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Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Romney Lost
The Democrats, at their convention, stood so stridently for the rights of the liberated single woman that they offered the Republicans the opportunity to counter with a defense of the moral virtue of ordinary Americans devoted to God, family, country, and worthwhile work well done. Most Americans, it goes without saying, are repulsed by the unproductive, narcissistic, and amoral very extended adolescence of the girls on Girls. But Romney could hardly counter that the best way to avoid being such a girl is to become a Mormon, although that’s surely what he must think. To say the least, neither Girls nor Mormons (and not just those on Big Love) are appropriate role models for most Americans.
So the Romney campaign, now and again, actually countered the world of Girls by identifying itself with the best or at least the most edifying cable series—Friday Night Lights. FNL actually begin as network show and remained comparatively restrained but not unrealistically prudish in its use of language, sexual situations, and so forth when it was forced to migrate to cable (and back again to the network). The show certainly understands moral virtue—who we are and what we’re supposed to—in a somewhat old-fashioned but not all that religious a way. Taking place in west Texas, it is has a very southern understanding of what’s important about life.
Friday Night Lights centers on the football team’s coach—Eric Taylor—who is an altogether admirable and talented leader of men, meaning leader of warriors. For the men schooled by his leadership, a key formative experience of their lives—in some cases, the only great experience of their lives—will be how they perform as part of the team. And identifying with the team—being PANTHERS--is, of course in many ways the heart of the town, the only thing that genuinely invigorates the often disappointing and dreary lives of most of its citizens. The football team is what passes for the town’s common good. (Eventually the town is divided by the addition of the East Dillon team.)
Romney sometimes psyched up his crowds with a spin on the inspirational words with which Coach Taylor concludes each of his pre-game talks: “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.” Those plain yet poetic words really do say it all. The heart—meaning some mixture of courage and love—is in the center. But the heart is guided by the eyes—or not just the brain. A true warrior sees things as they are, remains undaunted, and acts accordingly. If our eyes as clear or undeceived and our hearts are as full as they can be, we can be confident that we can’t lose, that we’ve done everything we can to deserve to win. There’s nothing pious about the coach’s words. They ain’t no prayer. They’re the code of living of the warrior, the southern stoic, the classical man of moral virtue. The coach, of course, respects religion and sometimes joins his players in prayer, but that’s what any southern gentleman—any southern stoic—would do.
One sign of Romney’s tonedeafness is the way he changed Coach Taylor’s words: “Clear eyes, Full Hearts, America Can’t Lose.” Not only is the terse poetic cadence--the semi-Haiku--of the original screwed up, but Romney never called for Americans to sacrifice for a team as citizens. It is true that Romney’s strongest support was in America’s small-town football belt (he got 75% of the vote in Odessa, Texas—the real-life location of Friday Night Lights stadium), and certainly some voters were moved by what he was saying by appropriating the Coach’s words for his campaign.
Or maybe it’s more true that they voted for Romney because of those words, whether or not they really believed he owned them. Romney seemed ignorant of the genuinely universal significance of what the coach says and does, the ways his example might actually inspire most Americans. He probably never really saw the show.
During the campaign, I thought of writing an article entitled “Coach Eric Taylor’s Seven Habits for Highly Effective Leaders” and somehow getting it to Romney’s people. No doubt it would have worked wonders on the Romney brand. But it’s too late for that now. So I’m going to share some inconvenient facts from the show that Republicans have to take into account in getting the eyes clear and even their hearts properly filled in preparing themselves for future victories.
Friday Night Lights, just as much as or more than Girls, is about how hard it is to find meaningful work and personal love these days in our country. Its focus, of course, is on a quite different, more economically and educationally unfortunate, and arguably more deserving demographic. This demographic— shrinking small-town America, the sinking lower-middle-class—is, we learn from Charles Murray, viewed with a mixture of indifference and condescension by our sophisticated and increasingly libertarian meritocratic elite.
Romney, with his notorious 47% comment, seemed sometimes to share that condescension. He’s okay with the God and the guns that prevail in the sticks, but maybe not so much with the work ethic of the many out there who don’t pay income tax. From the point of view of FNL, both of our parties seems too oligarchic, too oriented around the thought that true meritocracy is based on economic productivity.
The show’s true meritocrat—its true aristocrat—is, of course, Coach Taylor himself. He’s the standard when it comes to meaningful work and personal love. His virtue and talents aren’t dependent on the limitations of a small town. In the last show, he easily “transitions” to coaching an urban Philly team, and he turned down an offer to coach a Division 1 college team. His work is meaningful, in part, because it’s about a kind of success that has little to do with money, and because it develops and reveals the character—disciplined pride in the service of sometimes sacrificial love—that makes the man.
Taylor's success as a coach isn’t, finally, at the expense of his family, and he knows, if not always and with some reluctance, that his more bookish, relationally sensitive, toughly) loving, equally aristocratic (meaning authentically excellent) wife has virtues and talents that complement or complete his. She sees the good in students the warrior overlooks (because they’re not warriors). Because his excellence is universal and his devotion to his wife so deeply personal, he finds himself at home wherever he can coach and share a life with her. He was in no way defined by the place Dillon, and for him it certainly isn’t “Texas forever.”
It’s only odd, at first, to think of football as more meritocratic than business. But there’s no affirmative action in football. It would too obviously be at the expense of victory. Neither is there any real place for cronyism—as in crony capitalism. The same goes for easygoing popularity or a “consumer orientation.” Race and class are seen as as inessential as they really are in knowing who a man is. One sign of Coach Taylor’s human excellence is his players never doubt—at least once they get to know him—that he doesn’t see or judge men as members of races or classes.
Especially after the stunning turnaround he achieved at East Dillon—the deprived high school to which he banished by the town’s oligarchs on the bad and much more black side of town, there’s no doubt that Coach Taylor could have gotten elected to office in Dillon with plenty of black vote. The coach, in the unlikely or highly desperate event that he would have run, would have campaigned against the white Country Clubbers. He never could take them seriously, and he mainly experienced them as a sometimes cruel and arbitrary impediment to his educational mission. Although usually observant Christians, they weren’t much about the business of cultivating the souls of all the deserving young men and women in town.
Much of the show is about very disadvantaged players often heroically struggling to make their dysfunctional families functional. They know far more clearly than the Girls that a loving family and familial responsibility are the bottom line for human significance and human happiness. The team and teammates function to some extent as a family, but they don’t replace the need for a real family—a biological family. And Coach Taylor is usually careful—in his laconic way-- to keep the distance required not to be too much of a father figure for any of his players. Perhaps the two most memorable “narratives” that present themselves across the whole range of the show’s seasons are the artistic overachieving quarterback Matt Saracen knocking himself out to care all alone for his grandmother with Alzheimers and the two Riggins brothers—whose hearts are fuller than their eyes are clear—being a family against all odds. Tim Riggins, the noblest of the warriors and so not really college material, serves what should have been his brother’s time in prison with the imperatives of family in mind.
The point of these “narratives” is that the 47% is hardly in the thrall of government dependency. It’s a narrative that subverts the one pushed those who divide our country into the “makers” and the “takers.” The truth is that neither the government, the church, or the locals are doing much at all to help these families sustain themselves, and it is equally true that these young men are usually grateful for anything they’ve received.
There is a connection, of course, between the quality of personal love and the availability of meaningful work. Those with intellectual gifts leave Dillon (such as the coach and Matt)—and often don’t look back. Those like Tim Riggins who say—with some irony-- “Texas forever” have a lot less choice. Most of the jobs in a small town now depend upon intellectual labor that’s done somewhere else—at, for example, the home office of Walmart. And local businesses—often run by people who aren’t so brainy or sensible (such as Buddy Garrity)—often flail and fail. The only jobs worthy of a man (warrior), we might say, are football coach and police officer. It’s pretty much impossible even to make a living on one’s own as a mechanic.
FNL is all about real men and women living admirably and having to struggle much harder than they should to sustain meaningful work and personal love. They’re not feckless or lazy, and it seems that even the jobs Romney said he would create wouldn’t be for them. If these young men are nonetheless better off than the girls on Girls in some crucial ways, it’s party because they have been slapped pretty hard by the adversity that builds character. And thanks to football, a strong and persistent southern sense of family, and, yes, even religion, they have been, despite at all, better raised.
The right way for the Republican party to right itself is to find a leader whose eyes are clear about the threats to a dignified life shaped by love and work portrayed in both Girls and in Friday Night Lights. That means the Republicans have to become less oligarchic and less libertarian—and more genuinely meritocratic—than they have been in recent years.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
What’s Eminem doing in Missouri? Kanye West in Georgia? And Wiz Khalifa in, of all places, North Dakota?
This is a mysterious map. Obviously about music, or more precisely musicians. But what’s Eminem doing in Missouri? Kanye West in Georgia? And Wiz Khalifa in, of all places, North Dakota? None of these musicians are from those states! Everyone knows that! Is this map that stupid, or just looking for a fight? Let’s pause a moment and consider our attention spans, shrinking faster than polar ice caps.
Can passenger airships make a triumphantly 'green' comeback?
Large airships were too sensitive to wind gusts and too sluggish to win against aeroplanes. But today, they have a chance to make a spectacular return.
Vegans and vegetarians often have nutrient deficiencies and lower BMI, which can increase the risk of fractures.
- The study found that vegans were 43% more likely to suffer fractures than meat eaters.
- Similar results were observed for vegetarians and fish eaters, though to a lesser extent.
- It's possible to be healthy on a vegan diet, though it takes some strategic planning to compensate for the nutrients that a plant-based diet can't easily provide.
Comparison of fracture cases by diet group
Credit: Tong et al.<p>The results showed that vegans were especially vulnerable to hip fractures, suffering 2.3 times more cases than meat-eaters. Vegetarians and pescatarians were also more likely to suffer hip fractures, though to a lesser extent.</p><p>One explanation may be that non-meat eaters consume less calcium and protein. Calcium helps the body build strong bones, particularly before age 30, after which the body begins to lose bone mineral density (though consuming enough calcium through diet or supplement can <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/" target="_blank">help offset losses</a>). Lower bone mineral density means higher risk of fracture.</p><p>Protein seems to help the body absorb calcium, <a href="https://www.bonejoint.net/blog/did-you-know-that-certain-foods-block-calcium-absorption/#:~:text=Historically%2C%20nutritionists%20have%20warned%20that,may%20increase%20intestinal%20calcium%20absorption." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">when consumed in normal levels</a>. The recent study, along with past research, shows that people who don't eat meat tend to have lower levels of both protein and calcium. When the researchers accounted for non-meat eaters who supplemented their diets with calcium and protein, fracture risk decreased, but still remained significant.</p>
Credit: Pixabay<p>Another explanation is body mass index (BMI). Non-meat eaters tend to have a lower BMI, which is associated with higher fracture risk, particularly hip fractures. In the new study, vegans with a low BMI were especially likely to suffer hip fractures. That might be because having more body mass provides a cushioning effect when people fall.</p><p>Still, the study has some limitations. For one, White European women were overrepresented in the sample. The researchers also didn't collect precise data on the type of calcium or protein supplementation, diet quality or causes of fractures.</p><p>Another complicating factor: Producers of vegan products, such as plant-based milk, are increasingly fortifying foods with nutrients like calcium and protein, so modern vegans are potentially at lower risk of deficiency.</p><p>The researchers wrote that their findings "suggest that bone health in vegans requires further research."</p>