Politicizing the Pandemic

One of the galling things about this pandemic is the degree of politicization. It’s so bad that the Chronicle of Higher Education, in its ongoing feature that lists colleges and universities that require the vaccination for students or employees, uses the familiar blue/red state designation.

Screenshot of red state blue state from Chronicle of Higher Education's vaccine report.

The tabular view also includes the state’s electoral college vote:

I wrote the author of the article to ask, “why the politicization?” The answer was that there is evidence that the state’s political leaning has affected the state’s vaccine rollout strategy and college policies. Makes sense, but wow.

If you do tend to lean towards conservative beliefs, the Chronicle of Higher Education is a fun mailing list to be on. Every day there are articles in which academics express worry about the degree of conservative influence at colleges. Pretty much the mirror image of what conservatives worry about with regard to academia.

Jane Pauley

When I was about 3 or 4 years old I would watch television for about 15 minutes after breakfast and before my mom would take me to pre-K. We called pre-K “3-year-old kindergarten,” if I recall correctly.

Well, one day I was sitting there watching Jane Pauley on the Today Show on NBC. It was probably around 1978 and I loved her smile and just thought she was the bees knees. So, I started waving at her and I kept waving and waving. And, I kid you not, after what seemed like a lot of waving on my part, she paused speaking for a moment, laughed a little, and waved back at the camera.

Now, I can’t explain this other than to conclude it must just be a delightful coincidence. I have no idea how to account for it, but this flat out happened exactly as I present it above and it is one of my strongest memories from childhood.

The Electoral College

If you don’t like the electoral college it may partly be because you are WEIRD – western, educated, industrialized, rich (by world standards), and democratic. This means that in a red state, your values likely differ from a majority of your fellow state citizens and that your perspective differs from the democracy-phobic founders who put the electoral college in place to prevent straight up democracy that would negate the will of rural states in favor of national rule. In the 2016 election, even though he had fewer votes overall, Trump won a majority of votes in 2,626 counties to Hillary’s 487. From a more localized perspective, it would be strange for someone who has the support of so many counties to not be the winner.

We have given so much power over our lives over to the executive branch bureaucracy that it is hard for us to imagine that local rule is more important or that it is important to ensure that all *kinds* of people have an impact on the national election no matter how many people represent the “kind.” So many Americans are aligned with the values of professor Netflix and the national news media that they are disconnected from their neighbors and care more about the national will and the national historical story than the local- the electoral college seems like a quaint barrier to an unqualified good, democracy. But democracy is a dangerous form of government for minorities (two wolves and a sheep voting for what’s for supper) and fear of it is what drove the way American government was designed, to put checks on majority rule locally, to completely negate the tyranny of high-population centers nationally through the electoral college, and to only allow state legislators to elect senators. That last protection was chipped away by the 17th amendment. The electoral college is one of the few protections left.

Misinterpreted Visuals

When I was a kid, the Chiquita banana logo looked like this:

Chiquita, As it Really Was

The old one, as you can see, has an anthropomorphic banana with a fruit bowl on its head. I grew up in the 1980s, so maybe you’ve never seen that logo if you are much younger than I am.

But I didn’t see the anthropomorphic banana. Here’s what I saw:

Chiquita, as Young Barlow Saw It

Notice, it looked like a Kermit the Frog or Cookie Monster type monster.

For a while, I’ve been perplexed about why I saw it that way as a kid. Because, as an adult, I kept seeing the lady, but not the monster. I was perplexed, I now know, because they changed it at some point to a human lady with a fruit bowl on her head, Carmen Miranda style:

Chiquita, As it is Now

Mystery solved. And for the record, it took a long time to track down a photo of the original logo, adding to my confusion. I’ll admit, I still see the monster in the original one at first glance, especially if I see it at a smaller size as it would have been on a banana held by a younger me.