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William C. Altreuter
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Saturday, April 08, 2006

On balance I'd have to say that EGA's experience at Buffalo Seminary was essentially positive, even though it sometimes felt to me as though I was fighting my high school battles all over again in a kind of proxy war a generation removed. The reality is, of course, that she fought her own battles, and was, in general, far cleverer than I had been in picking her fights. One fight that she largely avoided was with one of her English teachers, and although I have no love for the man, I received the news of Malcolm Watson's troubles with no sense of schadenfreude. He was gratuitously cruel to EGA, but she handled her situation with him with grace, and managed to get the best of what he had to offer. As I believe she would concede, for all his other flaws, he was a capable English teacher. In the end I think he even tried to make it up to her, but she'd recognized an aspect of his charactor that prevented her from doing more than preserving the truce they'd maintained. His downfall is as tragic as it was, perhaps, foreseeable, and I feel bad for him: a 35 year old African American male, a product of the Buffalo public schools, who turned out to not be Sidney Poitier after all. I expect the girl will get on with her life. I'd be surprised if Sandy Gilmor didn't weather this. I feel bad for the girls that came forward and suffered for it, but they have learned to stand up and speak out, and may turn out to be better people because of the experience. No doubt there are others who will be scared by this, but they will move on. The promising life that Malcolm Watson destroyed is his own, and that is so sad that I feel like I don't even have the vocabulary for it. It is tempting to try to tease out the psychology of it all, but I suspect that the man's motives are ultimately as unknowable as they seem obvious-- and as unimportant. From the outside it is always easy to see the stupid mistakes, particularly after the fact. It is the smoking ruin that matters, I think, and the rueful feeling that it could have been different.

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