WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12, 2023
She also gets something right: Is there any hope for us the people? For us, the current American branch of "the rational animal?"
We can't necessarily say that there actually is!
Below, we plan to recommend something Professor Cottom says in her new opinion column for the New York Times. First though, consider this:
COTTOM (4/11/23): ...By the end of the day on Thursday, the Tennessee House had expelled Pearson and Jones. (Nashville’s Metropolitan Council voted unanimously on Monday to reappoint Jones to House District 52.)
This swift political action is the kind that the 71 percent of Americans who want stricter gun laws can only dream of happening.
We were concerned and surprised. Have we actually backslid to the point where only 71 percent of us Americans now "want stricter gun laws?"
That's what the professor said—and she won a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" just last year!
For reasons which are blindingly obvious, that number struck us as surprisjngly low. For that reason, we decided to check.
We clicked the link to Cottom's source. When we did, we found an AP report from last August which opened with this headline, but also with this claim:
AP-NORC poll: Most in US say they want stricter gun laws
Most U.S. adults want to see gun laws made stricter and think gun violence is increasing nationwide, according to a new poll that finds broad public support for a variety of gun restrictions, including many that are supported by majorities of Republicans and gun owners.
The poll by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, including about half of Republicans, the vast majority of Democrats and a majority of those in gun-owning households.
Sure enough! According to the AP report, the new AP-NORC survey had found that "71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter!"
The professor read all the way to that second paragraph, then passed that finding along.
We decided to read a bit further. That percentage seemed surprisingly low. We wanted to see the fuller data set.
We scrolled to the end of the AP report. When we got there, sure enough!
Under this heading—Majorities back tighter gun policies—the AP report said that 85% of respondents had said that they support "a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers, including private sales and gun shows."
Also, 83% of respondents had said they support "a federal law that bans those convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a gun." You can see those numbers right there, in that AP report.
That raises an obvious question. Where in the world—where on earth—did the AP reporter get that 71% percent figure?
Having perused the entire report, we have no idea. That said, consider the plight currently faced by us the American people:
We're a nation whose major news org routinely deal with basic statistics in the way we've just described. Also, we're a nation in which recipients of our "genius grants" read the first two paragraphs of news reports, then apparently read no further.
We're a people whose major blue tribe newspaper waves claims like Cottom's into print, without wondering about the figure she was citing. The professor didn't think that her figure seemed low, and neither did her wonderfully erudite editor!
Surely, everyone knows that support for universal background checks had previously been over 90 percent, and not too long ago. On our part, that knowledge led to our skepticism concerning the figure Cottom cited.
No such question arose in the mind of the editor or editors who placed this column in print at our tribe's smartest newspaper. This is the way our "genius professors," and our highest-end news orgs, function at this point in time.
With that in mind:
How could anyone think that "rational animals" who function this way have any real hope of making it through our current travail, in which we're ostensibly trying to find a way "back out of all this now too much for us?"
According to the survey in question, 85 and 83 percent of us Americans favored those tougher gun laws! The AP rounded that off to 71 percent, and a genius professor passed that unexplained number along in the pages of the New York Times!
So it goes as we in our infallible tribe continue to flounder and flail. That said, the professor made an important observation before her column was done.
Professor Cottom, age 45 or 46, grew up in North Carolina. As you can see in her new column, she has quite a few views about the South.
She's also a good, decent person.
It seems to us that some of her stated views are something less than totally helpful. Still and all, at one point, the professor offers this:
COTTOM: I keep my eyes on the South for a lot of reasons. This is my home. It is the region of this nation’s original sin. Nothing about the future of this country can be resolved unless it is first resolved here: not the climate crisis or the border or life expectancy or anything else of national importance, unless you solve it in the South and with the people of the South.
Just for the record, all regions in our nation are "the region of this nation's original sin." Among others, so said President Lincoln himself, right there in his second inaugural.
In our view, Cottom was working from a bit of unhelpful script at that point. But what she said next is important.
Given the way our creaky political system works, Cottom's larger assessment is almost surely correct. The various disasters we're currently facing—for now, let's focus on the growing, disastrous culture of crazy, suicidal mass shootings—are unlikely to be resolved "unless [we Yankees] solve it in the South and with the people of the South."
For many of us within our blue tribe, that is a daunting notion. As everyone knows, we're much, much smarter, and much more moral, than Those People are. And yet, this genius professor is trying to tell us that we have to deal with such lesser folk.
Frost began his poem, Directive, with the language we've been quoting—with the language about some person or persons who seem to be caught in a state of affairs "now too much for us."
Way back when, Randall Jarrell described Directive as "hard to understand, but easy to love." Your mileage about Directive may differ, but it seems to us that the poem includes a lot of language which might help direct us in our wanderings at this extremely perilous point in time.
We live at a time when our genius professors don't read past the second paragraph and our brightest news orgs don't notice. Also, when the clowns who spill from the clowncar each night can't stop pleasuring us by reusing the imagery which emerged from Mr. Lincoln's war, but also from the brutal history which preceded it.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our vastly self-impressed blue tribe is basically "all too human," pretty much all the way down.
We lack that knowledge about ourselves. That doesn't make it untrue.
Are our tribunes taking us, to use Frost's language, toward "a house that is no more a house / Upon a farm that is no more a farm / And in a town that is no more a town"—but also into a public discourse which has ceased to be any such thing?
Under the guidance of Lawrence and them, have we possibly found our way to a discourse which is no more a discourse? To a discourse in which we read two grafs, then start calling the tired old names?
Professor Cottom is a good, decent person. Does anyone think that's enough?
Tomorrow: Gun control, mental health / Distinguishing characteristics