Personally, I'm in a little bit of a bind since I have tried, over the years, to forgive those who harmed me when I was a young conservative scholar teaching at Williams College. Nevertheless, I have been guilty of wishing ill upon those who misrepresented the quality of my work as a young man simply to get rid of me.
Along these lines, I recently learned, to my surprise, that one of the people I have hated the most, a tenured political science professor named Timothy E. Cook, had died of cancer over a decade ago. He was 51. By dying so young, Cook inadvertently added to the perception and scientific evidence that gay married men live substantially shorter lives than straight married men.
As I recall, Cook had the honor of being the first openly gay tenured professor in the political science department at Williams College. (At the time, I remember about 25% of the department was gay.) At the high point of his career, Cook served as the Treasurer of the American Political Science Association (APSA). I do recall meeting his long-term partner and, I suppose, eventual husband at a party in Williamstown. I remember being impressed with Cook's organizational skills, disgusted by his poor personal hygiene, and unimpressed with how his loud and proud Democrat party activism was only barely disguised by the thin veneer of being an objective political scientist. I vividly remember the Republican students on campus shared with me that Cook had turned a standard statistics course into an unrelenting leftist/feminist indoctrination seminar.
When I got news of his death, through a recent post at Ephblog, I was confronted with the unshakable reality that those who are the object of our hate are entirely unaffected by it.
I suppose part of my path toward forgiveness involves reliving the insults I suffered due to Cook and his leftist allies at Williams College. The part that bothers me the most is that they sought to diminish the quality and significance of my biggest academic achievement at the time, my doctoral dissertation. They didn't fire me. They just took me off the tenure track and offered me another paid year to find another teaching position. Over the years, ironically, this rebuke has take on a life of its own thanks to the internet.
I suppose that in a nation in which young Republican students are bullied by their leftist peers, it should not be surprising that the institutional dissing of my doctoral dissertation would still be in the news 28 years later. I was a little surprised myself to learn that if you Google the phrase “political science at Williams College” about 20% of the first 10 articles refer explicitly to my story of abuse and woe. I guess my contemporary critics can diminish me as much as they wish, but still the irrepressible algorithms speak for themselves.
I cannot imagine what struggles the young Timothy E. Cook faced as he rose on a wave of pro-gay leftist sympathy and support. My journey to Williams College did not strike me as particularly pleasant. As I recall, I wrote the majority of my award-winning thesis while living in poverty, working as a gardener, and surviving without the safety net of health insurance. Completely without family support -- emotionally or financially -- I endured anxiety, jumpiness, hyper-vigilance and chronic depression.
My thesis was initially rejected by the most senior political scientists at Cornell University, including Theodore J. Lowi. At first, no one thought it was possible that a graduate student could unwind and straighten out forty years of settled science, the political science equivalent of conventional wisdom. Accordingly, I still bristle when anyone tries to minimize achievements which brought me to the nation’s #1 liberal arts college, secured the highest possible recognition from the APSA, and got published by the same publisher used by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
This thesis seems to have a life of its own as it ends up being cited by scholars almost immediately after I wrote it. See, for example, by Paul E. Peterson and Mark C. Rom, Welfare Magnets: The New Case for a National Standard, (Brookings Institution Press, 1990). For the record, the thesis was credited in other publications as well:
Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers, (Harvard University Press, 1992).
Judith Sealander, Private Wealth and Public Life: Foundation Philanthropy and the Reshaping of American Social Policy from the Progressive Era to the New Deal, (JHU Press, 1997).
Kriste Lindenmeyer, A Right to Childhood: The U.S. Children's Bureau and Child Welfare, 1912-46, (University of Illinois Press, 1997).
Elliott J. Gorn, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America, (Macmillan, 2002).
Scott W. Allard, Competitive Pressures and the Emergence of Mothers' Aid Programs in the United States, The Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2004.
Thomas A. Krainz, Delivering Aid: Implementing Progressive Era Welfare in the American West, (UNM Press, 2005).
It has also been mentioned nearly 30 years after I wrote it including in a relatively new book, Megan Birk, Fostering on the Farm: Child Placement in the Rural Midwest, (University of Illinois Press, 2015).
Objectively, the dissertation that Williams College dismissed as inadequate was actually one of the extremely rare doctoral dissertations which still gets cited by other scholars 30 years after its publication. I only wish I had this information in 1989. I might have believed him when Theodore J. Lowi told me, “You don’t realize you’re a great political scientist.”
That being said, I think the lesson of The Shack is that while God allows bad things to happen to good people, God is still our friend if you look at it from his perspective.
Alternatively, it maybe that God allows people who think they are good people doing the right thing - like me as a young Marxist, or Cook as a ruthless gay activist - to get away with sheer evil because, somehow, this is part of a larger plan that would make more sense if we understood how it all falls together. (Of course, the atheists have a much simpler, much more elegant solution for this puzzle.)
For those, like me, who don't feel honest saying we don't believe in God, it is disappointing when it seems like God has indeed let us down, dropped us on our heads, in the worst possible way, at the worst possible time. The lesson of history, however, is that folks with a Christian perspective have shown remarkable courage in the face of totalitarianism, have demonstrated themselves to be resistant to the allure of mass murder and genocide, and have developed functional social systems which are characterized by kindness, good health, and peaceful prosperity.
I remember Cook reminding me, at a faculty event, that Williams College could ruin my career and my life if I did not play by their rules. I remember telling him, with complete confidence, that there was nothing they could do to hurt me. In retrospect, I was wrong. They could hurt me. It would have been nice at the time, however, to know that Cook would be dead 17 years later. As Trish says, my current frustration is probably because I inadvertently missed out on a whole decade of knowing that he pre-deceased me.
So, I'm left with my confused feelings tonight. Specifically, the idea that bad things happen to bad people and that bad people are often good people who are willing to sacrifice others for their cherished objectives. As the African-American, female God featured in The Shack might say, "It's complicated."
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.