Jonathan Zimmerman: Patriot rises to the call in crisis

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth.]

"I'm directing my campaign . . . to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis."- Sen. John McCain, Sept. 24

"I think that it is going to be part of the president's job, to deal with more than one thing at once."- Sen. Barack Obama, Sept. 24

My fellow Americans:

In this time of dire economic peril, patriotic Americans need to put aside their partisan differences and join hands as one people. So I have decided to cancel my classes until our financial crisis is resolved.

I do so with a heavy heart. My students prepare exhaustively before each class, often nodding off after they arrive. I know they would prefer to be sleeping in their own beds, or with each other. But they trudge into the lecture hall, week after week, to hear me drone on about Puritan New England or the Progressive Era.

We could continue to meet, of course, right through midterms and the final exam. But that would divert us from the greatest task of all: to stabilize our financial markets, and to guarantee a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.

So I have also encouraged my students to go shopping, which will prop up our wobbly retail sector.

They are patriots, too, especially when it comes to Abercrombie or Juicy Couture. I know they will rise to the challenge, just as my own teenage daughters have done.

Meanwhile, I have also instructed my departmental secretary to "pencil me out" of any and all faculty meetings for the rest of the semester.

Amid the greatest crisis since the Great Depression, we should not be debating trivial matters such as Xerox costs and office space. (Just so you know, though, I'd like a desk at a window.)

Until the economy is on firm footing, finally, I will not write any tendentious or jargon-filled academic articles.

I know that this decision will come as a shock to my editors at Gerund-ing, A Journal of Prose and Prospects (For Tenure), which has published everything I have sent to them over the last 20 years. But the time has come to put aside such rank careerism and to unite for the common cause.

My enemies in the department will scoff, of course, insisting that we should be able to "deal with more than one thing at once." But let us remember, again, that we are university professors. We can't deal with one thing properly, let alone multiple things.

And so, my fellow Americans, I am announcing a halt to politics-as-usual.

Drastic times call for drastic measures, as the old saying goes. Many years from now, historians will gaze back at this moment and wonder what we were doing.

And we'll have a clear answer: Nothing. Say it loud, my fellow Americans, and say it proud: NOTHING!

A great country demands nothing less.

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