For a couple of months, I’ve had in mind a certain blog post, but haven’t written it because of the time it would take — time I don’t have. The basic idea was this: As you know, I’m sick and tired of the usual stupid news stories with ideologues yelling about whether people should, for instance, wear masks in public.
My idea was to contrast that with the real world. When I go out in public — to the grocery, to Lowe’s, to Walmart, and especially to medical facilities (which I visit a lot, usually to take my parents to appointments), people, generally speaking, wear masks. Everyone does at the medical facilities, because otherwise they don’t get in. Elsewhere, sure, fewer people were wearing them, but it was never perfect. Even at the worst moments of 2020, there were always some twits who didn’t wear them — in places where folks in charge lacked the nerve to enforce the rules. This summer, the numbers of maskless were greater — even serious people were starting to think they didn’t have to — but it wasn’t some ideological war. Reality was complicated, and most people were trying to be sensible.
But I missed my time for writing that. In recent days, things have changed. For instance, on a personal level, last night my wife told her high school classmates she would not be attending the 50th reunion in Memphis. Everyone else in the class was sending in similar messages. She attending a Catholic girls’ school that had only 37 seniors graduating in 1971. Of those, 22 had planned to attend. Now none are going, so once again the event is postponed.
This morning, she followed that up with a note of regret that she would not be attending a wedding she had planned to go to while in Memphis.
As she did these things, I nodded, because it seemed consistent with what I’ve seen around us in recent days — hospital beds filling back up, people re-evaluating gatherings and resuming precautions when they go out, all because of such factors as the Delta variant and the insanely large number of people who have refused to get vaccinated. Here and there, you even see a report of someone who had refused but has wised up.
Normal, rational human behavior — people adjusting to shifting circumstances. All that is in the real world in which we live.
But then I look at the world being described most prominently in media we consume — from mainstream to social. And I see the idiotic ideological arguments, the same taking of absurd positions that would be laughable if they weren’t so harmful to public health.
You know what I’m talking about. Locally, our alleged “governor” continuing to refuse to take any responsibility for public health. (At least he’s consistent, right? This is what the majority out there voted for, to its great shame, in 2018.) Our attorney general reaching out to try to prevent other elected officials from taking any such responsibility as well. Other such behavior across the country, from local to federal levels.
Occasionally, I comment, usually on social media, when things get really far from reality:
Rights? Rights to do WHAT? To use their children as instruments for spreading a deadly disease throughout the community? From where do such “rights” spring? Where does one find them enumerated? Where are they written? https://t.co/kJ6MeBZZiI
— Brad Warthen (@BradWarthen) August 4, 2021
But mostly, I just look around and wish I could see more reporting on what’s really going on, and less about what stupid things “leaders” who refuse to lead are prattling about.
Sometimes I do see it. For instance, there was this, put out by The State in the past 24 hours:
Lexington Medical Center is experiencing a critical shortage of intensive care unit beds as it approaches a record-high number of COVID-19 patients, hospital officials said.
More than 90% of the West Columbia hospital’s 557 beds were occupied Tuesday morning, including 146, or about 26%, of which were filled with coronavirus patients, Lexington Medical Center spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said.
“We are approaching our highest number of COVID patients hospitalized at one time ever,” said Wilson, who added that the situation at Lexington Medical Center was “very serious” and encouraged South Carolinians to get vaccinated.
The vast majority of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, she said.
Only 16% of coronavirus inpatients at Lexington Medical are vaccinated, and just three of the 43 COVID-19 patients in the hospital’s ICU are fully dosed….
That’s about the hospital that you can see from the street I live on, if you walk down that street a bit to get a better angle on it. What’s going on there, and in the hospitals across South Carolina — and the nation, and the world — is infinitely more important to me than the pronouncements of people who have made it startlingly clear, over and over, that they will in no way do or say anything that reflects what’s happening in the world.
Oh, and by the way, Jennifer Wilson — quoted in that news item I cited above — is married to that same attorney general mentioned above. The difference between them is that she lives and works in the real world, while her husband lives in one in which continued employment depends on showing people you are devoted to Trumpism.
Yes, reporters should continue to cover what the governor and AG say and do. Who knows, they might even run across a “man bites dog” story like this one from Arkansas: Arkansas’ governor says it ‘was an error’ to ban mask mandates. You know, a point at which reality and Republican political speech actually coincide.
Maybe someday our governor will stop trying to outstupid Texas, and instead endeavor to outsmart Arkansas.
But while you wait for that actual astounding news to develop, cover the reality more, please…
Instead of “ideologues” why don’t you call these people what they are – conservatives. What we need is some type of coercion at the federal level. Threaten to withhold federal money unless states act responsibly.
That is the worst idea, Bud. Just what they want to have something to rail against.
No, action like Benjamin saying go stuff your ideological nonsense and we will take action to protect people at the local level is the way to demonstrate what profoundly incapable leaders we have in the legislature and Conservative government generally. Alan Wilson, Henry McMaster, Stewart Jones and on and on, These are not leaders. They are machine politicians, tainted, corrupt and abject failures. The question is why others, such as Kirkman Finley and Nathan Ballantine (also among many others) kowtow to them instead of letting them fall on their own spears?
Let them rail! They’re going to rail anyway. People are dying. Isn’t that worthy of a political fight?
This is weird. I answered Bud yesterday on this point, but my response seems to have disappeared. I’ll try to reconstruct it, and also elaborate upon it a bit….
Basically, I don’t call them “conservative” because there is nothing conservative about them. Some of them may call themselves that — in fact, they tend to do so a LOT, to my great irritation, which I’ve commented on before — but I will not join them in doing so, because I have too much respect for the English language.
People who would undermine efforts to protect the population from the pandemic are reckless, that that is pretty much the opposite of being “conservative.”
The word “conservative” is an adjective describing an idea or a statement or behavior or something else that exhibits certain characteristics — such as, for instance, being “marked by moderation or caution.”
Increasingly today, it is used too often as a noun (which unfortunately you can also find in a dictionary). And that’s where we get into serious trouble as a society. People start saying things like “I am a conservative,” meaning that they are members of a tribe, a tribe that is extremely hostile to nonmembers, rather than of a pluralistic society. This is extremely destructive.
Similar things have happened to the word “liberal,” although here in South Carolina you don’t hear people saying “I am a liberal” quite as often as you hear the other. More commonly around here, you hear people saying “he is a liberal” in a pejorative sense.
Which is also extremely destructive to civil society.
The problem, of course, is further exacerbated by people ignoring the meanings of the words. For instance, many of the people who say, “I am a conservative” are actually devoted to libertarian concepts — which is to say, classical liberal concepts.
Meanwhile, you’ll see some people (some seeing themselves as “conservatives” and others seeing themselves as “liberals”) making the mistake of calling the “woke” liberals. When, generally speaking, they are not liberal and often are the opposite of liberal. For an example of what I mean, I refer you to this Dana Milbank column this week about how “Rashida Tlaib’s bigotry comes from the MAGA handbook.” Woke beliefs and practices are rife with features that are decidedly illiberal.
Since I cited “liberal” Dana Milbank there, let me throw in something from Bret Stephens, a “conservative” who regularly defends liberalism. He did so, although more in passing than other times,
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/03/opinion/what-should-conservatives-conserve.html. Why? Because he knows what the word means, and how central it is to the continuation of this experiment we call “America.”
I agree with him, and as an American I embrace liberalism — just as in many contexts I embrace conservativism. Often, to the confusion of some, I hold liberal and conservative views simultaneously. But I don’t call myself a member of one tribe or the other, and I don’t see real liberalism as being mutually exclusive of conservatism, or vice versa.
And the idea of seeing those concepts as the basis of tribalism is appalling to me…
By the way, even in the most routine political nonsense, you can find little nuggets of actual news. For instance, in that story screenshotted above — which led the print edition of The State yesterday, you’ll find something interesting at the start of the second graf:
If the governor was asked why he was standing alone at the presser, his response is not recorded. However, this passage farther down may shed some light:
Masking is slowly coming back after really dropping off following the CDC and Biden’s press conference saying “mask or vax”. At that point, pretty much everyone I knew had been vaccinated, so all the mask wearing stopped. I saw very few people in masks, and when I did, my first thought was “Why didn’t you get the vaccine? Are you some anti-vax person, or do you have legitimate health reason preventing you?”
Now, with the delta variant that is more transmissible, the masks are coming back and things are starting to cancel again. So, it’s like we’re back to square one, which is frustrating. The silver lining of the delta variant seems to be that while it’s more transmissible, it doesn’t appear to be more severe of a disease, so we should see higher numbers, but proportionally the same results. Also, from the UK data, it looks like their delta variant wave was a big spike, but short lived. Hopefully, it’s short-lived here, as well.
We’re starting to see large and small companies start to embrace/require vaccine use, which is good common sense. Tyson foods is requiring vaccines for all workers. Walmart said it would require vaccines for U.S. corporate staff and regional managers. While not requiring all workers to get the vaccine, Walmart is offering a $150 bonus to employees who get the shot. Lots of colleges and universities are requiring vaccines for students who want to return to in-person learning.
Locally, Lula Drake (a wine bar on Main Street) is requiring all customers wishing to have wine there be vaccinated. Eventually, the vaccines will be approved by the FDA and it will become much easier to require them whether it’s in schools, offices, and elsewhere.
Yes, well, you are describing a trend in actual reality, so you’re doing what I’m pushing for in this post. So thank you.
Meanwhile, in the crazy world we see too often on our front pages, here’s how our political extremes would describe what you are saying:
The LEFT: Republicans have rendered our government so paralyzed in dealing with this public-health emergency that private institutions are having to step forward and save human lives.
The RIGHT: This proves that we don’t NEED government. The marketplace will take care of everything.
From my perspective: I wonder how many people died — and how many were financially, medically and psychologically ruined — before private parties started stepping up to do, piecemeal, what a competent government would have done a year earlier back when our country was sane…
Oh, and here’s how I would have answered this question had you asked it of me in recent months upon finding me wearing a mask in public:
I would have said:
Actually your left/right analogy is flawed. It’s not that the private sector is forced to step in to address a problem that government is failing to address. Government is actually BLOCKING the private sector from addressing the problem. Gov Desantis is actually prohibiting cruise ship companies from requiring vaccinations for passengers.
Brad you look so silly on this issue. You try so hard to equate left and right. But the villains here are almost exclusively Republicans.
DeSantis- AKA as “the great Republican hope for 2024”, has been very focused on a very un-conservative approach- injecting himself into local issues all over the state, overruling local officials, and also trying to ban business decisions he doesn’t like.
But even as DeSantis pushes forward with a very anti conservative approach, many conservatives are ignoring his rampant hypocrisy and jumping on the wagon.
I cannot imagine how Bud read what I wrote in a way that caused him to write, “Brad you look so silly on this issue. You try so hard to equate left and right. But the villains here are almost exclusively Republicans.”
I just know he likes to say that, so he just goes ahead and says it, regardless of what I have said…
Brad you expressly stated the EXTREMES are sayin …
Then in the very next sentence you say what the LEFT is saying. Sounds like a pejorative against the LEFT to me. Given the broader context of what you have laid out it’s clear you’re targeting those who stand in the way of vaccines and masks as the bad guys. I agree. So why is it so hard to just say this is the fault of REPUBLICANS. 100% of Democrats in the US Congress have openly stated they have been vaccinated. Conversely, many Republicans demure in bizarre ways like blaming HIPPA laws. I see nothing helpful in pretending this is about ‘ideologues’ or ‘extremists’. This is why party affiliation matters.
In what way did you see what I said the “left” is saying as pejorative? How did I condemn it? How was it inconsistent with what I said “my perspective” is?
I realize, Bud, that you want everyone to join one tribe or the other. I’m not going to do that, because I don’t believe in tribes. I know you find that frustrating.
Anyway, I addressed that further in a response to another comment of yours, which I had to REpost because apparently it failed to post yesterday…
This is hilarious. You expressly called those on the left extremists. Then argued that that is not a pejorative. Whatever. I’m going to end by just saying this as clearly as I can: Self described Conservative Republicans are the bad guys here. That reality just can’t be any clearer. But if you want to argue with Merriam- Webster knock yourself out.
a conservative talk show host from Florida who spread anti vax conspiracy theories died last week. He had also spent a lot of time recently calling for Dr. Fauci to be imprisoned- and worse.
His partner stated that while he could still talk, he was telling those around him that they should get the vaccine.
Yesterday it was reported another conservative talk show host that had spread anti vax information in Florida was in the hospital because of COVID.
2 weeks ago, a conservative talk show host in Tennessee that had also called COVID a scam was in ICU because of COVID. HIs brother went on tv and radio to beg people to get the vaccine and said his brother made a terrible mistake.
and a local GOP official in Texas died last week of COVID. He was also an anti-vax person who had spread wild conspiracy theories about COVID. He had also viciously attacked a number of local Texas health experts online.
Friends described him as a “strong Christian.” His online attacks of people were brutal, foul, and quite vulgar. When he died, his wife also had caught COVID. He left behind his wife and a young baby.
By the way, I realize now that this passage that I wrote earlier was confusingly worded: “… what a competent government would have done a year earlier back when our country was sane.”
What I meant by “when our country was sane” was “long before Trumpism.” For instance, I referred to the sanity of my country and even my state when I posted this Tweet earlier today:
But now, we live in a time when sensible things that were not controversial then are anathema to a large portion of the country. Therefore, it has been politically impossible to do what we “should.”
Anyway, what I meant to say in that previous comment here on the blog was, if our country were still sane today, our government would have taken certain steps a year ago, saving many lives, because the government could have done those things comprehensively, rather than in the piecemeal fashion in which various private actors are trying to address it…
Bryan, from the state’s data, the problem is that once the responsible people got vaccinated and stopped wearing masks, all the other “freeloaders” just stopped too. I did as well once I was clear of my second shot; I thought we were out of the Covid woods. The reality though is that we were not, and we likely will not ever really be free unless we find the global resolve to inoculate everyone to stop the genetic mutation that otherwise will only lead to stronger and more resistant variations down the road.
I get that this virus situation causes people to be anxious and unconsciously revert to some behavior that in later years they are going to regret, if they don’t engage in some selective remembering. But we need leadership that presents facts, encourages sensible personal responsibility – and is willing to lower the boom when people become non-compliant with the evolving scientific understanding. Messaging that is what real leaders do, at whatever the cost. These kinds of leaders are never present in abundance, but effective one-party rule in SC has never supported that kind of person to be ready when the time demands. We are in need now and we have no one but fools to look to for courageous political leadership.
So who will step up and organize civic leadership? This is going to be a boot strap effort by those who are usually happy to let the pols flap around and do bread and circus stuff. This time that’s the problem, not the solution.
Speaking of local news, locally we are making a mark nationally, and as is way too often the case, not in a good way.
Note the screenshot from my Washington Post app, as of 1:54 p.m. today. See the top two stories.
The first — the actual lede story at that moment — bears a headline saying, “Republicans risk becoming face of delta surge as key GOP governors oppose anti-covid measures.” And the subhed begins, “GOP officials cast their opposition to such measures as an effort to protect, personal choice…”
Who does that sound like? Yup. And the story mentions:
Of course, the latter part of the subhed — “… but some fear their actions are endangering Americans while also risking severe political damage.” — does not describe our boy, as far as we can tell.
But the other story actually has us in the main hed: “On South Carolina’s shore, some condo owners worry: Are their buildings safe?” And the subhed is downright discouraging:
I’ll betcha the folks in our tourism industry are loving that. Captain Ashby, who after years of bravely piloting Spaceship C-8 out of Florence became the head of the Chamber at the beach, is no longer with us, but I suspect he’d have been distressed…
Hey, look! I just found an actual photo of Captain Ashby aboard Spaceship C-8!
I know the quality isn’t great, but you have to realize that back in the 1960’s, our ability to transmit high-def images from deep space were, at best, limited…
Grew up watching Ashby Ward, Dave Rogers and Joe Nicholson on WBTW. They were really good thank goodness, because we could get only 3 channels.
Slim Mims had the morning show. Had to decide to watch him or Arthur Smith on WBTV along with Fred Kirby and Jimmy Kilgo. Great days those were.
You got three whole channels? Where were you?
Last night, on Facebook, Rep Neal Collins of Easley had a Facebook Live event with 4 COVID experts in South Carolina.
Two COVID experts from USC, one from Clemson, and one family doctor from the Clemson area (I think that’s where he was from).
I heard about this after the face so I didn’t see the event but heard about it and heard it was very positive. Apparently he asked the panel submitted questions- – some of the questions were a bit crazy but I guess it’s good to ask them whatever comes up.
It’s too bad our so called governor and other state leaders don’t do similar things.
I was in rural Chesterfield County last week. A health leader in the area told me that he regularly – as in every day- dealt with crazy, off the wall conspiracy theories about COVID and the vaccines. Some were so silly that he said he didn’t even try to change the person’s mind he mentioned them.
Some of these folks would rather take medicine prescribed for livestock animals than a vaccine designed for humans – – yes- really.
We both discussed the good that could come if folks like some state leaders would visit some of these communities and hold events where they talk up the vaccines and bring a few medical experts with them. But most of them aren’t going to do such a thing. They wouldn’t convince everyone- but they might move the needle a bit.
We both agreed that McMaster, Tim Scott, James Clyburn, and their locally elected representative on a bus in an area like Chesterfield, visiting Wal Mart parking lots and the local hardware store could likely make a decent impact if they invested the time.
But it’s not going to happen.
During the forum you referenced, one of the panel said that SC’s voluntary/honor system on masking in schools wasn’t working. The other panelists agreed that masking is the only viable option beyond vaccination.
So, this morning I emailed. Rep. Collins to ask if he had changed his mind about the ban he and his colleagues in the State House had placed on school mask mandates. He wrote back but ducked the question.
Sadly, the “crazy world” is part of “actual reality.”
Case in point:
I recently spoke with a neighbor for the first time in a long while (outdoors). The conversation was amicable for the first 30 minutes or so while we caught each other up on various things. But that changed the moment the topic of vaccinations came up. As it turned out, this neighbor (and spouse) are vaccine refusers (not anti-vaxxers, per se, just adamantly opposed to the Covid vaccine). They are both college-educated. So I tried the “just the facts” route to try to persuade them differently, But I could scarcely finish a sentence without being interrupted in an increasingly belligerent tone: “The vaccine is experimental and I will not be experimented on!” “Experts don’t know – and some of them lie.” “The number of Covid deaths is exaggerated.” And so on, generally dismissing the seriousness of the virus. But what really set the neighbor off was when I said that I felt it was all our responsibility to protect one another by getting vaccinated. The response was: “It’s not MY responsibility to protect other people from risk! If you want to protect yourself, fine. But let me do what I want to do.” The neighbor then sought to end the conversation, saying, “I will respect your point-of-view and I hope you can respect mine.” I said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t. Because I consider it asocial and irresponsible.”
It’s folks like this that McMaster and Wilson and all the others are making every effort to appeal to.
Brad, I was actually on Spaceship C-8 when I was a kid in the late 1950’s and I am pretty sure that Ashby Ward was the host that day. The substitute host who occasionally hosted the program was Dave Rogers who later moved on to WIS-TV. The show was called Spaceship C-8 because WBTW was broadcasting on channel 8. The station later moved to channel 13.
Letting go doesn’t mean giving up but accepting things that cannot be:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBMq-tyH1AA
Here’s a curious thing that is sort of related to what we’re talking about.
I got an email from Free Times today that began,
Why, I wondered, is the cancellation of a completely unnecessary “event” called “gloom and doom,” while the announcement of two other “events” with less-cautious organizers a source of “optimism?”
Yes, I can see how those latter organizers may be exhibiting greater optimism than the Oktoberfest folks, from their perspective. But why would we, as observers, regard one as gloom and doom and be inspired to optimism by the other?
Of course, mind you, I’m not a guy who considers “event” to be inherently positive things, which I realize makes me seem strange to many others. I’ve always felt life is pretty full, and that I have enough to do — in terms of work, personal obligations and entertainment — without looking for additional things to do. (I’ve mentioned in the past that when we had conversations at the newspaper about the “what to do” parts of the weekly Weekend section, I was always kind of out of my depth. I couldn’t imagine being in search of something like that, so I didn’t really understand the readers served by such a feature. I mean, you know, don’t these people have books, and if they don’t, can’t they go to the library?)
Several decades ago (years before I came home to Columbia, when I was in Tennessee) I wrote a column headlined “Revel without a cause.” Yes, I wrote the headline myself, which gave me some goofy pleasure. It was about some folks in Jackson, Tenn., who were planning an “event” not because such an occasion met some need in the community, but because they just wanted to have an “event.” To make money, I suppose, or simply satisfy an urge to be busy. And I took a dim view of it. (I’d link you to the column if it were available electronically.) It arose from my strong belief that too many people are staggering through life with an inexplicable, irresistible urge to find wildly unnecessary “things to do” — such as spending their entire Saturday going to a football game — rather than doing something useful or at least edifying. Or taking a nap. I think weekends are a wonderful time to take naps.
So, I come at things from that perspective…
The whole liberal/conservative continuum is so passe;effing archaic..
Something that has become very clear — “conservative” no longer describes what we are seeing on the right. Not even close. “Libertarian extremism” is closer. However, some of it isn’t really even libertarianism. The mantra of “parents know what is best for their child” became popular in justifying private school vouchers, although we can see that what many of these parents think is best for their child is just a school with few or no Black students. They are still trying to get the public to pay for segregated schools. So now if parents claim their kid can’t learn in a mask (because their kids absorb knowledge through their noses?) the Governor parrots it.
One of the primary stated goals of American conservatism in the 20th century (especially since the Goldwater campaign and the rise of the New Right) has been, put simply, to get government off our backs. Some of the displays we see today may be parodies of that goal, but they are not outside the bounds of it.
Odd considering conservatives have embraced using government to stamp out things they don’t like.
In Texas this week, 2 private businesses chose to enforce a mask requirement for their business. Texas state government said they’d take away their alcohol license if they did.
Some of the loudest conservative voices in Congress want the government to set up commissions to oversee Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other tech companies. I’m sure that will go well.
Conservatives don’t want government off anyone’s back. They want to make sure they get to control what the government tells everyone to do.
American conservatism sees no contradiction in forbidding or pursuing certain things if doing so supposedly promotes “freedom.”
Each one of the cases you cite is actually an example of that.
In the TX case, the state govt sees itself upholding “freedom” by attempting to prohibit business from infringing against “freedom” by imposing a (mask) mandate.
The second case involves conservatives taking on social media giants for alleged infringements against “freedom” (of expression — by conservatives) online.
It’s a distortion of the idea of freedom, of course, but it has a certain perverted logic to it.
Like I pointed out, it was Barry Goldwater who famously said that
“Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice.”
All paths are the same, leading nowhere. Therefore, pick a path with heart…All paths are the same, leading nowhere. Therefore, pick a path with heart!
Yea one of the flippant responses to my letters to state reps who supported the proviso banning mask mandates was that my concerns would be alleviated if we allowed state money to follow the child to the school of their choice. Nope, no they wouldn’t.
I was perplexed by this response and thought he was just trying to push my buttons. But you are probably right about the connections here.
We asked Republican senators about Tucker Carlson’s favorite authoritarian leader. Their praise and dodges underscore the danger to the US.
The host of America’s most-watched cable news show recently spent a week in Budapest extolling the virtues of a small European country sliding into autocracy, triggering alarm among democracy experts and Democratic lawmakers.
Insider approached nearly a dozen Republican senators this week to ask them whether they endorse Fox host Tucker Carlson’s promotion of Hungary’s right-wing populist leader. Their answers — and nonanswers — underscore the ongoing erosion of support for democracy on the American right.
Greenville News has an update on where we are with respect to the State House reversing its irresponsible decision of June, with a poll of individual state reprsentatives: