Category Archives: Blogosphere

DeMarco: Revelatory People

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Have you ever met individual people who gave you a sudden, precious insight into who they were and in doing so helped you understand the world better?

I remember the first Latter Day Saint I ever met. She and I were part of a group of high school students from all over the country participating in a program in Washington, DC. My LDS colleague was brilliant and, at 18, engaged to be married. She had specific college and career plans about which she talked evocatively. When I inquired what her response would be if her future husband asked her to stay home to raise their children, she answered without hesitation in the affirmative. “What about your plans?” I asked. “My husband will be the head of the household,” she answered matter-of-factly. Even in 1981, I was surprised at her acceptance of male dominance, having been raised by a strong, independent woman whose husband was a co-equal partner.

In that moment, she opened a window to LDS life for me. Of course, not every LDS woman felt that way in 1981, and much has changed in 40 years, but it was a valuable, revelatory experience.

I was reminded of these sort of revelatory folk when two of them intersected recently: Sydney Poitier and Amy Schneider.

We all know the first name and were reminded of his impact when he died on January 6th. Unless you’re a “Jeopardy!” fan, you may not recognize the second. Schneider is the first transgender person to be a bigtime “Jeopardy!” winner.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not comparing their historical impact or their service to their cause or their life’s work, on which fronts, Poitier stands alone. Nor am I comparing the Civil Rights Movement to the movement for transgender acceptance.

But I was struck that Poitier and Schneider may play similar roles in introducing us to people that we might consider very different from ourselves.

Obviously, where you start determines who is missing from your consciousness. In the summer of 1982, after my first year at UVa, I worked for the Charleston County Park system. Almost all the children at the parks were black. I had several elementary age black girls ask if they could touch the hair on my forearms which was long and straight, like none they had seen before. It is likely the only time I will ever be considered a revelation.

Around that same time, I was doing volunteer carpentry work at UVa with a group that repaired homes for poor residents in the environs of Charlottesville, many of whom lived in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. It was there I met a man who gave me an important window into the lives of black people.

We were working on the home of a black family in which the husband was a lanky, gregarious man. He was a skilled carpenter and worked alongside us. Getting to know Randolph was an epiphany. He was in his 60s and still agile. But it was clear he had not gotten far in school. We didn’t specifically talk about his education, but it’s likely that the segregated schools he attended in the 1920s and 30s did not prepare him or encourage him to pursue a college degree. So he became a laborer. I remember being struck by the wasted opportunity he might have represented. Perhaps better opportunity would not have affected him. Perhaps carpentry was truly Randolph’s calling. But it bothered me that his calling might have been as a lawyer or doctor or engineer or schoolteacher, and that those opportunities might have been denied him.

I wondered if he was one of the many men and women of his generation who might have become professionals if society had recognized their worth. Of course, I knew enough about history to know that millions of black people his age had been discriminated against, but to work beside one of them, to see in the flesh someone whose fortitude and intelligence may have been wasted, was revelatory.

Poitier served as the counter example, a black man who was allowed to fulfill his potential. I suspect for many whites in the 1950s and ’60s, he was an example of black masculinity unlike many had ever encountered – self-assured, assertive, dignified, stylish, and rich – qualities previously associated almost exclusively with whiteness.

I grew up in the ’70s in that kind of world. I lived in a blue-collar neighborhood but had no black friends. I went to a private school and was not close to my three black classmates (out of 60-some). I had no black authority figure in my life – no teacher, coach, or neighbor. The only black people I encountered regularly were the cafeteria staff at my school, who greeted every student with a cheerful “Serve you?” Randolph was the first black man I had ever worked closely with or had the chance to admire. And when I came off the Blue Ridge and back to class, I did not have a single black professor my entire career at UVa.

Which brings me to Amy Schneider. As I write this, she continues on a 38-day winning streak in which she has won more than $1.3 million, placing her 4th on the list of all-time highest earners. She has had a similar revelatory impact on me. I was confused when she was first introduced in the November 17th episode. She was dressed as a woman but I thought I detected a shadow under her make-up, and as soon as my wife heard her voice she recognized she was a trans female.

As I struggled to reconcile Schneider’s image on my TV screen with my mental catalogue of gender identities, I had a revelation: Why, I wondered for the first time, should her biological sex or her gender identity matter to me? And I couldn’t think of a reason. It took a few minutes for that to sink in. I spend my days identifying my patients by their age and sex. If I call a consultant about a patient I begin, “I’m caring for a 72-year-old female who…” Identifying people by their biological sex is ingrained in me, and I suspect in many people. It was shocking to realize that in many human interactions, it’s irrelevant. As your doctor, I need to know. If you are a trans male and you still have a cervix, you need regular Pap tests, for example. If you are a cis-gender female swimmer and you have a trans female competitor, you can rightly claim that she has an unfair advantage. If you are looking for a romantic partner, it is probably essential.

But I’m happily married. Schneider is a “Jeopardy!” contestant whom I will never meet. Her biological sex has no relevance for me; I can be perfectly content not knowing it. Whatever gender she or any other person wishes to portray to the world is their choice. My opinion of that choice has no bearing.

As it happens, being trans may be an advantage in many fields, including “Jeopardy!” contestantship. Being able to experience maleness and femaleness appears to have given Schneider an exceptionally expansive world view.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net.

Open Thread for Friday, January 21, 2022

I thought ORANGE was the new black! What do they call this — Viet Cong Chic?

This is an experiment. Normally, blog posts get ignored on Fridays. Especially on Fridays such as this one, when people are having their routines disrupted by weather as well as COVID.

But I just thought I’d see if the sheer shock of me posting an open thread would draw attention and spark responses. Probably not, but we’ll see…

  1. Vaccine boosters protect against severe illness from omicron, CDC says — Yes, they do. That’s why I got one. Good thing, too. The case of COVID I have is mostly just… tedious… It occurs to me I should provide an update on my condition, but there’s not much to say. I estimate that today — one week after receiving the test result — I feel 10 percent better than I did yesterday. But I still feel crappy. Beats being really sick, though. Also, I don’t want to bore y’all. I keep talking to people who say, Yeah, I had it last week, or I got diagnosed on Saturday, but I’m better now. Woman I talked to today said she’s had it twice — before and after vaccines. She assures me that after is way, way better.
  2. Meat Loaf, whose operatic rock anthems made him an unlikely pop star, dies at 74 — I’m very sorry for Mr. Loaf, but of course the first thing that occurred to me was, I had no idea Meat Loaf was only 74. I mean, that’s just six years older than I am. Back when he and I were both young, I assumed he was way older — like, at least the age of the Beatles or the Stones (I mean, Ringo is 81!). I know this sounds kind of stupid, but I have thoughts like that a lot these days. I was less familiar with Louie Anderson, but I had a similar, and even sharper, reaction: He was exactly my age! Why did this kid die?
  3. 9 questions I have about the new, more ‘inclusive’ M&M mascots — First, this is an excuse to share an Alexandra Petri column, which I haven’t done in awhile. Second, as I said on Twitter in response to this, there are days when I worry that I’m not spending my time being sufficiently productive and useful to the world. Then I look at how the marketing folks at M&M are spending THEIR time, and I feel somewhat better…
  4. Blinken and Lavrov pledge to keep talking as military buildup continues around Ukraine — I thought I’d mention, at least in passing, what is probably the most important and ominous thing going on in the world right now, in case anyone wants to talk about it.
  5. Alex Murdaugh faces 23 new counts of financial crimes, adding $2.3M to missing money — Just curious whether ANY of y’all are following this. I know some people are, because this is about as obvious a click-based waste of scarce journalistic resources as I’ve ever seen. I’m just curious about one thing: Every picture that runs with these stories is exactly alike, except in one way — Murdaugh’s jail jumpsuit is always a different color. How many does he have? Are the other prisoners jealous of his wardrobe? The many, many stories may address this, but I’m not about to start reading them to find out.

 

 

 

DeMarco: “Dos” and “Don’ts” for next year’s Christmas greetings

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Actually, it will be all “don’ts.”

It seems that 99.9% of Americans understand what Christmas best wishes, be they traditional hold-in-your hand cards or digital missives, should involve. Unfortunately, two of our nation’s highest elected officials, who represent us to the nation and the world, have not a clue.

It started with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky) posting a virtual Yuletide greeting on Twitter. The photo showed him, his wife, and their four children posing in front of a Christmas tree all armed with assault rifles. The caption read “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.” An analysis published in Forbes estimated the arsenal on display to be worth at least $20,000. It should surprise no one that his fellow representative, Lauren Boebert (R-Co), responded with an image of her and her four children, the youngest of whom appears to be 9 or 10 years old, bearing similar weapons captioned “The Boeberts have your six, @RepThomasMassie! (No spare ammo for you, though).”

It will be difficult with the words I have left to count all the ways these images violate sanity, logic, dignity, propriety and Christian ethics.

First, as a gun owner, I am embarrassed for Massie and Boebert. I came relatively late to gun ownership, being introduced to hunting in my early thirties, soon after moving to Marion. What I quickly learned about hunters is that they are very careful with and respectful of their weapons. The only time I have my shotgun in my living room is when I am transporting it from my gun safe to my vehicle to hunt or shoot clays. Only a reckless pretender would pose with a firearm indoors. Massie and Boebert’s photos should anger all responsible gun owners.

Second, the use of children in this way is abominable. When I gave my son a shotgun at age twelve, I taught him the cardinal safety rules: Always assume a gun is loaded and never point it at anything you don’t want to kill. As I handed him the gun, I praised him for maturing into a young man who could be trusted with it. Then I reminded him that he could kill me if he were careless. He started to cry, which reassured me even further. It was clear that he understood the seriousness that owning guns should invoke. Think of what lessons Boebert’s youngest child is learning from her stunt: that guns can be treated like toys; that they are props, to be brought out for show; that they are political swag, to be used to drum up support.

Third, their desecration of Christmas is disgraceful. Massie is a United Methodist, as am I. Wikipedia describes Boebert as a born-again Christian. While on earth, Jesus said a few things about violence including “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9) and “Do not resist the evildoer… if anyone strikes you on the right cheek turn the other also.” (Matthew 5:39). When Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested, Peter defended him by cutting off a servant’s ear. Jesus says, “No more of this!” and touched the ear to heal him. Because of Jesus’ teachings some Christians, such as Quakers and Seventh-day Adventists, feel that violence in any form is incompatible with the faith. The vast majority of others recognize Jesus as a gentle healer who accepted crucifixion without resistance. It would be hard to find a Christian who could make a connection between the Jesus of the Bible and Massie’s and Boebert’s version of him.

Fourth, Christmas is traditionally a time when we call a truce on our disagreements and focus on what unites us. According to the Gun Violence Archive, more than 44,000 people died in 2021 from gun violence, more than 23,000 of those by suicide. No one, no matter his or her view of the Second Amendment, can be satisfied with those figures. Both sides recognize the need for change, and could be induced to work together on measures to save lives.

America needs rational gun owners to come together with reasonable gun-control advocates. But this can only happen if we have political leaders on each side of the debate who exemplify a fair-minded approach. I have a foot in each camp and know people on both sides of the divide. The extreme positions – that gun owners will not accept any kind of new restrictions, and that gun control advocates want to repeal the Second Amendment – are too often used by politicians to stoke fear and anger. But most Americans are open to commonsense approaches such as universal background checks. Massie’s and Boebert’s Christmas display of guns is counterproductive, widening the divide between the opposing sides.

Similarly, at a time when Christianity is losing its appeal, especially among young adults, these images will only accelerate that trend. One of the major reasons nonChristians cite for rejecting Christianity is hypocrisy. When congressmen and women who identify as Christian post guns in their Christmas cards, it gives more young people an excuse the turn away from the faith. It’s impossible to reconcile Isaiah’s foretelling of the coming Messiah – “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” – and Massie’s and Boebert’s Christmas photos.

For Christmas 2019, Rep. Massie posted a more traditional picture of his family (outdoors and unarmed) with the caption “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14), proving that it’s easier to promote good will toward your fellow American when you’re not brandishing a rifle.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net. This post first ran as a column in the Florence Morning News.

DeMarco: A Requiem for the United Methodist Church

The Op-Ed Page

EDITOR’S NOTE: I publish this with an apology to Paul. He sent it to me on Nov. 11. I just saw it yesterday. This is how backed up I was over the last couple of months, with my father’s rapid decline and death. It looked like it still had some shelf life, so here it is.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

The founding vision of the UMC, of which I have been a member for more than thirty years, made perfect theological sense. The power of the parable of the Good Samaritan is not that the Samaritan was good but that he was a Samaritan, a group despised by the Jews. When they created it in 1968, the UMC’s founders were convinced that its members would make real the transformation toward which the parable points us, redefining whom we see as our neighbor.

The UMC was born into an inflection point in the nation’s racial dynamic. Landmark civil rights legislation was providing blacks legal access to a range of previously forbidden opportunities. The UMC was poised to build upon the changes that were reshaping secular society and accelerate them. United Methodists had a power greater than any human statute. We had God’s Law and the inexorable power of Jesus. Our faith could move mountains. Our integrated congregations would lead the nation into a more just future.

The trouble was, 1968 was too late to reverse centuries of Methodist segregation. White and black Methodist churches had long histories and traditions of which they were protective. Many UMC members found the idea of integration to be much more appealing than the reality.

As the decades passed, it became clear that black and white churches wanted little to do with one another. They were rarely successful in recruiting new members of the other race. In recognition of the racial petrification of local congregations, the UMC tried in 2001 to rebrand itself with the tagline “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” The campaign had no impact: more people moved out of our open doors than into them.

Next year, without a miracle, our faltering church will divide itself.

You would be forgiven if you assumed the split would be over race: it is, after all, our founding vision and our most obvious failure.

Instead the schism, at least publicly, will be over gay marriage and gay clergy. But we are arguing over gay people simply because it’s easier to talk about than the real issue.

There is scant scriptural imperative to divide millions of United Methodists over homosexuality, which is mentioned explicitly only seven times in the Bible. Two verses in Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) are the most well-known. In these verses to “lie with a man” is to commit an “abomination.” The latter verse requires that two men engaged in homosexual activity “shall be put to death.” In the third verse (Romans 1:26–27), Paul condemns “men (who) abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.” The other four are perfunctory (1 Corinthians 6:9–10 and 1 Timothy 1:10), oblique (Genesis 9:20–27), and bizarre (Genesis 19:1–11). Theologians (which I recognize I am not) debate the meaning of these passages on many levels, including whether they are primarily about the sin of lust rather than loving, committed gay relationships.

I often hear the argument, “Hate the sins, love the sinners.” But that’s not what Leviticus 20:13 demands. It wants us to hate the sinners so much that we kill them. Thankfully, even the most zealous Christians don’t act on this command. They accept that the Bible reflects first-century mores, some of which are today seen as harmful and unjust.

The UMC has from its beginning admitted the cultural bias of some scripture relating to women. To give just one of many examples, in 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul specifically enjoins women from being ministers, saying “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Again, I’m not a theologian; this and other verses about women are hotly debated in those circles. But to a layman, this seems a direct, unambiguous injunction which the UMC commendably ignores. The UMC affirms the equality of woman and their ability to preach and lead in every realm of ecclesiastical life, including as bishops, the highest position in the church. If we can reject a plethora of Biblical teaching on women as outmoded, why are we fighting so intensely over the meager teachings about gays?

The heart of the matter is the reach of God’s grace. Who is included in his love, and more practically, who do I want sitting next to me in the pew?

One side doesn’t see inclusion as a virtue or a moral obligation. They are comfortable in a church focused on individual salvation composed of people who look and think like them.

The other side wants all of God’s people in the sanctuary. They are disappointed that the UMC has given up on its original vision of racial reconciliation and, in its present form, appears to lack the ability to bring God’s grace to the gay or any other marginalized community.

I love people on both sides. I’ve worshipped with my current church family weekly for almost thirty years. We have shared the stories of our lives with each other. We have broken bread together, laughed together, and mourned together.

But soon I will be forced to choose. Here’s how I will make my choice: One of the most remarkable aspects of Jesus’ ministry was his willingness to go where he should not have gone, to associate with people shunned by polite society. In his day these were tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, sinners and outcasts of every kind. We still have outcasts in 2021 – the queer, the trans, the brown-skinned, the immigrant, the HIV-infected. The church I will chose will welcome them all, bless their marriages, and invite them to serve their Lord both as followers and leaders.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, S.C. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net. This first ran as a column in the Florence Morning News.

No one is ‘entitled’ to endanger the people around him

Again, I’m just going to share a tweet, and perhaps enlarge upon it a bit:

I’m just reacting to a headline, of course. The writer of the column is very much taking this guy, whoever he is (and yes, I can see he’s in a football uniform, but that’s all I know), to task. But she is wrong to throw the guy a bone by saying he is entitled to do the first thing.

No, he isn’t. He lives in a society. A society doesn’t work unless we accept, at the minimum, the obligation not to harm the people around us. That’s pretty much minimal. All the other things involved in making a complex modern civilization work — the laws, the system of government, the roads, a monetary system, and so forth — come after that.

Where were YOU people last night? The Braves WON!

I was feeling a bit disoriented by the news I was being fed this morning, so I posted this:

I mean, what’s wrong with people? Where were they last night?

Say what? Where WERE you people last night?

Enough with the threats, OK? I’ve got enough going on…

If this blog disappears, it will be because TSOHOST got fed up waiting for me to pay them, and shut it down.

Which will be amazing, since:

Despite all that, on Columbus Day (the real one, not the Monday), I received the first of not one, not two, but six emails telling me that an invoice for £10.99 was due on “14/10/2021.” Perhaps I should have written back to inform those folks that there are only 12 months in the year, but I wasn’t in the mood for facetiousness. I’ve been very busy dealing with a lot of stuff in recent days.

The last few messages were threatening. In an understated, British sort of way. No active statements such as “We will shut you down.” No, they said “suspension is imminent,” as though they were observing that the weather looked dodgy.

I logged into their site this morning and sent a “ticket response” to the earlier message from the guy who had acknowledged that I had cancelled, asking him to inform his colleagues and get them off my back. We’ll see if that produces action.

Barring that…

If they somehow succeed in carrying out the threat, well, goodbye. Otherwise, I’ll be seeing you later…

Friday Open Thread: Money and Baseball

Game action at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn between the Dodgers and Pirates on May 30, 1955

By Bryan Caskey

I figured I would give everyone a new thread to chew on since it’s been awhile since the last one. Here’s some of the top headlines around the state and country.

  1. U.S. inflation: Inflation accelerated last month and remained at its highest rate in over a decade, with price increases from pandemic-related labor and materials shortages rippling through the economy. I know Brad doesn’t do much on financial news. However, this is important. Any person shopping for groceries or filling up a car’s gas tank is already feeling the pinch of inflation.
  2. Dawn Staley: The University of South Carolina agreed to pay Ms. Staley $22.4M over the next seven years. She’s certainly earned it, and this makes her the highest paid women’s college basketball coach in the land. She will keep USC women’s basketball as a force for years to come. If you haven’t had a chance to go see them play, you’re missing out.
  3. The Border: President Biden has announced he’s going to reimplement President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy if Mexico agrees. I guess we’ll have to see what the Mexican government wants to do.
  4. Catch-22 in Congress. Yesterday, Senator Sinema has announced that she isn’t voting for the reconciliation bill until the House passes the infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate. This is sort of a problem, since some House Democrats have said they aren’t voting for the infrastructure bill until the reconciliation bill is passed by the Senate. Sounds like someone is going to have to back down, or the Catch-22 scenario happens and no money gets spent at all.
  5. Baseball: Dodgers and Braves play for the NL pennant, while the Astros and Red Sox are both on the hunt for the AL pennant. I think it will be Red Sox and Dodgers, but I’d love to see the underdog Braves pull another rabbit out of their hat. The photo above is from the Dodgers back when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers, playing at Ebbets Field.

Is this real, or Photoshopped? I think it’s real…

Here’s another fun pop-culture thing, one that I found way more engaging than I would have thought if someone merely described it to me.

My friend Steve Millies in Chicago retweeted this the other day:

I assure you I looked at it more than a minute.

It didn’t look like anything particularly engaging at first. OK, so we have some people who were big in TV in the ’70s all dressed up and having their picture taken together.

Yeah, there’s Mary Tyler Moore right at the front, looking as she did when she was probably the hottest star on CBS with her show that ran from 1970-77. OK.

But wait. Alfred Hitchcock is standing next to her. And on the other side of him, Walter Cronkite. Whoa…

So you start looking around. And you have to hunt, but eventually you find:

  • All four stars of “All in the Family,” scattered separately here and there.
  • Chester, from “Gunsmoke.” Yeah, I know that at this time, he was McCloud, but to me, he’ll always be Chester. Anyway, everybody else in this picture was affiliated with CBS, as was “Gunsmoke,” and “McCloud” was on NBC. So I think he’s there for being Chester.
  • Lou Grant! Which makes sense, since Mary is there.
  • Andy, Barney, Opie and Gomer, scattered about the picture.
  • Carol Burnette.
  • Lucille Ball.
  • Art Linkletter and Art Carney. And Arthur Godfrey, I think.
  • Steve Allen? Yeah, I think so.
  • Adrienne Barbeau! Yeah, I see at least one other person from “Maude” there, but who cares? There’s Adrienne Barbeau, whom we all know from certain other classics as well…
  • Danny Thomas.
  • Telly Savalas.
  • Betty White, with red hair!
  • One of the Gabor sisters, but I can’t tell which. Probably Eva. When you zoom in, the quality is poor.
  • Hang on! There are Roy Rogers and Dale Evans!!! And Roy’s duded up in black tie…
  • Is that Danny Kaye near George Burns?
  • I’m not sure about this, but do I see Captain Kangaroo, only out of uniform?

There are so many others I could name — big stars. But I’m going to let you find them yourselves.

I guess this was like the Emmys or something, and CBS must have really gone to a lot of trouble to make this happen.

Of course, maybe it was Photoshopped. But I don’t think so. As remarkable as it is, I think it’s real.

The only reason I have to doubt it (aside from the logistical difficulty of getting them together at the same moment) is the fact that these people weren’t all on the network at the same time. Overall, it seems like a shot from the ’70s. Steve speculates it was at a certain point in that period: “Good Times/Barnaby Jones overlap suggests 1973-74.”

But when someone was on a show isn’t a limiting factor. Hitchcock hadn’t been on CBS since 1964. And Dennis Weaver, although a former star of “Gunsmoke,” was at this time on a competing network. But they’re in it, too. And this has to be a CBS effort, based on who’s in the picture.

It doesn’t sound like it would be fun, but I thought it sort of was…

 

 

 

 

 

In the ‘before’ time, we just would not have known

The Op-Ed Page

Her Twitter profile image.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

One of the benefits of growing older is that you remember when things were different. We now have adults who were born after 9/11. There is no “before” time for them, no frozen moment when they realized we were being attacked.

Similarly, the fact that Nicky Minaj’s tweet about – and if you haven’t heard about this, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you – her cousin’s friend’s testicles will not strike people younger than a certain age as unusual. They don’t remember a time when it would have been impossible to know about said testicles.

But in the before time, say the mid-seventies when I was a teenager and began to be interested in the wider world, we received our news in aliquots. Like many of my contemporaries, I started reading the morning paper and watching the evening news. There was often a lag time between big news stories and when they were reported. This cuts both ways. In a hurricane, up-to-date news can be life-saving. But sometimes having hours to get a story straight before the presses started rolling provided readers a much clearer picture the morning after than could have been given the day of the event.

I have also experienced the sweet anticipation that is no more. If there was a ball game I had missed, I had three choices. Call a friend, stay up for the 11 o’clock news and hope it was mentioned, or wait for tomorrow morning’s paper (which is what I usually did). Then there was the reading of the box score trying to piece together the ebb and flow of the game.

I’m not suggesting we go back. I like my immediate highlights as much as the next man. But I know it wasn’t always so, and have a sense of the wonder of instant results – as well as a twinge of sadness for what we have lost.

I recently was given a new laptop for my medical record at work. The toolbar was set so that when I hovered over a certain icon in the bottom right corner, a news feed would appear. I found this infinitely distracting and disabled it. I can’t ponder the issues of the day while I’m caring for patients – my brain’s not big enough.

For me, the time for current events is while I’m getting ready for and commuting to work – and when I’m commuting back home.

For those that missed it, let’s review Nicky’s tweet from 9/13. In response to questions about why she did not attend the Met Gala, she reported that she had not been vaccinated. Then she tweeted the reason: “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied.”

What I know, because I remember the before time, is that this third-hand, difficult-to-believe anecdote of questionable provenance should have only been shared by Minaj to her inner circle, i.e., people she actually knows and talks to. In the before time, the only way for her to publically disseminate such a dubious claim would have been during a live radio or television interview. My sense is that any editor or producer of a taped interview would have cut this story since it is so flimsy – and also possibly harmful. It may encourage some of her “stans” to eschew the vaccine.

In the seventies, the only print publication that might have carried this tidbit would have been the National Enquirer – along with rumors of celebrity breakups and the latest alien abduction.

Minaj did get plenty of pushback on Twitter (would that be “Tweetback”?), including “’My cousin’s friend’ is the start to a story that totally happened” and my personal favorite “when u get an STI and don’t want ur girl to know.”

But, to my young friends: None of us should know anything about this. Imagine you are a cub reporter, presenting this story idea to your news editor, Brad Warthen. Think of the many questions he might have for you: Have you talked to an infectious disease doctor to see if this has been a reported side effect? (Answer: If this ever happens, it’s exceedingly rare); Have you talked with the person in question? (Answer: No one, including the health ministry of Trinidad and Tobago, has been able to find him); How about a story on Beyonce? I’m more Beyhive than Barbz.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net.

Time runs short to testify on redistricting!

The Op-Ed Page

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

Time is running short to make your thoughts known on South Carolina’s redistricting, the process of adjusting our legislative districts to 2020 census data. The resulting maps will be in place for the next decade. Many citizens of South Carolina feel that they are not represented in the General Assembly or in Congress. Redistricting is a significant contributor to that. If a district has been distorted to make it “safe” for the incumbent, help make it better by identifying what you think should be considered in drawing districts.

Lynn Teague

Help ensure that legislators know about the important communities of which you are a member when they draw legislative districts. Do you want an S.C. House district that doesn’t break up your county or city? Do you want a House district that leaves your neighborhood or an area with a shared economic foundation intact? Do you want a Congressional district that meets Voting Rights Act requirements, but isn’t stretched out across most of the state to pack in every possible minority voter? You need to tell legislators about it now.

S.C. Senate hearings around the state have been completed, but the last few S.C. House hearings remain and are taking testimony relevant to Congressional and S.C. House maps. The House hearing schedule is posted at https://redistricting.schouse.gov/docs/Public%20Hearing%20Schedule.pdf. The last in-person-only opportunity for oral testimony was last night, Sept. 22, in Orangeburg.

There are now two meetings at which virtual oral testimony will be accepted. The first virtual opportunity is now scheduled for Tuesday, September 28, at 4:30-8:30 PM in the Blatt Building, 1105 Pendleton St., Room 110. The second is scheduled for Monday, October 4, at the same time and place. To sign up for virtual testimony on either date, email virtualtestimony@schouse.gov and specify the date that you wish to testify.

In addition, written testimony can be submitted to redistricting@schouse.gov.

Speak up, in whatever way you choose to do it! Redistricting may determine whether you have a meaningful vote when you go into a voting booth in November, and whether you have legislators who consider your interests and respond to your concerns.

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

Top Five Social Media I Hate (Personally)

The above is an email I got today. My reaction was, “LinkedIn deserves to be ‘moentized,’ far as I’m concerned. I may moentize it myself, next time I see it…”

We’ll talk another day about people who send out such emails, and are so careless with their headlines. Today let’s stick to LinkedIn, shall we? I hate it.

Which inspired me to write this quick-and-dirty list of social media I hate. And when I say “quick and dirty,” I mean even quicker and dirtier than the sloppy one about the Top Songs earlier.

I think I spent way less than one minute coming up with the five. Which is fitting, when writing about social media, don’t you think?

Anyway, here’s the list. Note that this is a personal list. I have to deal with some of these professionally, and in truth for many in business something like LinkedIn actually is useful, and I often help people make it more useful to them. But for me, I don’t get much out of it. This is partly because I’m not at a point in life when I’m trying to a) get a job or b) build a career. In other words, this is not business; it’s strictly personal:

  1. LinkedIn — Years ago, a colleague persuaded me to sign up for this, because it was the “professional Facebook,” or something like that. Not long before that, someone had persuaded me to sign up for Twitter, and I had loved that, so why not give this a chance, too, I figured. Also, I was briefly persuaded that in my post-newspaper career, I needed to be on LinkedIn. I no longer am. In fact, I haven’t been for years. Persuaded, I mean. Maybe y’all can argue me into believing again that it serves a purpose to me. Have at it.
  2. Snapchat — OK, I think maybe this feature has changed, but I’m not going to look it up, because I don’t care. I mean the feature that anything you posted there would soon disappear. This was touted as a feature rather than a flaw, which means it was being pushed to people who were stupid enough to post, on the internet, things they did not want other people to see. Here I was, glorying in the fact that anything posted on the Web could stay there forever (unless one’s blog disappeared), meaning that I would never in my life have to type or copy or in any way again publish the “background” we used to have to put in news stories — all you had to do was link to the old material, because it wasn’t going away! That was possibly the one most wonderful thing about the Web. And these people were giving it the finger. So I hate it.
  3. Instagram — It’s about pictures, and yet you can’t right-click and save a picture from it. How stupid and pointless is that? I can grab pictures, if I need them, from anywhere else. But not from here. Which I realize is intentional, and that irritates me no end. I’m responsible with pictures, and careful not to use them if I don’t have permission to do so, within the boundaries of Fair Use. (Ask Paul DeMarco.) So I stay away from it.
  4. Reddit — Listen, I know a lot of intelligent people who really like this medium. But I don’t, because I don’t understand it. I’ve tried using it, and couldn’t find any reason way in which it was a helpful or useful tool, and decided I didn’t understand it. Which meant the people who love it must be smarter than I am. And what do I think of a social medium that shows me other people are smarter than I am? I hate it.
  5. Facebook — It’s a little weird that this is only No. 5 on my list, because I’m sure that I say “I hate Facebook” more than I say I hate all other social media combined. But that’s just because I deal with it that much more. So does everyone, because it is by far the most ubiquitous. And one of many reasons it’s so dominant is that in many ways it is useful. Like for sharing pictures and news with a group of friends and relatives. For instance, one branch of my family has a members-only group from which I’ve gotten lots of great old family pictures for my tree. And Facebook does that better, and more conveniently, than most other instruments. Of course, if you start using FB as your sole Source for News and All Knowledge, it will mess you up. But that’s your fault. So really, I just occasionally dislike it fairly strongly, and other days enjoy what I get out of it….

Of course, there are other social media I love, even as I see their profound flaws and worry about the Rabbit Hole phenomenon. Those include Twitter — use it responsibly — and YouTube.

Then there are in-between social media — such as Pinterest. I go surf through it occasionally, and it intrigues me, but I can’t shake the feeling that it could be so much better

DeMarco: What Trump Could Have Learned From 9/11

The Op-Ed Page

Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

We’ve just marked the 20th anniversary of one of the worst days in American history. We remember the horror and heroism of that day and all those we lost. We also recall the strong sense of unity that Americans showed in the aftermath of the attack: the countless Americans who gave blood, held vigils, and supported the grieving. Over the next several months, our national mood gradually returned to a bickering normality as the divisions that we had put aside resurfaced. But many of us recollect with pride how we as a nation responded to that dark day.

In the winter of 2020, Americans became aware of another assault, not as sudden, but one we quickly realized would dwarf the number of casualties from Sept. 11. COVID was a second attack on the homeland. It could have been framed as such by our President Trump and used to galvanize the nation.

To be fair, George Bush had it easier than Trump. All of us over a certain age can tell you where we were on 9/11. Few of us can remember where we were when we first heard the word “COVID.” But the difference between the men is that Bush responded quickly to solidify the national moment. The image of him with a bullhorn exhorting weary first-responders as they sifted grimly through the rubble at Ground Zero is iconic. “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you!” he told them.

The COVID pandemic, of course, did bring us together in many ways. The images of medical teams clapping for COVID survivors being wheeled out of the hospital, neighbors banging pots and pans to celebrate healthcare workers, and nurses with tears in their eyes after losing COVID patients have created a sense of shared struggle. Too many of us have a mental scrapbook of the family and friends we have lost. Mine includes three of my patients. For more than a year and a half, we have been arranging our lives around the virus, caring for one another, and grieving together.

But the unity we have shown during COVID has been despite Trump, not because of him. He had several opportunities for an “I can hear you” moment, but he missed them all. He initially tried to wave away the pandemic and then downplayed its seriousness. Despite the bubble in which he exists, he managed to contract COVID. And because he spent years denigrating the mainstream media, many of his supporters ignored medical experts’ advice to wear masks and get vaccinated.

When he was hospitalized, the nation held its breath. Fortunately, he recovered quickly and returned to the White House after only three days. He released a video that evening in which he could have changed course and brought us together. Here was a moment to trumpet American exceptionalism. What if he had said “I’ve been too cavalier about the coronavirus and I paid for it. I might have died like so many other of my fellow Americans. If a president can end up in the hospital, so can you. Even if you are young and at low risk, take precautions for the elders in your life. Let’s demonstrate American greatness by ending the pandemic quickly.”

But instead he rambled. He minimized. He talked about what a good leader he was. The line that made the headlines was “One thing that’s for certain: don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it.”

In the subsequent 11 months, approximately 400,000 Americans have died.

Another misstep in Trump’s messaging was his failure to publicize his own vaccination. Many high-profile politicians including Mike Pence, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris widely distributed images of their vaccinations, as did a host of athletes, musicians, and other celebrities.

Donald and Melania Trump were vaccinated sometime in January prior to leaving the White House, and released no photos. This is surprising since Trump’s Operation Warp Speed was a spectacular success. It was the Manhattan Project of public health, something about which Trump and all of America can be proud. Our nation’s ability to simultaneously develop and produce a vaccine saved precious time and countless lives.

But Trump has undercut the success of Operation Warp Speed by his half-hearted endorsement of the vaccine. Since losing the White House, he has continued to send mixed messages. At a rally on August 21 in Cullman, Alabama, he was booed when he suggested that the crowd get vaccinated. He quickly backpedaled. “You’ve got your freedoms, but I happened to take the vaccine.” In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sept. 3, he said he “probably won’t” get a booster shot.

We will never know how much better it could have been. A different approach by Trump, or a different president, could have prevented much suffering. In an interview with Bob Woodward on Feb. 7, 2020, Trump indicated that he knew early on how deadly the virus was but didn’t want to stoke panic. That was a grave miscalculation. Unlike Bush, he underestimated the American people, and for his lack of confidence, we have paid dearly.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net. A version of this item previously appeared in the Florence Morning News.

I think we’re back up and running…

It was a… complicated process. I mean the process of getting from there to here. (Maybe when I’m not so tired I’ll tell you about it, if you care. Which you probably don’t.)

How about giving it a try? See if you can leave a comment. On whatever you’d like. Comment on Rube Goldberg, if you like.

Or we could talk about that Goldberg-inspired game, Mouse Trap. Ever play that? I loved it when I was a kid, and then later when my kids were kids. (I need to break it out for my grandkids now!)

Anyway, once we have all the kinks out — and I think we’re about there — I’ll get back to actual, serious blogging. Or semi-serious. Perhaps seriocomic. Whatever…

The blog is dead; long live the blog!

At least, I think the old blog is dead.

I’ve got a new one up and running, but problems with it remain.

Please bear with me…

If you’d like to try to post a test comment, go ahead. I don’t know what will happen.

I would ask you to email me if you have trouble, but my email isn’t working, either — possibly because it uses the blog domain name. Or something. Anyway, see you later. I hope…

UPDATE: My email’s working again, and the URL is corrected on the blog, but there are still some major problems. If you’ve tried to comment, I assume you’ve failed. I’m working on it…

Hey, y’all, the whole blog is about to disappear!

Uhhhh... say WHAT?!?!

Uhhhh… say WHAT?!?!

That is, unless I do something. I’m not sure what yet…

Today has not been a good day. I had just been talking to my wife about how three things had happened in my world today already that caused great consternation to various people, and every one of them had seemed like someone who thought there wasn’t enough trouble in the world had gone out of his or her way to create the problem. Not that they had meant to do it; it just seemed like it, and it was weird how similar these unrelated problems were in that regard.

I’m sure you’ve had days like that. Anyway, other folks affected and I were staggering along trying to deal with these things and keep going, and then came a fourth in the series.

The first three are none of y’all’s business, but I’m going to share the fourth with you, because all of you have shown some degree of interest in this blog, so it kind of affects you:

Important information about the closure of WebFaction

Dear customer,

We’re getting in touch regarding your ‘bradwarthen’ account with WebFaction.

As previously communicated WebFaction is closing down on September 15th.

Before this time you need to ensure any sites, services, applications, email addresses
and domains (including NS records) are either migrated away from WebFaction to your new
service provider or you have made local archive copies outside of the WebFaction systems.

Please also make sure you have copied all relevant account information from WebFaction
that you may require, this includes any invoices and receipts alongside support contacts.

As of September 15th access to login to your WebFaction account will be fully disabled.

The platform will be archived, purged and fully shutdown soon after.

Regards,

The WebFaction team

Oh, yeah? Well, regards back atcha, buddy.

Webfaction is this outfit that the person who redesigned my blog a decade or so ago picked to be my host, and I’ve been automatically paying something like $9.50 to them every month since then. To the best of my knowledge, this outfit was based in England. Recently — like, the last year or so — it changed names a couple of times. The second time, suddenly my automatic payments stopped working, and they dunned me for the money, and I spent an hour of my life that I’ll never get back navigating through their system, trying to figure out how to do it. I thought I had done it, but then later my wife asked why I had paid something in pounds rather than dollars, and I said I didn’t know, because I didn’t.

And now this.

So now I have to spend time I definitely can’t afford right now dealing with this problem.

I’ll keep you posted, if I can find the time…

Teague: Math and Redistricting: Diagnosing a problem

The Op-Ed Page

An image from the presentation Lynn links to in the last graf.

An image from the presentation Lynn links to in the last paragraph.

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

Brad drew my attention to an article in The Washington Post about mathematics and
redistricting. This brought to mind some important math about South Carolina’s current
legislative districts. The majority of South Carolina’s legislative districts are non-competitive in
the general election. The winning candidate is selected in the primary in June. This makes
November elections meaningless in many cases and encourages polarization, since highly
engaged and often extreme voters are especially likely to participate in primaries. It also seems
odd, since we know that in S.C. statewide races the majority party draws about 55% of the vote,
while they now control a super-majority in the Senate and House. The most common
explanation for this disparity in proportions is partisan gerrymandering.

However, you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know what the problem really is, and guessing
isn’t good enough. Even well-designed districts can look odd, and gerrymandered districts can
look okay. An eyeball test isn’t enough. So, League of Women Voters of South Carolina board
member Matthew Saltzman supervised a Clemson grad student thesis to evaluate whether our
districts meet mathematical tests of partisan gerrymandering. Anna Marie Vagnozzi used a test
originally employed in the 2017 case League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Vagnozzi generated millions of maps and found that the current S.C. maps do not fall at the extremes of the resulting distribution and do not seem to have been pushed to extremes by partisan bias. Instead, they fall very much where the presumably fair post-litigation Pennsylvania maps do.

So, why are South Carolina’s maps so non-competitive? Some of this arises from demography.
South Carolina retains a significant level of racial polarization in voting, so the tendency of black
voting-age populations to be concentrated in some areas, especially urban centers, is a major factor. Votes are wasted when a group of voters are clustered together in such high numbers that their district would have been won by the same party without many of them. White populations are more evenly distributed throughout the state and this provides an automatic electoral advantage, giving them greater voting strength with fewer votes wasted.

The other big factor is incumbent protection. Incumbents of both parties have engineered their
districts to be “safe.” They have amplified the differences caused by demography to create even
more extreme differences by carefully choosing their boundaries to include neighborhoods favorable to them and exclude others. This bipartisan process, repeated through successive redistricting cycles, has led to some excessively predictable districts. (Bipartisanship is not always the Holy Grail of good politics.)

A very recent presentation on redistricting in South Carolina is posted on-line at the League website. It includes maps of our noncompetitive districts as well as a short summary of Vagnozzi’s research and discussion of where we are in the redistricting process.

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

Are you consuming more news these days, or less?

WashPost

For me, it’s definitely less. I can only bear so much.

And maybe the problem is just me. You know, I lived and breathed this stuff for so long, and I subscribe to multiple newspapers so I don’t miss a beat, and maybe I’ve just reached an age where I’m like, “Nobody is paying me to do this anymore, so…”

But I don’t think that’s it. At least not entirely.  I think the news is actually worse. More than that, the way people engage issues has become so counterproductive that immersing oneself in it seems pointless. Once, we had energetic discussions of issues we disagreed about, and found elements to agree upon. Now, we yell at each other. And too often, it’s not even about trying to win an argument. It’s about establishing one’s bona fides as a member of this or that tribe, and expressing how you hate that other tribe more than anyone else does.

So much of it is depressing. Other bits are just stupid. Often, the items I read and hear are both.

This past week, whenever I call up one of the papers I read or turn on my NPR One app, I’m greeted by one of the following:

  • Abortion. Abortion, abortion, abortion. This is particularly true whenever I turn on NPR. It’s usually the first story, and it goes on and on. One story that was on when I entered the kitchen a day or two ago must have used the word, “abortion,” ten times in the first minute. I tried to be positive about it. I tried to say, “Well, at least these folks are being honest and using the actual word, instead of evasive euphemisms such as ‘women’s healthcare’.” But that didn’t cheer me up. I just turned it off before having my breakfast.
  • Masks. And other repetitive stuff about the coronavirus, but mostly unbelievably moronic disputes over wearing masks or being required to wear masks or being forbidden to require people to wear masks, just on and on and on and over and over again. This is particularly a problem when reading South Carolina news. And this one fits securely into the “stupid” column. But of course, it’s so stupid, and persistent, that it’s also deeply depressing.
  • Afghanistan. The utter misery of the situation, the idiotic things that are said about it, the stunning fact that apparently all sorts of people seem surprised that our precipitous abandonment of the enterprise would have any other effect than the one it did, the lifetime of misery that is ahead for people who are there and can’t get out, and the disastrous effect it is all likely to have on U.S. foreign policy for so long into the future, and I just can’t go on…
  • Mind-numbing local horror. This one, of course, is as far into the depressing column as you can get. A couple of nights ago, my wife — who watches TV news shows, even though I don’t, called my attention to the screen, on which was an early story about the two babies dying the van. Horrified, I had the pointless thought, “I hope it wasn’t twins.” Somehow, I thought that would be even worse, although that’s debatable — is one family suffering such a double tragedy necessarily worse than two families having their joy destroyed forever? Of course, it was twins. I’ve done my best not to read or hear another word about it, because it’s just too painful.
  • Bad weather. Or, if you prefer, call it “global warming.” Now I know that those of you who want to call it global warming and those who don’t want to yell at each other, so go ahead, but out of my hearing. And comfort yourselves with the knowledge that if a break occurs between hurricanes, it will be filled with huge fires in California. So you can keep yelling.

So I’ve generally been avoiding news this week. You?

 

Open Thread for Thursday, August 26, 2021

Screenshot 2021-08-25 at 10.17.38 AM

I initially typed, in the headline, “August 25, 2921.” That would have been… revelatory. But then, who would care what we say about it, eight centuries from now?

(And then, since I didn’t get it posted last night, I had to change the day as well.)

  1. Hawaii governor says ‘now is not the time’ for tourists to visit — Every once in a while you see a headline that emphasizes dramatically how different this moment in history is from every other. And that’s what this headline does. Let’s just say Burl and I didn’t hear anything like that back when we were both living on Oahu 50 years ago. Now I’m waiting to hear something similar from Henry McMaster — something that shows he is aware of the difference between now and other times. I expect to be waiting a long, long time…
  2. Charlie Watts was a gentleman in the world’s most dangerous band — I kind of enjoyed this as a a second-day take on our loss of this guy. So I pass it on.
  3. Stop Politicizing the Misery in Afghanistan — Amen, Frank Bruni. It’s a good piece, and I’d take it a bit farther: We need to stop doing this with every fricking thing in the world, not just Afghanistan. Back in the days when our nation’s politics were functional, and often even rational, I was dismissive of people who complained about “politics” intruding upon this or that. I would say, “Politics” is simply our term for how we, in a free society, discuss and deal with issues that affect us all in the public sphere. The term describes something that is not only not bad, but essential. But that has changed in recent years. For a couple of decades, the mindless competition between the two parties got more and more poisonous. And then came Trump, and everything got exponentially worse, and disconnected from reality. It’s one reason I blog less than I used to — there is less opportunity to discuss anything in a way that leads to any sort of practical consensus on anything. This is worth a separate post, if I can get to it.
  4. Inconclusive review of virus origins prompts calls for more probes: ‘We have to get to the bottom of this’ — No, we don’t. This is an example of what I’m on about with the previous item. Again, this is stupid, Trump-era politics. Supposedly, we’re supposed to respond to it in one of two stupid ways: Either we see it as essential to get to the bottom of how “Ji-na” inflicted the “Kung-Flu” on us, or to somehow demonstrate the opposite, conclusively. Which is not only impossible (I mean the “conclusively” part, in such a complex situation), but in no way essential at this moment in history. We don’t “have to get to the bottom of this” right now. What we “have to” do is beat the virus, and save as many lives as possible. And that’s enough. As for how it started, I can’t see how that’s immediately relevant, unless we’re looking to identify someone to prosecute, or seeking a premise for war. I suppose it’s also good, looking ahead, to have tips on how to avoid such pandemics in the future. But it’s nowhere near the most essential aspect right now.
  5. A naked baby helped Nirvana sell millions of records. Now 30, he’s suing the band for ‘child pornography.’ — Of course, it’s not just politics that displays the fact that, as our lawyer friend Bryan often says, this is a stupid time to be alive. You really don’t have to read beyond the headline to get that point, I think.
  6. The viral Milk Crate Challenge has left people injured. Doctors are begging them to stop. — I just included this in case the other posts didn’t convince you about the rampant stupidity thing that is sort of this post’s theme.

I didn’t really mean to embark on such a riff. But actually, it’s an important reason why I don’t post as much as I used to. Everywhere I look, I find it hard to take the foolishness…

DeMarco: If there was a vaccine for cancer that was 99% effective, would you take it?

Covid vaccine TheState 2021 8 21

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The vaccinated among you who read this will rightly wonder why, as a doctor, I don’t make a stronger case for vaccines. First, plenty of frontal assaults on the unvaccinated have already been published. Second, it’s one thing to talk theoretically about vaccine hesitancy and another to have a one-to-one conversation about the vaccine with someone for whom you are providing medical care. Although I am frustrated and confused by the widespread resistance to vaccines, unleashing that frustration on my patients would do no good. If the piece leaves you wanting a more direct, robust argument, I sympathize. But I’m not writing for you. I’m hoping to address readers who can be convinced to join your ranks.

When I hear stories about illness, I often imagine that I am the physician for the sick person being described. So when I read about people who decline the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19, I envision them sitting with me in one of my exam rooms. By now I’ve had hundreds of conversations about the vaccine.

In the winter, many of them were about where patients could get the vaccine most quickly.

Over the past several months, the discussions have evolved; now it’s mostly coaxing the unvaccinated to overcome their hesitation. Hard-won experience has taught me that as I attempt to persuade a reluctant patient to accept a therapy, the harder I push, the less I succeed.

I begin by asking whether my patients have been vaccinated. If they say yes, I exhort them to encourage everyone they know to follow suit. I have several vaccinated ministers who tell me that every week they implore the disinclined among their flocks to get the vaccine.

There are very few patients (myself included) who do everything their doctor recommends. Countless patients of mine have refused my offer of a flu shot because “I got the flu from the flu shot.” Despite my gentle rebuttal that it is impossible to get the flu from the flu shot (although you can get flu-like symptoms from the vaccine), I rarely win the argument. I recognize that my advice is only part of my patients’ decision processes: Personal experiences, advice from other people they trust, and information from media also inform their decisions.

With the COVID-19 vaccine, I have had more success with ambivalent patients, although the majority still decline. Since I have an office practice, I spend much of my time trying to prevent illness rather than saving lives. But during a pandemic, convincing a patient to get vaccinated can be lifesaving, and therefore has been a source of intense focus for me. Most of my patients are over 50 and have chronic diseases that put them at higher risk. Thus far, I’ve lost two patients to COVID-19. Several more of my patients have lost family members. One patient lost a brother, a sister-in-law, and a niece in the space of just a few days.

If patients says they have not been vaccinated, I ask “Do you want to talk about it?” Most do, and express legitimate concerns – it was created and tested quickly; it’s still under emergency authorization or it had been when I wrote this); there have been side effects (blood clots and heart inflammation, to name two); they are not in high-risk groups; they don’t go out much; and they social-distance. A number can’t articulate a reason except that they are afraid of the vaccine.

My response goes like this: I acknowledge their fears. I admit that I can’t guarantee that they will not have a rare side effect from the vaccine. For those who express fear of dying from the vaccine, I acknowledge that the risk of death is currently unknown. All I can say is that it appears to be exceedingly rare.

My argument for the vaccine is based on what we do know. The latest data I can find from the CDC (for the calendar year 2020) shows the COVID-19 death rate in South Carolina was 78 per 100,000, making it the third leading cause of death in our state behind heart disease and cancer. Since the beginning of the pandemic, approximately 10,000 South Carolinians have died. The vaccine is approximately 99% effective in preventing death from COVID-19. If there was a vaccine that had a 99% efficacy in preventing death from heart disease or cancer, I ask, would you take it?

Surprisingly, a few of my patients, when I ask whether they want to talk about being unvaccinated, say “No thanks.” If that is the response I leave it be, but I wonder what they are reading or watching to make them unwilling to hear from the person in whom they have entrusted their medical care.

I suspect their unwillingness is driven by cable news or internet media. One of the worst things that has happened during the pandemic is the unwarranted attachment of political and philosophical meaning to the virus. Recently, I heard a caller to a radio talk show describe people who wear masks as “our enemies.”

COVID-19 is no respecter of political party or religion. It’s a simple virus with no brain. All it knows how to do is reproduce itself in our cells. The longer it has susceptible hosts, the longer it will continue to infect us, and the more efficient it will become. The delta variant is the latest example of this. The longer it takes for us all to be vaccinated, the more likely another, even more infectious and more deadly, variant will arise.

You may not be my patient, but as a doctor I care about people’s health whether I know them or not. Please get vaccinated.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net. This was first published as a column in the Florence Morning News on Aug. 18.

Covid vaccine DHEC 2021 8 21