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Welcome to the weekend. Here's everything that happened this week ...
Well, well, well. The flip-flopping scientists are at it again.
First they told us onions were safe and good to eat. Now they're telling us to toss out our onions because they could make us sick? If they're contaminated with Salmonella, as apparently many are? An "outbreak" has supposedly "spread across 37 U.S. states" sickening some 650 people? And we need to avoid eating onions unless we know where they came from?
Well, friends, I know where mine came from. It's a little place called the grocery store. Ever heard of it?
This is just another example of Big Government trying to control our lives. I see this as a matter of personal choice. So I put on my cleanest vest and took my suitcase to the grocery store and filled it with unlabeled onions, which I now call Freedom Apples.
"What are you going to do with that many onions?" the clerk asked.
I didn't respond. He knew I called them Freedom Apples. The whole store knew. There was no way they couldn't. I said it so many times over the intercom before the "manager" unlawfully removed it from my hands.
"Whatever I want," I said, biting into a Freedom Apple.
As the tears streamed down my face, I paid him in gold.
According to The Wall Street Journal this week, no one wants to have sex because the myriad tragedies of the pandemic have made people feel "schlubby." The story goes on to suggest that it may help if you touch them.
I can't confidently recommend that. I can recommend taking this sort of feeling very seriously, though. Losing interest in or the will to do basic things you used to enjoy is what the mental-health community calls a "red flag." According to Jennifer Payne, M.D., director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins:
And when red flags are popping up in people all over the place, it's usually less an issue of some individual neurochemical imbalance than of something broader afoot. In other words, it's not that everyone suddenly developed clinical depression so much as that people have had the foundations of their existence shaken, and they want to reorient their lives around something meaningful given their new appreciation for the transience of existence, but everything feels pointless and broken.
In other words, people feel schlubby!
So, what about addressing the root causes of said feelings? Well, that's up to manic-pixie-decider-of-fates Joe Manchin and how far he's willing to go with his Build Back Similar plan. Unlike most people, the Senator did very well last year. He made $500,000 on stock in the coal industry alone. That means he's one of the 10 percent of Americans who now own a record 89 percent of stocks and don't see what all the fuss is about. Many of them also profited massively from doing nothing during the pandemic and used their gains to book recreational flights to "space" with a company that had never even been to space while working people were rendered too exhausted or depressed or disillusioned to have sex.
The kids are going to be alright, as they will soon have COVID vaccines. Though, in a surprise twist, it seems that some parents may have reservations about vaccination. I've been looking forward to approval of pediatric vaccines but also dreading the PTA meeting brawls ahead. As Howie notes in The New York Times:
I realize everyone just wants what's best for their kids, and the unknown of any medication should give any parent pause. But the choice is binary: It's between your kid's naive immune system getting infected with the real SARS-CoV-2 virus, or getting injected with a tiny fragment of RNA that teaches their immune system how to defeat the virus before encountering it.
Given the way it spreads, there's just no world where a parent can expect their child to simply never encounter this virus.
Speaking of children, hundreds of cops are actually quitting their jobs because of vaccine mandates, based on "ideological objections" to rules. This has happened in other sectors, but there's something especially jarring about officers of the law suddenly finding it unconscionable that people should be required to do things. This was previously the basis of their profession. It's also the premise of the education system: You do things in order to remain in good standing and graduate. Actually, most jobs and societies require you to do things and not do other things. It sucks.
Still, overall, very few people actually do quit their jobs over vaccination requirements. In Denver, fewer than 1 percent of cops and firefighters resigned, and they're now reportedly at 97 percent compliance. We hear from a vocal minority who want to make a show of their righteousness, but far more people just get it done and move on. That's reassuring.
The use of the phrase has been sticking in my brain lately, as I've mentioned before, but especially in the wake of Colin Powell's death. Many headlines about it happening "despite being fully vaccinated." Which implies some perfect state of being "fully protected." That's not at all the case.
Like most people, my childhood song-memory consists largely of jingles from soap commercials. Whenever I hear "fully vaccinated" I think of a soap called Zest, whose tag line was, "You're not fully clean until you're Zest-fully clean." According to the good people at Zest (a property of Unilever), "other soaps leave a film on your skin." This presumably included the many dozens of other soaps and detergents sold by Unilever. Only Zest can get you truly, fully, deeply, absolutely, Zest-fully clean. Only after researching my book Clean would I better understand the translation: Use our soap or you're dirty, you dirty person. Only Zest can purify you fully, so that you know the cleanliness of the divine in its fullest glory. Only Zest can remove the stain of your sins and redeem you. All hail Zest.
I digress. In reality, lots of people overwash, and there is no real definition of "fully clean." Nor is there a definition of "fully vaccinated." And if you'd like to read more about that, I have a story in The Washington Post this weekend about it. TLDR: The booster debates show us that being "fully vaccinated" is less concrete of an idea than the phrase implies. At least, for individuals chasing some fully optimized state. But it can and should be the aspiration of populations.
Anyway, I won't spoil it. It will be in the Sunday print edition so you can chortle over it at a cafe if you like, then spill pumpkin-spice latte on it, then come home and go back to sleep. Or if you're in New York you can go see my "wonderfully agile" friend Maeve star in a new play. Is there anything she can't do?
Okay, have a good weekend, hopefully safe in the knowledge of your onions' provenance.
P.S. I've been considering changing the name of this letter to "The Week in Health" since that's essentially what it's become. Should I? (I'd love it if one day there were a poll feature here. Still growing.)