country. I am no Atlas, and my shoulders ache.”nIn the end, he seemed to adopt a broader misanthropynextending beyond American politics to the entire race ofnmankind: “Indeed I consider the whole civilized world asnmetal thrown back into the furnace, to be melted overnagain.”nMost people know that John Adams and Thomas Jeffersonnboth died at a ripe age on the same day; July 4, 1826.nGiven the superstitious weight of the number three, a studynof the life of Fisher Ames concludes with a chill down thenspine, for Ames died of tuberculosis at age fifty on July 4,nUnThe Grim Reaper’s unhealthy interest in America’snbirthday takes on ominous significance when wenexamine our present national mood in the light of FishernAmes’s warnings about factionalism.nOur underlying fear that there is no national glue holdingnus together has always been embarrassingly obvious. Wheneverncalamity strikes — Pearl Harbor, Dallas, the Iraniannhostages, the Challenger explosion — we give ourselvesnaway with a verbal pat on the back that we recite withnconspicuous relief: “It brought us together.”nCollecting Gotterdammerungs in the cause of union willnno longer work. There is now so much pluribus in the unumnthat everybody is somebody’s “them.”nAffirmative action is our “French Revolution,” goadingnus into misanthropy as surely as the excesses of the Terrorngoaded Fisher Ames. It has sent a twist through the nationalnbelly, as anyone who knows anything about this countrynmight have predicted, for when you hit Americans in thencollege education, you hit them where they live.nAs a childless spinster I have no personal stake in collegenadmissions but I have felt that twist in the belly. I call it “thencopy-editor feeling.”nAffirmative action has been in operation long enoughnnow for its effects to show up in our daily lives. Business andnprofessional people in every field are regulady stunned bynthe lack of basic competence in entry-level employees. I seenit in publishing; our dumbed-down educational system nonlonger produces enough people capable of doing literature’snhousekeeping chores. Our democratic classrooms are full ofnstudents who ought to be turning mops and shovels insteadnof pages, but they “graduate” and realize the dream ofnequality by becoming, among other things, copy editors.nCollege is the most sacred of our sacred cows, the firstnrung on the ladder of success, the cornerstone of thenAmerican Dream of advancement through merit alone.nThe fury that bright students and their parents feel when ancollege place goes to someone less qualified is the fury I feelnat the thought of my writing falling into the hands of ansemiliterate copy editor who did not deserve to be hired, butnhad to be hired because a publishing house or a magazine orna newspaper needed somebody of this race or that ethnicity,nor because they needed a she instead of a he, or because thenjob applicant was a dyslexic and “needed” to be a copyneditor to bolster his “self-esteem” — and lest you think thatncan’t happen, check out the Americans With DisabilitiesnAct.nI know that I can sit here at the computer for twelve ornfifteen hours, going over and over what I’ve written.nreworking sentences until I am sure I have said what Inwanted to say in the simplest, clearest way possible; I cannwork until dawn, shaking from coffee, parched from cigarettes,ndizzy from exhaustion, and fall into bed to dream ofngreen words on a black screen. . . . but it won’t matternbecause somebody is going to screw me up.nWhat’s the use? is becoming our national war cry.nCopious tears have been shed over despairing rage in thenghetto, but there’s more than one kind of despairing rage,nand more than one kind of victim. The talented, ambitiousnstudent who cracks the books to get into college, only to benpassed over for someone less deserving, thinks what’s thenuse? and then feels the twist in the belly. His parents, whonhave worked themselves ragged to give him a collegeneducation, think what’s the use? and then feel the twist innthe belly. The professor who demands excellence from hisnstudents, only to find himself charged with elitism, thinksnwhat’s the use? and then feels the twist in the belly.nThe present mood of America, especially on collegencampuses, recalls Robinson JefFers’s phrase, “something innthe air that hates humanity.” Assessing the Civil Rights Actnof 1990, Thomas Sowell lays it on the line:nI see no reason why it can’t happen here.nNothing is easier than to start a spiral of racialnconfrontations, and nothing is harder than to stopnit … we will have quotas set in concrete, nonmatter how much people deny it. And the hatrednthat is going to grow out of that is going to bensomething like we’ve never seen. . . . There’s anconsolafion in being as old as I am. I don’t thinknthat I’m going to live to see the terrible trends thatnare setting in, particularly in race relations, come tontheir conclusion. I certainly would not want to benhere for that.nAffirmative action was designed originally for “women andnother minorities,” but the phrase is becoming increasinglynmeaningless, especially in the area of college admissions.nFemale conscientiousness and eagerness to please havenalways made women good students and natural test takers.nJews have gloried in scholarship throughout the ages, andnAsians of both sexes score so high on SATs and IQ tests thatnthey regard affirmative action as an impediment. As StuartnRothenberg reports: “[T]hey don’t see themselves as annembattled minority.”nAffirmative action has degenerated into favoritism fornblacks for the sake of keeping the racial peace, but the favornis pure chimera. Affirmative action is to blacks what chivalrynnnMAY 1991/25n