So what's the deal with me and Stephen Ambrose?
A number of readers have asked me to explain this earlier remark, which I made in the context of the plagiarism charges against Ambrose ...
Now before proceeding further, it's probably fair to admit that I come to this whole thing already not very friendly to Ambrose - for a number of reasons we can get to later.
Actually, a few readers are pretty damn insistent. One wrote this evening ...
You allude to the fact that you and Steve Ambrose are not on the best of terms but you never spell out why. I am curious to know what may have transpired between you two. Perhaps you are just bitter that he is a nationally respected professor while you are just a career student. The time to come clean about this is now!
Sheesh! That's kind of rough. 'Career student'? Hey, if it were almost ten years since I started a Ph.D. program and I was still only working on the last chapter of the dissertation, then I might be a career student, and maybe pretty hurtin' too. But I've got this whole journalism thing going! So I'm fine with it. And besides I get the parchment in June ... Okay, wait. I gotta center myself ...
Anyway, back to our story. So what's the deal with me and Ambrose? The reader noted above implies there's some sort of competition going on. But how would I compete with Ambrose. Over who's most crotchety? Who's most grizzled? Who's got the gravelliest voice?
Needless to say, I've never met Stephen Ambrose and have read very little of his academic work.
My beef with Ambrose is that in the recent years in which he has become a household name, he's become a purveyor of a sort of retrograde sentimentalism, the fashionable discontent of the 1990s ... You're never gonna find a generation like the WW II generation and the young'ens these days don't have the fiber! the gumption! to do the work that needs to be done. So I say vote for this feller George W. Bush. etc.
This is no beef with the men who fought and won World War II and liberated the world from fascism in Europe and militarism in East Asia. It's a beef with the cliche I feel Ambrose makes of it. And lessons he draws from it for today.