My better half and I went to see Greg Brown at the Arc, a folk club in Ann Arbor, last night. Despite the metal folding chairs and lack of alchohol (you have to be a member to buy) Greg and Bo Ramsey put on a great show. The only real damper on the evening was the large presence of academic-type lefties in the crowd. I had more than enough of those while in grad school at Oregon, but of course they're legion at U.Mich, too. You may know the type: goatees, earrings, faces a mask of humorlous earnestness. Oh, hell, I usually have a goatee, too, and used to wear 6 earrings. It's the faces that distinguish them. That and their banal sophistication, like the two college-age girls standing in line behind us, "I just can't understand why some people like football." They're the types that put "No war for oil" bumper stickers on their hybrid SUVs. The type who think they're intelligent, but actually think in bumper-stickerese. The type that just banned former Harvard President Lawrence Summers from speaking at UC Davis because he isn't politically correct.
The couple in front of us were perfect examplars of the type. Despite never speaking to them, I know them. I went to grad school with them. Not them personally, but their type. The guy had the goatee, earring, and earnest look. He didn't smile the whole evening. The girl looked rich and incapable of smiling, but clapped enthusiastically at every anti-war comment Greg Brown made.
And that's what really irked me. This crowd of obviously educated people, hooting and hollering like Nascar fans every time Greg criticized the war. "War is bad! Yay us!" Yeah, I oppose the war, too. I argued publicly against going to war before it began, and was called unpatriotic and un-American by a yahoo in a cowboy hat and boots (in Michigan, folks, not Texas!). I'm comfortable with my anti-war credentials. But I didn't leave a wet spot on my seat just because a folksinger validated my political views. In fact I'd make a sizable wager that Greg's anti-war comment are the only thing that's ever gotten the rich girl excited.
And that's why I'm glad I'm at a small school. Sure, most of our faculty are liberal, very much so. But that type just isn't present in sizable numbers. I'm not sure whether they don't apply to small schools, whether they don't get hired, or whether they just don't stick around, but we're better off for their absence.
I've got to catch Greg Brown when he's not playing a college town.