writer of the Tom Cotton op-ed
Republican senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas

Welcome back to the Q&A column! Today, I’m going devote many words to the contentious Tom Cotton op-ed aired by The New York Times earlier this week. To prepare yourself, you can read it here, along with the editor’s note of apology for printing it.

If you missed last week’s Q&A column, check it out! I tackled a question about my writing process, among others.

Since I have such a long answer about the Tom Cotton op-ed, I’m saving that question for last. We’ll start instead with…

Why should everyone learn how to cook?

We’re on a bit of a New York Times bash, but take a moment to read this article. It was aired in the Dining section of the paper this past week.

I particularly enjoyed reading the comments section on this one. A lot of comments bashed the first young woman the article talks about, who (if you don’t have the time to read the article) couldn’t manage to prepare a frozen pizza. Yeah. And she’s almost through college. Yeah, uh-huh.

Her technique? Put the pizza in the oven, no baking sheet, no tray, and set the oven to a random temperature.

The pizza fell through the cracks in the oven rack, and she fell to the floor in a heap of tears.

In my mind, food and cooking literacy are extremely important. Food and cooking are an integral part of being human! And, let’s be honest, even if you can’t cook up a storm, you should be able to prepare yourself a frozen pizza.

The other thing… Once I learned to cook a decent meal for myself, I felt a lot better about myself! I felt very capable. And I believe that everyone deserves to feel that way about themselves — not to devolve into a crying mess on the floor when failure strikes. When I started cooking, I didn’t like to cook at all. But as I got better and learned to make better things, I began to enjoy myself. If you’re a non-cook, give cooking a shot! You might discover that you can do things you never imagined you could do.

I’ll be writing more on this subject in the upcoming week.

How did I get up the nerve to start sharing my poetry?

Um… little by little. You can read about it in this post that came out earlier this week. Plus, pick up your quick guide to success, Voyage of the Mind style, there.

Truth be told, I never considered myself a poet until this week, when I noticed people were reading and enjoying the poetry I’d posted here on the blog. (Check out “In the Garden” for an example of my work.) But now, I’ve embraced my inner poet. It’s my intention to bring a poem to you about every day. I’ll showcase older work of mine as well as poems written as the fancy strikes.

Poetry is about words and feelings. If you’re a poet or an aspiring poet, never forget that. Poetry is the art of arranging words to evoke images, which in turn evoke feelings. One mistake I used to make in writing poetry (and still do on occasion, I’m sure) was stating the feeling I wanted to evoke directly. Don’t do this! It comes across as sappy or even insincere. Good poetry is direct without being direct.

What’s the deal with the Tom Cotton op-ed?

First off, who’s Tom Cotton?

He’s a Republican senator from Arkansas, and if you feel so compelled, you can find him on Twitter, @sentomcotton.

And here’s how I’d like to begin. At the bottom of every op-ed, the Times prints the following message.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

The New York Times, op-ed disclaimer

Upon following the link embedded in “a diversity of letters,” I discovered that The Times has been working to include more women’s voices. It’s not necessarily their fault that the op-ed segment skews male: women account for only one quarter to one third of op-ed submissions, meaning that if The Times wanted to maintain parity, they’d have to put every letter submitted by a woman under heavy consideration, even if men had written many better letters.

The Times also has a penchant for airing letters written by figures of interest — celebrities (I recall an Angelina Jolie op-ed that aired on Mother’s Day), politicians like Tom Cotton, and more. There are also a number of op-ed columnists who provide rebuttals to contentious op-eds, among other things. Here are a few opinion articles the Times aired in response to the Tom Cotton op-ed.

By the editor, James Bennet, about why the Times aired the op-ed.

By opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg: Tom Cotton’s Fascist Op-Ed.

And here are reader responses to the op-ed.

My feelings on the Tom Cotton op-ed

Personally, I dislike Tom Cotton’s views. I disagree with them. But a number of people don’t. A number of people think he’s right. And for this reason, his opinion is a valid opinion, and in my opinion, the Times should have stuck with its guns. Any good op-ed column airs a variety of arguments. These are called opinion pieces for a reason!

Many readers were grateful that the Times aired the piece, because, in the words of one reader, “now [they] know that he [Tom Cotton], a U.S. senator and military veteran, is as dangerous to our democracy as the president is.” That’s from the collection of reader responses aired by the times in the wake of the Tom Cotton op-ed. I agree with this sentiment. Tom Cotton’s op-ed serves to distinguish him as an inflammatory figure on the far-right. It also serves to illuminate a viewpoint that, unfortunately, many across the country share.

What do you think about the Tom Cotton op-ed? Do you think the Times should have aired it in the first place? Do you agree with the paper’s response? Voyage of the Mind is open to all opinions — air yours in the comments section below.

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