42 / CHRONICLESndoes corrupt, and while no President innrecent history has had absolute power,nwhat they have is close enough forngovernment work. It will be business asnusual for any President after the firstnyear, and no business at all for the lastntwo years. We won’t even grumble; wenexpect it to be this way. The President’sncronies will be rewarded no matter hownvenal — or embarrassing — they become;nhe will embrace a cause only if itnis politically popular. (Which Presidentnhas ever taken on the tobacco growers’nor distillers’ lobbies or the U^W ornACLU or AFL-CIO?) We let thenmedia go on and on about the differencesnbetween the candidates and thenimportance of the election, but wenknow that they don’t believe it anynmore than we do, and they know wenknow. Still, it’s a living. We live fromnhand to mouth, spiritually speaking,nthese days, manufacturing one quicknmake-believe warm fuzzy after another.nThe Gipper had us going for anmoment. Briefly, when we werenyounger and the world was full of hopenand logical consequences, he made usnbelieve that with hard work, decency,nbrains, and the grace of God, we couldnhave it all. We wanted to believe,nwanted it desperately, after the humiliationnof the Johnson and Nixon administrationsnand the bland impotence ofnthe Ford and Carter years. The nationnroared in approbation when our boysnconquered the midget Grenada.nAmerica was back! The Golden Era,nfrom 1981-84, gave us hope. The lastnfour years have stolen it away, possiblynforever. If Reagan couldn’t sustain usnwith what we gave him in 1980 andneven more in 1984, it’s hard to believenthat anyone can. Our new President,nwhoever he is, may sustain somethingn— his ego, his drive, his bank account,nhis autobiography—but history predictsnthat he will do it by spendingnAmerica.nIt’s not morning here any more; it’snmid-afternoon, and twilight approaches.nWhat we have left is ourselves. Wenhave fashioned the candidates in ournown image, and their campaigning is,nas some wit said recently, a demonstrationnof the “evil of two lessers.” Ourncandidates deserve us, and we them.nBut at least we could stop pretendingnthat our fates will be much better withnone than with another. That in itselfnmight be a step toward a slightly morenhonorable twilight.nJane Greer edits Plains Poetry Journal.nLetter From B.U.nby S. Steven PowellnThe Academic BluesnWhen I left the University of Ghicago anfew years ago, I felt the whole world laynahead and that every opportunity wasnopen to me. I decided to go on withngraduate school but took some time offnto work as a research associate for anthink tank in Washington, DC. Onenproblem that concerned me more thannothers was the breakdown of a bipartisannconsensus on foreign policy. Thensearch for plausible explanations for thisnseemed like a very worthwhile intellectualnendeavor. It was, after all, GeorgenWashington who warned us in his FarewellnAddress of 1796 that “the commonnand continual mischiefs of thenspirit of party . . . open the door tonforeign influence and corruption, whichnfind a facilitated access to the governmentnitself through the channels ofnparty passion.”nDuring the Vietnam War the Americannpublic was subjected to the confusingnspectacle of celebrities like JanenFonda and Susan Sontag giving aid andncomfort to the North Vietnamese whilenU.S. soldiers were dying in South Vietnamnto prevent a Communist takeover.nIn the 1980’s, it was no longer justncultural celebrities who found favor withnAmerica’s Communist adversaries.nCongressmen, senators, even presidentialncandidates now seem to have littlencompunction about political posturingnfrom Havana or Managua.nI published an article about some ofnmy findings but decided to direct mynenergy toward an in-depth study, anmonograph or perhaps a book. I alsondecided to continue my formal educationnin a Ph.D. program because Inwanted to teach on the university levelnat some future time.nRather than return to Chicago, Indecided to go to Boston Universitynbecause it had an interdisciplinary doctoralnprogram, the University ProfessorsnProgram, originally created by PresidentnJohn Silber to provide an environmentnnnfor serious study on unconventionalntopics. Silber struck me as someone notnafraid to take unpopular positions andnspeak out on controversial issues of thenday. Under his tutelage, B.U. seemed tonbe one of the few major universitiesnattempting to stem the tide of mediocritynbrought on by the left’s ascendancenin America’s educational institutions.nWhen I arrived, I was welcomed bynBetty Zisk, acting chair of B.U.’s politicalnscience department. “I’m afraidnwe’ll have a hard time getting you intonHoward Zinn’s class,” she explained.n”It’s always so full.” Small wonder—nHoward Zinn is a tenured Marxistnwhose chief preoccupation is activism,nnot scholarship. He was very popularnnot so much because students genuinelyncared about Marxism, as because henwas a well-known “gut teacher.” Zinnncandidly admits such evaluation criterianas tests are but unnecessary bourgeoisnformalities.nAs I attended various classes I becamenincreasingly disturbed by thenwidespread incompetence in the humanitiesnand social science faculties.nEven if the B.U. administration agreednon what constituted a proper liberal artsneducation, apparently it was having difficultynin filling the ranks of its facultynwith people who shared a commitmentnto the same educational goals.nMy first encounter with incompetencenwas with a political philosophynprofessor who could neither lecture nornlead a discussion. His discourses onnPlato, Machiavelli, Locke, and Rousseaunamounted to little more than anseries of cynical anecdotes. The literaturenwas brimming with insight on thenpossibilities and eternal problems of politics,nyet little of any significance wasnever talked about in class.nB.U.’s one course in the history ofnWestern civilization attracts 200 studentsneager to fill the large lecture hallnat the beginning of any semester, butnwithin a few months only about 30nbother to attend the lectures. The reason?nThe professors who teach the classnread out of the textbook or ramblenincomprehensibly. Last year’s studentsncirculated a petition to protest this deplorablenstate of affairs. To their dismay,nthey discovered that the professornagainst whom they were protesting wasnthe chairman of the department withnwhich they were going to file the petition.n