Margaret Renkle takes off her soft linen gloves.
“Dolly Parton Tried. But Tennessee Is Squandering a Miracle.
July 19, 2021, 793 comments, By Margaret Renkl, NYT:
” . . . The anticipation of happiness seemed truly ecumenical. Liberals, conservatives, politically indifferent people — everyone I knew was watching for their vaccine priority number to come up. We were signing up for leftover doses that might be available at the end of the day. We were heading out of town to get vaccinated in rural counties where health officials were moving more quickly through the vaccine priority rankings. The empty vaccine lines should have told us something was happening in those counties, something besides the fact that fewer people lived there.
Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, understood what was going on. Mr. Lee is vaccinated, but he refused to be photographed getting the shot — the Covid shot, that is: He did post a photo of himself getting a flu shot last November. “Getting a flu shot is more important than ever this year,” his Twitter post read. “I got mine to help protect my granddaughters as we prepare to celebrate their first birthday.” Not a word about protecting children from the deadliest pandemic in a hundred years.
None of this was surprising. Mr. Lee is not a leader who actually leads so much as a politician who reads the room. From the beginning, white people in rural Tennessee have been so skeptical of this vaccine that last month state officials returned an allotment of three million doses to the federal stockpile. “We’re sort of grinding to a halt,” the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, told News Channel 5 in Nashville. “The people who want it have gotten it.” “
“. . . The planet is growing more crowded, bringing people into closer contact with diverse animal and human populations. At the same time, the health risks associated with climate change are ratcheting upward. But just as protection against communicable diseases becomes increasingly urgent, conservative media outlets are sowing doubt and delusion in the Republican base, and feckless elected officials are following suit. Like Mr. Lee, his licked finger held aloft in the wind of rural white discontent, other Republican leaders in the South take their lifesaving vaccines in private and give lip service to perverse notions of “freedom” in their public statements.” . . .
Campaign funding from the national oligarchs is what sets legislative agendas across the red states, so I can understand why these penny-ante politicians are working so hard to limit tax-funded safety nets. I can even understand why they’re so hell bent on killing public education. It clearly benefits the wealthy for taxes to be low or nonexistent and for poor people to be incurious and compliant. But how can it possibly benefit the oligarchs to risk the lives of the very people who keep electing their toadies to statehouses in the first place? I just don’t get it.” . . .