in education. The big joke is over and we have to compete in a world with many, many more people who are smart, well educated, and very hard working. I believe that everyone should do whatever it is they really want. But many people, when they are young, don’t have any idea what they want. There is the eternal adolescent battle between child & parent. In this country the child always wins. But this is not so in other places. How to deal with kids at this stage is highly debatable, but when I was living in China, education was taken VERY seriously. Parents support the school (at least they did when I was there) and kids suffer “bitterness” for 4-8 years (they will have already spent years getting ready to pass the college entrance exam) to make something out of themselves so that they won’t have to work in a coal mine, or be unemployed. I was deeply humbled by the many students I met, most of whom had nearly mastered English and had a strong grounding in math, computing, chemistry, physics—you know, the kinds of things you can not BS your way through. Many of the parents of these kids had their educations cut short by the political upheaval known as the Cultural Revolution. They recounted to me how exciting it was to be part of a big Communist revolution, valiantly fighting for “social justice” and demonstrating in the street, rather than going to class. Later, they wished they’d stuck with their school work. Some eventually were able to resume later, many never did. So, they now all want their children to get the education they were denied, so that they can develop the intellectual strength to not only support a family, but to be involved in an interesting, creative occupation. I heard some American college grads. discussing this with some Chinese students one day. The American girl said: “Oh, I’m very smart; I just don’t like to spend much time studying!” To which the Chinese students replied: “In our China, we believe that people who do not spend lots of time studying are not really very smart.” Do a head check in any science, engineering, or quantitative-based graduate department here—and just try to find any Americans there! So, my point is, politics and philosophy are fine, but people should just step back a bit, look at a broader picture, and decide what their real priorities are before going too far off on a tangent. We will not be able to rely on foreign talent forever. There are no longer any manufacturing jobs here—all the good jobs are now in science & engineering (unless you can become a university humanities professor, that is!)

    All the best…

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