Some time has passed since my last post, and now we must face a poignant milestone together: Randy Cohen’s last column. In this goodbye essay, he gives us a window into his world, summing up a decade’s worth of his adventures reading people’s letters and trying to have thoughts about them.
Over the years, Cohen has been fortunate enough to have thousands of readers request his opinion, then slaver over how great he is. So naturally, he begins by discussing his hate mail. He got a lot of angry letters, but it’s all good: “Ethics is a subject about which honorable people may differ. I was less sanguine about readers who disparaged not my argument but my character or my shoes or my nose, attacks that generally concluded, ‘You should be ashamed.’ I blame the anonymity of e-mail. And underprescribed medication.” I’m not sure you’d have to be off your meds to find Randy Cohen’s face to be objectionable; have you seen the guy? It’s a little tactless to blame him for it, though. If anyone should be ashamed of how Randy Cohen’s face turned out, it’s God! They should take it up with him!
But I’m not here to make puerile digs about people’s looks. Especially when Cohen himself is striving so hard to be fair. “From time to time, readers persuaded me that I was — what’s that ugly word? — wrong. Then I would revisit a column and recant my folly. I first did so when readers powerfully asserted that yes, you could honorably take your own food to the movies, despite a theater’s prohibition.” Why would you even think they couldn’t? “Ye shall not eat of the Raisinets that are in your purse, nor shall ye touch them, lest ye die” is not a serious moral edict. I don’t recall forbidden Jujyfruits being mentioned in the Bible — or in the Q’ran, the Code of Hammurabi, the Dialogues of Plato, Thomas Aquinas’s Commentaries on Aristotle, the Tractatus Logico-Philisophicus, Atlas Shrugged, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, or anywhere else ethical doctrines are to be found. So what’s the deal?