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A Major Week 6 min read

A Major Week

COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy is a real problem, so is Trump's influence on Christianity, Prince Philip died this week, The Masters is a golf at its best, and you should watch The Empty Man.

By Cary Littlejohn
A Major Week Post image

It’s been a long week. There’s been a lot happening at work. The Wyoming Legislative session concluded with a spectacular collapse of an education funding bill that was one of the top legislative priorities of  the session due to a massive $300 million shortfall.  It ended in fireworks, with harsh words being said from a senator toward the entire House of Representatives, specifically its leadership. The governor even commented on it and denounced it as unhelpful. The local school district had to make painful budget cuts of more than $4 million and will result in some lost jobs. A sitting U.S. Senator came to visit a local elementary school. The daughter of the mother-daughter pair going through breast cancer at the same time started her first chemo treatment.

All of that to say this: It’s been a week, and I don’t think I’m going to force my usual little introductory essay in this one. The Masters has been going on this week, and it’s just been a wonderful bit of escapism, dreaming of bright colors in Augusta instead of the alternating beautiful days of 65 degrees followed by snow by the evenings. I think I’m just going to event one of my favorite sporting events in the world.

So please take some time to check out some of what I’ve been reading this week. Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.

Ten Worth Your Time

  1. There have been reports in recent days of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy across the country. The New York Times recently reported on the state of affairs in my dear Mississippi, and it’s a troubling picture. Honest-to-goodness challenges in a mostly rural state like Mississippi are disheartening, especially when you think of residents who want the vaccine but are not easily able to access it. A heavily African American population in the state has its own reason to be nervous about vaccines, after a racist history of medical experimentation has sown seeds of distrust that only grew in decades of inadequate health care access that followed. But the most troubling of all is the reality that politics has unseated scientific consensus as the guiding light on whether one gets the vaccine or not. 

    The biggest obstacles to greater vaccine acceptance, he said, are the misinformation that flourishes on social media and the mixed messaging from Republican governors that leave people confused.

    Tate Reeves, Mississippi’s governor, is quoted in the article trying to allay fears by recounting how his vaccination experience went for the public, trying to assure them that it’s not as bad as they fear. How much easier might this have been if he and his ilk weren’t spending so much time allowing misinformation to spread?

  2. Another Times piece focused on a specific subset of Americans when it comes to vaccine hesitancy: white evangelicals. Both articles make reference to the challenges such levels of vaccine hesitancy pose to the concept of herd immunity, which is ironic considering how much both conservatives and evangelicals touted that reaching herd immunity was the fastest way through this whole mess in the worst of times in 2020.

    There are about 41 million white evangelical adults in the U.S. About 45 percent said in late February that they would not get vaccinated against Covid-19, making them among the least likely demographic groups to do so,  according to the Pew Research Center.

  3. It’s been a week since Easter, and even longer since Donald Trump left the White House. But his influence over the evangelical wing of the Republican Party continues on. In this Daily Beast opinion piece, the author wonders about those lasting effects and the damage they’ll do to the faith.

    But what happens when so many of Christ’s messengers have sacrificed their credibility and moral high ground by allying with a controversial political figure such as, say, Donald Trump? What happens when Jesus’ brand ambassadors to a lot of Americans are Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr., not Billy Graham and Pope Francis, much less Jesus himself? 

  4. A debate between a Never Trumper evangelical and an Always Trumper evangelical sounds like such a good idea. Let someone who can’t be slandered as a pagan Commie leftist ask a fellow follower of Christ, “Why are you OK with this man as a figurehead of this religion?” Perhaps it will yield answers, illuminate principled differences, something, anything to help a person get his head around the fundamental disconnect. Sigh. If only. Does this prolonged exchange between the two sides of the debate in The New Republic do anything of the sort? Absolutely not. The beginning tries to ask genuine questions, backed up by facts and figures, while peppered with barbs and zingers to make the writing interesting. But the first response from the Always Trumper sets the stage for an impressive example of whataboutism, a barrage of insults and misdirects and frame-shifting that can’t remotely be considered an honest effort to engage in the purpose of the debate. Except that it perfectly encapsulates the way that most of the these debates have gone in the Trump Era. If anything, the main takeaway from the piece is that an Ivy League education isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as Always Trumper wants you to know he went to Yale. I mean, desperately wants you to know it. Be sufficiently impressed with the depth of his reasoning because it’s been blessed by a stint in New Haven. That’s how it works. I don’t make up the rules.

  5. Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth, died this week. To the extent that I cared at all, my feelings were shaped by the fictional version of him on Netflix’s The Crown. Especially the later seasons, after he’d moved on from his philandering days of his youth and his seeming desire to get out of the royal union. He was a much more interesting character in middle age, having accepted his role of subservience to his wife and , more importantly, what she represented. Both the New York Times and The Washington Post had stories on the reimagining of the Duke of Edinburgh.

  6. I said “to the extent that I cared at all” in reference to Prince Philip’s death, not to be cold or callous to the man’s death, but in recognition that I probably cared much more than I would about the passing of the spouse of some world leaders. It had very little effect on my life, therefore it was mostly out of mind. But I did care, to some extent. It’s a weird mix, and one that I’m sure isn’t unique. Brian Phillips wrote a piece for The Ringer about  the contradictory nature of being a modern human, born and raised with the promise of America’s egalitarianism, caring about an outdated and fundamentally flawed system of the British Monarchy.

    Monarchy, as an idea, is stupid, offensive, and insane. This has been apparent to many people for thousands of years. Yet it is possible—even easy; and maybe also fine?—to know this and still love a monarch. To love a monarch while believing in the fundamental dignity and equality of humanity requires certain mental maneuvers that are weirdly not very difficult for the human brain.

  7. Perhaps a more pressing issue in the United Kingdom would be the rise in violence in Northern Ireland, some of the worst in eight years. Vox explains what’s going on.

  8. Wright Thompson’s writing on golf generally, and The Masters specifically, is always a must-read. The tournament ends today, and while it feels more normal than the November iteration just a few months ago, it feels incomplete. There’s a limited gallery to take in the course’s pristine playing surfaces and colorful landscaping. There’s still a pandemic going on. There’s turmoil in Georgia over recent retrograde voting laws saw a lot of protests from all directions. But as Thompson makes clear, one of the biggest things keeping it from seeming normal is the absence of Tiger Woods, who’s recovering from a car crash that very easily could have killed him.

  9. The green jackets of the Masters are one of the most distinctive trophies in all of sports. This story from Bleacher Report is full of fun tidbits about the jacket itself and tries to uncover some of the mysteries surrounding it. 

  10. A friend and I had listened to a podcast on the same day, and it had convinced us both that a movie we’d never head of was something we definitely needed to watch. The podcast was a discussion of cult films, and it was making an argument that The Empty Man might be the newest cult movie hit. As for the film itself, it’s a two-plus hour romp that starts out so strong. The opening of the film, essentially a 20-minute prologue that doesn’t really fit with the rest of the movie, is the strongest part of the film.  What follows is still a fun puzzle box that absolutely flies by. It is a technically well-made movie, even if the story itself is more than a little confusing. The editing is sharp and interesting, and the sound is truly unsettling. If you want a spooky night in, you could do a lot worse than renting The Empty Man.

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