JOHN BRUMMETT: Fickle arrows fly


A reader sends a message that he has not seen the arrows of conventional wisdom in some time. It could have been an observation, a complaint, a request or a celebration.

Take this as a request and oblige.

Thus we will be in an irregular tradition in this space of shooting of arrows during the long weekends of holidays – Memorial and Labor – which require the writing of the chronicle of Tuesday before the weekend.

You write five in a week and you are allowed to lean on the crutch of an arrow from time to time. It’s my story, anyway.

Recall that the arrow function began decades ago, in part as a travesty of fleeting conventional wisdom, known to shift between composition and publication. The concept was stolen – adapted, I mean – from a Newsweek magazine article.

Also be aware that a few years ago I stopped using the cross arrow on the assumption that punting should not be allowed, that an arrow must go up or down and that shooting in a neutral way is is to draw none.

The arrows do not reflect my preference, as you will soon see, but my reluctant assessment. It hurts to draw some, if not most of it. So let’s get it over with.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson – A Republican governor of Arkansas who’s currently gone mad, dispelling many members of his ruling far-right party in The New York Times and appearing on “The View” is one who moves quickly.

Donald Trump – Arkansas is his domain, fully at the service of his ego and the next attempted election-stealing insurgency. Joe Biden acknowledges that we must now examine reports that covid was truly a ‘Chinese virus’, meaning an accidentally leaked and concealed laboratory creation in Wuhan, gives Trump the tragic opportunity to tell us he has it to us said.

Tom Cotton – He can also tell he told us. He positions himself well for post-Trump American conservatism, in which he emerges as a leading thinker and champion. He is also a pioneer in a new American policy in which having a good personality no longer matters. Only angry resentment matters, and that’s Tom’s forte.

He is also an unusual young man of influence, spawning copycat atrocities such as Sen. Trent Garner of El Dorado, and using his PAC to fortify himself and have fun with colleagues such as the GOP congressman in the second district, French Hill.

French Hill – See the immediately preceding item. To his credit, he voted for the bipartisan commission to investigate Trump’s January 6 insurgency. But to gain credit in this space and about it, is essentially to argue for a downward arrow of the fickle fate of conventional wisdom.

Joe Biden – He’s doing pretty well, although there was a time when an American president would have been the first politician to appear in these arrow columns. I almost forgot to put it in.

But boring oblivion is pretty much what the country needs right now.

Kamala Harris – What happened to her? Has she taken firm control of the border crisis and I missed it?

Frank Scott – This one hurts as much as the upward arrows for Trump and Cotton. He has emerged as, and may still be, what Little Rock needs, a galvanizing generational force. But his belated attempt to redefine the mayor’s role as the true political chief executive – submitting plans to city board members rather than trying to build preemptive consensus – has been more awkward than it did not have to, serving mainly to polarize.

The other night, a council member asked her if everything was okay if she offered any suggestions on how the state could spend millions of federal dollars on pandemic relief, rather than just waiting for it to happen. ‘he tells her what he wanted her to do, as the comments had indicated.

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville – In today’s climate, a leading higher education institution faces two imperatives. The first is to collect a ton of private money from the rich. The other is to adapt to modern racial thinking that the sins and neglect of the past can no longer be excused. The statute of J. William Fulbright and the question of the naming of the colleges place the AU in a totally untenable situation.

The rich’s need for private money – some of whom would object to insulting Fulbright’s largely noble legacy – will prevail, it must be assumed, and Fulbright will remain in good stead. But there could be a cost to reputation and vital future diversity.

Jim Hendren – Discussions about an independent gubernatorial candidacy have disappeared. Its new, well-intentioned and well-staffed Common Ground Arkansas must represent more than a state version of the equally well-meaning and well-staffed national No Labels movement. No Labels is not yet in a position to create a central leverage force changing the hostile binary dynamic that makes national politics silly and dysfunctional.

We are waiting for signs of life and relevance from Common Ground, not to mention effectiveness.

I – I just shot nine arrows and eight of them – all but Biden’s almost forgotten ascending arrow – pierced my heart.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his Twitter feed @johnbrummett.

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