Semi-Sabbatical Begins!

I was very sad when I was rejected by Pomona College (because a single faculty member from a country that starts with Co and ends with ombia took a profound and undeserved dislike to me.) I hated the idea of moving to California but this was the only place that offered a sabbatical before tenure, and who wouldn’t like that?

But now I’m happy that they didn’t want me because I have something even better than their sabbatical: a semi-sabbatical. A semi-sabbatical is a term that I invented to refer to a situation where you have to teach so little that it doesn’t even count as teaching. Until next September, I will only have to show up on campus once a week at most. This is better than a sabbatical (for a non-tenured academic, at least) because you can’t get too relaxed. There is still teaching, and the semester still goes on. So you stay organized and have the best of both worlds, the world of a sabbatical and the world of a teaching semester.

I am overwhelmed by my exceeding good fortune. I remember being heart-broken every time I would get rejected on the job market (and that was the total of 176 times, by the way). I wish I had only known then that these were great rejections because they let me stay free to get the best job ever. There is a profound lesson somewhere in here but I’m still sick and feverish, so I’ll let you formulate it on your own.


I now kind of wish I stayed isolated from the news. Berlusconi is back in full swing and is sabotaging yet another trial for sex-trafficking in minor children to get elected?

What’s up with Italy? Is there such a shortage of politicians that even Berlusconi looks attractive? The guy has made himself the laughing stock of world politics many times over. I don’t think I have any Italian readers but if they exist, could they explain why Berlusconi just never seems to go away? Is there some hidden charm to this guy that we are not seeing?

The Answer About the Presidents I Dislike

Among the presidents in the photos, the one I dislike the most is. . . drumroll. . . JFK. There are several reasons why I can’t stomach the guy:

1. The horrible mismanagement of the Cuban missile crisis that put the world on the brink of World War III. For Pete’s sake, folks, Khrushchev turned out to be smarter than this guy and Khrushchev was never the sharpest tool in the drawer.

2. The entire situation with Cuba became one huge mess in a great part due to Kennedy’s pig-headedness. This is not just about Cuba, of course. Kennedy’s complete refusal to develop some understanding of what was going on in the region inaugurates the history of the tragic blunders of the US in Latin America that characterize the second half of the XXth century.

3. In my opinion, JFK also begins the sad tradition of what I call “the debased presidency.” Maybe I’m just imagining this, but I think that there was a point in time when the office of the President of the US carried some dignity. It wasn’t supposed to be the prequel to the Kardashians. And then the incredibly vulgar Kennedy family moves into the White House, and the insanity is unleashed. It’s no wonder that the popular imagination has associated (whether falsely or not remains to be discovered) Kennedy with Marilyn Monroe and even named him as the cause of her suicide. This is his fitting place: Hollywood, melodrama, soap opera, vulgar starlets dropping off in mysterious circumstances like in a cheap Dashiel Hammett novel.

Even when Kennedy is assassinated there is no respite from the vulgarity since his widow considers it a good idea to degrade herself with a very public sale of her body to an ugly old millionaire. And then the hugely vulgar children are inflicted upon us, so that the entire embarrassment never goes away. How can we be surprised when the media dedicate thousands of pages to the discussion of Michelle Obama’s forearms as if it were a normal topic of discussion? What else can we expect after Jackie Kennedy’s flaunted sale of herself performed in such a public way?

The tradition of a debased presidency where a president is frankly stupid, uneducated, and common as dirt yet gets elected precisely because of these qualities is continued by Nixon and George W. Bush. The latter is the culmination of the trend. When the McCain campaign tried to milk it by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, the trend finally backfired. This is good news because finally the American people are getting tired of political leaders who wink, smile, giggle, look cute, and think they know Russia because they can see it from their window. Maybe now the tragic Kennedization of the US politics can slowly begin to get reversed.

So: JFK, Nixon and Bush Jr. are the presidents I really dislike. They are all known for messing up the foreign relations, too.

Some people have suggested that I dislike FDR. This is not true. I actually respect him more than most American presidents. I can’t say that I know all that much about him, to be honest, so maybe I will change my opinion once I get to his presidency in my history textbooks. For now, however, I like him a lot.

As for Truman, yes the guy was a loser. However, as much as I hate him for being the only politician in the world to unleash a nuclear Holocaust against people, I can’t blame just him for it. I haven’t yet found a single person anywhere who would be as horrified by this act as I am. Normally, even the most progressive, enlightened folks tend to “Yes, but” it to death. And if even today, after the horrible consequences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been revealed, after everybody has seen the pictures and read the accounts, people still don’t widely condemn this, then the responsibility lies on them, not on a politician who only does what he has been hired to do.