I wish that, just once, I could get through the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page without wanting to claw my own eyes out. Just once.
Last weekend — Saturday to be precise — I actually thought I was going to make it. Then I read Mike Masterson’s column “Tears in the fabric,” in which he bemoaned the loss of decorum in the debate over social issues. I shoulda known there’d be trouble right there.
As befitting the Halloween season, it was a jump-out-and-gitcha, sneak attack.
“Today,” he wrote, “it seems that everything, even local issues involving basic community standards, is wrongly filtered through the lenses of liberal blue or conservative red.”
Has MM come to his senses? Dare I let a bloom of hope spring up in my rocky heart?
“It seems we’ve become a nation of complacent and timid do-nothings when it comes to making our individual voices heard … Few have the spiritual fortitude to lay it on the line for worthwhile causes.”
Maybe I can make it through this one without a trip to the optometrist for a scratched cornea.
But then, out of nowhere …
“And often, when we do jump into an issue, it’s with our opinion already formed — an opinion usually based on woefully incomplete information. Few Americans appear to care to think objectively or critically anymore.”
Arrrrrgggggh! The pain! It’s so… very… painful!
Either I need to get the prescription changed on my glasses or Masterson suffered some blunt-force trauma recently, because I know he didn’t just (For those of you not up on your local publicity fiends, Laurie Taylor is the Fayetteville mother who has been arguing to every television or media outlet that will burn tape or ink — including this paper a few weeks back — that more than 70 books among the stacks of Fayetteville Public School libraries should be removed or restricted due to their “pornographic” content.)
Specifically, I’m talking about how Masterson signed on as Taylor’s wingman after reading “excerpts” of the books Taylor opposed. Then, in column after column, he proceeded to shout “filth” over all the books targeted in her crusade — including world masterpieces by Nobel Prize-winning “It has become so much easier and acceptable to pile onto a bandwagon,” Masterson wrote Saturday, “and begin mindlessly repeating the same slogan being bellowed by the hoarse person beside you.”
No comment. In the face of irony like that, what’s the point?
My tendency to strafe first and ask questions later aside, I know how to give a compliment when one is due. And one Last weekend, for instance, Brazzel fielded some of the best writing the D-G has seen in a month, in the form of a long piece about the crusty owner of an outmoded cotton gin in Keo. Ostensibly about the mechanics of it all, the piece became nothing short of a prose poem about the passage of time and the way life slips by us when we aren’t looking.
An excerpt: “When we arrived, Cole had gone for dinner, and Burgess kept watch over the machinery, plucking at the school of mosquitoes that lunged for his bare neck and forearms. As twilight camouflaged the insects, Burgess looked like a 1950s telephone switchboard operator, quickly unplugging and replugging phantom wires.” Simply lovely.
Not to lump up on Jay “Sweet Tea” Grelen any more than every single literate person I know already does, but it’s hard to understand why the D-G saw fit to bring in a professional Suth’ner for a spotlight column when one of the best Confusing. But then again, a lot of things about the D-G are.