Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance on May 13 of this year that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks in most indoor settings, while unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks, a magical thing has happened in this country, and that is the huge increase in vaccination rates everywhere, as evidenced by how few people are still wearing masks indoors in any setting. Before May 13, the fully vaccinated percentage of the population stood at about 35 percent; after May 13, it appears that percentage leapt to upwards of 70 percent. Incredible! Herd immunity achieved overnight!
A sign regarding mask policy at a Walmart in Chantilly, Virginia, on May 20, 2021, shortly after the CDC issued new guidelines. Note how the wording does not require unvaccinated customers to wear a mask as a condition of entering the store. Photo by Famartin.
It’s heartening to look around at fellow citizens in shops, grocery stores, and restaurants and assess by an eyeball estimate that even more than 70 percent of adults appear to be fully vaccinated. In some places around the country, the number of fully vaccinated adults could even be as high as 90 percent, based on visual estimates. What’s holding the vaccination numbers back for the total population is the lack of a vaccine suitable for children under 12. In some shops, young children are almost the only ones wearing masks.
The CDC has statistics putting the nationwide percentage of fully vaccinated people at about 50 percent as of late July. Fake news! Anyone can waltz into their local big box store, where signs at the entrance clearly advise unvaccinated customers to don masks before entering, and see with their own eyes that the CDC’s numbers don’t tell the whole story. The CDC must be gathering data from people outside of stores, or even from ones who never set foot indoors at a public venue. Since the CDC is obviously part of the Deep State, their numbers are not to be trusted by honest Americans.
It’s the honor system in operation, see, and since Americans are honorable people, they would never falsely represent their vaccination status in order to satisfy their own selfish whims and perverse ideas, not when behaving that way could endanger their fellow Americans, among them the honestly unvaccinated, such as young children and those who are immunocompromised. No, when it comes to weighing the evidence of one’s eyes and belief in the honorability of fellow Americans against the statistical mumbo jumbo disseminated by a cabal of Deep State scientists at the CDC, the scales definitely tilt toward siding with all the American patriots cruising maskless down the aisles of Walmart and Costco.
Supermarket social distancing signs in Ireland in August 2020. Follow the blue sign floor tiles! Photo by Ear-phone.
According to the CDC, as of July 25, 2021 the percentage of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 was 49.1 percent. That’s an increase of only about 14 percent since May 13, 2021. Herd immunity won’t be reached until the percentage of fully vaccinated is over 70 percent. Considering how vaccination rates have been slowing, it’s unlikely Americans will achieve herd immunity before the onset of cold weather forces more activities back indoors for the winter.
Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming. In Kansas, the state Dorothy called home, the COVID-19 vaccination rate is 44.9 percent, 4.2 percentage points below the national average. In a land of alternative facts somewhere over the rainbow, the vaccination rate is much higher – away above the chimney tops, in fact.
Absent widespread vaccine mandates, it could be that a vaccination rate of about 65 percent will be a limit past which we cannot move due to the political and cultural divisions in the country, as honorable American snowflakes dig in their heels like recalcitrant children and refuse to become socialist tools by doing the right thing for others, even passing up bribes from state and local governments. They may kill themselves for the puerile satisfaction of owning the libs, and so be it, but in the meantime they will serve as incubators for new, possibly more dangerous coronavirus variants, and they will spread their affliction to everyone else, even within the magical realm past shop doors.
“Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tua da gloriam.”
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory.” — Psalm 115, from the King James Version of the Bible.
As Thanksgiving approaches and family gatherings appear to be limited for the holiday on account of COVID-19, it’s easy to lose sight of the greater problems weighing down many unfortunate people this year, such as hunger and homelessness. People of sufficient means can afford to fret over not seeing friends and relatives in person, or over temporary shortages of goods and services inconveniencing them, but they at least have a warm, secure place to live, and enough food and other necessities to go around. Should they become sick, they have access to quality medical attention.
The cover of a pamphlet from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reminding Americans of the need in a country with plentiful food to be mindful of not eating too much.
What about the people without all those good things to be thankful for this year? The economic disruption of COVID-19 has pushed millions of people into desperate straits this year, most of them workers in the service sector who could least afford to miss a paycheck. While professionals could work from home using a computer and an internet connection, that option has not been available to most service workers, for whom the choice has been to work and thereby expose themselves to the coronavirus or stay home as long as they had a home to stay in and money to buy food. Some have been able to sustain themselves on financial assistance, others have not.
As bad as prolonged isolation can be, poverty is worse. As inconvenient as it can be to have money and not always have goods available in stores to buy, or restaurants to visit for some time out of the house, it is worse to work in those stores and restaurants for low wages and be exposed eight hours or more a day to coronavirus, and yet have to endure the abuse of entitled, spoiled, petulant customers, or to not have a job at all. For all that, there are still ways to say “thanks” this holiday season, and to help someone else along the way.
Food banks are experiencing greater demand now than at any time in recent memory. The same goes for soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other charities helping the recently displaced as well as the chronically underemployed. There are safe ways to volunteer, but if that doesn’t seem possible, then help out by making a donation. Hospital staffs around the country are overworked, and they could use the assistance even of people without medical training. Farmers are reporting reduced demand for turkeys over 20 pounds because fewer large groups will be gathering for holiday dinners in their homes. The hungry who can’t afford to buy those larger turkeys could surely benefit by having them bought for them. Help carry the burden of this pandemic by picking up the fallen, and say grace in thanks to whatever faith sees you through another day.
Patrick Doyle composed this version of the traditional Catholic hymn “Non Nobis, Domine” for the 1989 film Henry V, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. Mr. Doyle appears as the soldier singing at the beginning of the scene, which depicts the aftermath of the 1415 Battle of Agincourt in the Hundred Years’ War.
The detrimental effect on the dairy industry of lockdowns state governments have instituted in reaction to the coronavirus could have long term consequences, tipping the balance abruptly toward greater production of plant derived milks, butters, and cheeses. Traditional dairy has been losing market share to plant derived dairy for decades, with losses getting larger especially in the past decade. Now loss of revenue due to coronavirus lockdowns of schools and restaurants could mean bankruptcy for many dairy farms and a long term shift toward lower production as traditional dairy transforms into a lesser role.
There will no doubt always be demand for traditional dairy products, but if supermarket shelf space is an indicator of what consumers want, then plant derived milks have taken the largest chunk of shelf space away from traditional dairy, while butters, and particularly cheeses have been less competitive. The consumption of animal milk products has always been a peculiarly human practice. The desire for milk and associated products is so great that people will go to great lengths to produce and consume ersatz milk derived from nuts and grains. It is beyond the scope of this article to investigate why that is; it is enough merely to point out that consumption of milk fulfills for many people a deep-seated need, a need met for all other mammals in infancy, and then forgotten.
Different brands of oat milk available in a German organic supermarket in September 2015. Photo by Fretdf.
“Milk. n.s. [meelc, Saxon; melck, Dutch.] 1. The liquor with which animals feed their young from the breast. 2. Emulsion made by contusion of seeds.”
— from A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson.
It follows then that animal milk production for human consumption is an artificial activity, consequently involving some pain and suffering by the animals, both mothers and their artificially weaned young. We have done these things for so long, for centuries going back ten thousand years or more to the beginning of agriculture, that we think the activities are natural. They are not. The closest parallel in the rest of the animal kingdom can be seen with how ants tend to aphids in order to secure for themselves the aphids’ honeydew secretions. Those secretions are not intended for consumption by the aphids’ young, however, but are merely a byproduct of their ingestion of plant juices. The relationship is closer – but not entirely the same – as our relationship to honey bees than it is to our relationship with dairy animals. The relationship we have with dairy animals is mere exploitation, closer to that of vampire bats with their prey, or to bloodsucking insects with their victims, or even to a virus with its host.
Instagram influencers are multiplying like flies, and their presence is merely annoying to most reasonable people who are not unduly affected by their activities, that is until the influencers started sitting in Joshua trees and trampling fields of California poppies. The young woman who posed for pictures while sitting in a Joshua tree often exhibits outlandish behavior to slake her thirst for attention and to cynically exploit her fans for money, and both outcomes have until now been a sideshow within the larger culture. Plants and animals don’t share any interest in Instagram idiocy, though, and when they are drawn into it and abused, then it’s up to people with common sense and a sense of decency to defend them.
A Joshua tree silhouetted by a summer sunset in the California high desert. Photo by Jessie Eastland. ThisYucca brevifolia looks quite noble in its own right, and would not be improved by the addition of some attention-seeking nitwit hanging out in its branches.
There appears to be no National Park Service ruleexplicitly forbidding visitors to Joshua Tree National Park from climbing on and sitting in the fragile trees. Maybe the Park Service assumed people had more sense and more decency than to do those things. Most people do; but rules, like locks, are not made for most people – they are made for the few without any sense or decency. The Park Service does have a rule requiring a permit for commercial photography, which Instagram photos of celebrities surely are, and if the Joshua tree sitter did bother to get a permit, the Park Service must have asked her plans, or should have. If Park Service employees granted her permission anyway, then the rules need to change, even if Joshua trees are not yet on the Endangered Species List.
The fields of wildflowers currently blooming in California are largely under the jurisdiction of California’s park system. California State Parks have rules protecting the wildflowers from being trampled by the thousands of visitors that come to see them. The main rule Instagram influencers appear to violate states that visitors should stay on the trails and not traipse off into the fields. One person going off a trail may not cause much damage, but thousands and tens of thousands doing it causes damage that can take years for nature to repair, if it ever does. Like the National Park Service, California State Parks also have a rule requiring a permit for commercial photography. The Instagram influencers and their photography crews are probably violating rules both by straying off the trails and by not getting a permit, because again, if they sought a permit they might have to be honest about their plans.
As the recent government shutdown demonstrated, the nation’s parks are staffed lightly – a Thin Gray and Green Line, if you will – and it doesn’t take much reduction in staffing to incur a breakdown in order and civility caused by a destructive minority of visitors who sneer at the idea of conservation and whose idea of enjoying nature involves only callous, swaggering domination over it. Park employees, whether at National or State Parks, have always had their hands full keeping that crowd under control so that they don’t destroy the environment along with the peaceful enjoyment of it by other visitors. Now they also have to cope with Instagram influencers, swooping in like flies, and following after them the swarms they have influenced, all bent on twisting nature to their own perverse, fairy tale vision of it. These are the self-absorbed people accidentally plunging to their deaths off cliffs in the Grand Canyon and in Yosemite while foolishly trying to take unsafe selfies.
Presumably no poppies were harmed in overlaying Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky”, from their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon, on this scene from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The original editions of both survive intact and can be enjoyed by themselves. It is possible to create without trampling and destroying in a pathetic attempt to call attention to oneself.
If people want to behave foolishly and others want to watch them do it, that’s their own business. Most of it is relatively harmless, even when influencers have taken to extorting hotel and restaurant owners for free lodging and food and drinks. They’re not doing anything journalists haven’t always done. It’s just that since it is easier to declare oneself an Instagram or YouTube influencer than it is to gain employment with an organization churning out reputable journalism, there are now hordes of them, descending like ravenous flies on resorts worldwide. Even the shallow influencer whose parents bought her way into a university she was supremely unqualified to enter, even she is harmless in most ways other than as any kind of role model, because in addition to her other selfish behavior, she has displayed a dearth of moral character by throwing her parents under the bus soon after the scandal made news. It is when these influencers trespass on nature that reasonable people have to object and draw a line, warning them they have gone too far and disturbed what really matters in the world. As for that fickle portion of the public, the easily influenced, they might consider how altering the title of this post applies to them, as in “Look at this, Idiot!”
The federal government sends out mixed signals about dietary health by promoting the establishment of fast food restaurants in poor city neighborhoods on the one hand, and then on the other hand advocating healthier eating by limiting consumption of fast food. It boosts the use of cheese in fast food items, and then suggests consumers curtail their dairy consumption. It works hand in glove with ranchers in the beef industry by leasing grazing rights to federal lands at minimal cost, and then warns the public off eating too much red meat. That’s a lot of taxpayers’ money wasted on bureaucrats working at cross purposes with each other.
The Dane County Farmers’ Market in September 2007 on the grounds of the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. It is the largest producers-only farmers’ market in the nation. Photo by Kznf.
People are so inured to confusing messages about what’s healthy to eat and what isn’t that most of them pay little mind to medical experts and bureaucrats, or rather they take their advice with a grain of salt, and that would be in the form of sea salt or Himalayan salt for foodie elites, and regular old table salt for everybody else. Like everything else in America over the past thirty or forty years, food culture has split into two halves, something akin to the haves and have nots. There are the foodie elites of the professional and upper classes, and then there is everybody else, from the lower middle class which is frantically scrabbling to keep from sliding down into the working class, which is itself struggling to stay one step ahead of poverty.
Americans can make a quick, cheap meal of sorts from a one or two dollar box of macaroni and cheese mix. For some, meals like that are their only option. It’s disgraceful that people of limited means should have to bear the disdain of people with nearly limitless means because their diet is based on calorie value per dollar over nutritional value. The poor and the economically struggling don’t have the luxury of being absolutely sure of their next meal. As to how the well off view their meals, anyone who has ever worked as a table busser or as one of the waitstaff in a high end restaurant can attest to the tremendous amount of food wasted by the patrons, even though they may be spending for one meal what a working class person can expect to earn in a day. The upper classes have that luxury because they have the security of knowing there’s more where that came from.
Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca as The Hickenloopers, Charlie and Doris, visit a health food restaurant in a skit fromYour Show of Shows, with appearances by Howard Morris as another customer and Carl Reiner as a waiter.
Unlikely as it seems, the fast food restaurants scorned by foodie elites as obesity enablers for the great unwashed may hold the key to turning things around for people who can’t afford to buy groceries at Whole Foods, aka Whole Paycheck. Taking their cue to keep promotions of healthier options low key so as not to arouse the suspicions of poorer customers whose purchases are based on calorie value per dollar, yet feeling increased pressure from public health groups to offer healthier foods, fast food restaurants increasingly change ingredients and practices in a balancing act to satisfy both constituencies. No one will ever claim that a cheeseburger and fries are healthier than a homemade meal of vegetables from a farmers’ market, but given the realities of human psychology and the country’s current economic conditions, demonizing those who choose to eat the former more often than the latter is ultimately unhelpful in lessening the obesity epidemic, while reinforcing the widening economic inequality that is driving it.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz is the latest public figure to claim people who disagree with him and object to policies he supports are afflicting him with public shaming. In his case, the people afflicting him are his wealthy neighbors at the summer retreat of Martha’s Vineyard, who have apparently been giving him the cold shoulder. That may well be, but it’s ludicrous that in an asinine bid for sympathy, Mr. Dershowitz has whined about his ostracism and compared it to the McCarthyism tactics of the 1950s. Mr. Dershowitz’s reaction proves that you can’t shame the shameless.
While Alan Dershowitz is not employed by the current administration, he has not been shy about making the rounds of the talking heads television shows, where he has spoken as an advocate for the administration in many respects. He is, therefore, fair game, and he should stop his whining before he makes an even bigger fool of himself. The same goes for actual administration officials who have had their lives disrupted lately when they have been out in public, though not on official business. Being called names by protesters while dining in a restaurant comes with the territory for a public official, and hand-wringing about the loss of civility only serves to protect those whose policies and actions are causing harm far worse than name calling.
In this 1919 illustration by Milo Winter for an anthology of Æsop’s Fables, the wind attempts to strip a traveler of his cloak in “The North Wind and the Sun” by blowing gales at him, with the result that the traveler draws his cloak tighter. The sun wins the challenge of getting the traveler to take off his cloak by warming him in sunlight.
Respect breeds respect, and civility engenders civility. At least that is how it’s supposed to work. When the top official in a presidential administration is a low-grade schoolyard bully, however, who cynically uses hateful language to whip up the enthusiasm of his most goonish supporters, encouraging them to act out violently against people they resent, and the bureaucrats and politicians in his administration implement without complaint despicable policies, then, as they should be, all are lumped together by the rest of society as people who have no respect for others unlike them, and therefore are not deserving of respect, and as people who behave without civility toward others who disagree with them, and are therefore not entitled to civility in return.
There is no valid comparison to be made between a bakery owner who refuses to bake a cake for a homosexual couple getting married and a restaurant owner who refuses service to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The key to the difference is in Ms. Sanders’s job title, capitalized no less. Refusing service to someone because of who they are, whether homosexual or black-skinned or female, is wrong, both legally and morally. Refusing service to someone because of their actions is a different matter and is protected legally, though there is debate about the ethics of it. It’s something every business owner can and should decide on their own, without then being condemned by public officials who quite unethically use their bully pulpit to whip up public hatred for that business owner.
In this early scene in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind, directed by Stanley Kramer, and starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March as opposing lawyers, Gene Kelly plays a reporter who mentions his job is to “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”. The saying has been appropriated in all seriousness and without a hint of irony by journalists for over a hundred years, never mind that the originator of the saying, Finley Peter Dunne, meant it as a satirical deflation of journalists’ avowed high-minded pretensions, and that the corporate media often have served as uncritical mouthpieces of the rich and powerful, leaving it up to citizen protesters to truly “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”.
Protesters who confront officials in public places are generally anonymous, but Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, had no safe retreat when she confronted Ms. Sanders and asked her to leave, and for that she deserves respect as well as a civil acknowledgement of her principles, rather than an outpouring of hatred and death threats. Calls for civility are pointless under the circumstances, though an opponent of the current president, his policies and his behavior, would be wise not to descend to fighting with a pig in the mud, for the simple reason that the pig wins since he is happily in his element, while you end up muddy and discouraged. When possible, keep to the higher ground.
Some of the processed food for sale at grocery stores and restaurants purports to be like home cooking, and other processed foods make a name for themselves by advertising their intention to go beyond what’s available from home cooking. The Doritos Locos Taco from the fast food restaurant Taco Bell, and the Double Down Chicken Sandwich from Kentucky Fried Chicken are advertised as so different and so unlike what home cooks could easily whip up that to get the full experience at a decent price consumers might as well visit the restaurants and order those items because it’s easier than trying to duplicate them at home.
This 1917 photograph depicts Mina Van Winkle, head of the Lecture Bureau of the U.S. Food Administration during World War I, explaining Victory gardening and food processing to support the war effort. Photo from the Library of Congress.
When processed food first became widely available to American consumers in the period between the two world wars, the aim of the purveyors was to assure consumers the products were as good as home made and perfectly safe. There was no specific attempt to manufacture exotic foodstuffs, though from the start convenience was a selling point. The trend continued after World War II, with refinements learned by manufacturers in producing canned foods like Spam on a massive scale for service members overseas. Food processors marketed TV dinners in the 1950s with assurances of quality and convenience, not with any idea that they were different or better than what a home cook could produce given the time and inclination.
World War II poster from the Office for Emergency Management of the Office of War Information.
It was in the post World War II years that fast food operations, some of them, like Kentucky Fried Chicken, with beginnings in the years before the war, really began taking off in popularity, expanding across the landscape along with the newly built interstate highway system. Their offerings were traditional, and like the processed convenience foods for sale at supermarkets they mainly stressed the convenience of their food and that it was as good as homemade. It was for pricier restaurants to claim their food was better and fancier than homemade. Consumers visiting fast food establishments mainly wanted assurance the food was cheap, fast, safe, and of a quality on a par with homemade.
World War II poster from the Office for Emergency Management of the Office of War Information.
In the past 20 years all that has begun to change as consumers have drifted away from cooking the majority of their meals from scratch themselves to either resorting to convenience foods from the supermarket or eating out. The emphasis has changed in the marketing of supermarket convenience foods and fast food restaurant offerings from nearly apologetic claims that they are as good as homemade to stating that they are beyond that and are now in varying degrees gourmet, healthy, exotic, and even comparable with fancy restaurant food at half the price. Their claims are not all hyperbole, and for the most part a well-made TV dinner of today tastes better and is a better value than a comparable TV dinner of 30 or 40 years ago. Food scientists and technologists have indeed done wonders.
A typical TV dinner of the post World War II era. Photo provided by Smile Lee.
The question remains, however, whether consumers are any better off or healthier for having largely abandoned home cooking in the first place. Yes, the taste and quality and variety of convenience foods from the supermarket and fast foods from inexpensive restaurants have never been better, but at the same time people have never been fatter, with all the health problems that come with being not just overweight, but obese. It seems there’s a hidden price to all the convenience and deliciousness whipped up by food scientists in the labs of giant food companies like Nestlé and Yum! Brands (owners of Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, among others). That’s something worth pondering the next time you’re shopping the frozen food aisle of the supermarket or cruising a commercial strip for a fast food outlet for your next meal – whether the exotic, fancy dishes they’re offering at low prices are really as good a value as they want them to appear to be, with their mile long list of indecipherable ingredients and unrealistically slight portion amounts, which make their salt, sugar, and fat percentages look more reasonable than they really are. No one but the rich can get away with eating fancy, rich foods every day, because they have the money for all the doctors and health spas it takes to balance out an indulgent lifestyle. They’re not eating the cheap, ersatz stuff anyway.
Saturday, November 11, is Veterans Day, a day that an older generation remembered as Armistice Day from its origins in World War I. Not really a celebratory holiday like Thanksgiving Day later in the month, and a little more than a historical marker like Columbus Day several weeks before, in October, Veterans Day has become a day for honoring the service of veterans, living and dead, in war and peace, in the front lines and in the rear echelon. For all that, the day means different things to different people.
Veterans for Peace contingent in anti-war March on the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., 21 October 1967. Photo by White House photographer Frank Wolfe.
In the last twenty-five years or so, and especially after 9/11 and the endless wars it spawned, Veterans Day seems to have become a way for civilians who never served to either express gratitude honestly to veterans or to salve their own guilt by obsequiously expressing gratitude. None of that is necessary. More and more stores and restaurants offer discounts on merchandise or free meals to veterans or active duty military on Veterans Day, as well as other times of the year. Those are nice, well-meaning gestures, and are no doubt helpful to down on their luck veterans, but overall they are yet another sign of the American citizenry kowtowing to military culture, an inclination dangerous to liberty.
Fifty years ago at about this time of year, in Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of demonstrators marched on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War. It was the beginning of the flower power non-violent movement against the war and the glorification of military power and its culture. Among the marchers were Veterans for Peace and members of the Lincoln Brigade who volunteered to fight against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Forty years later, in Seattle in October 2007, there was another march against another war, again including a contingent from Veterans for Peace. The scale of that march was far smaller than the one in Washington, D.C., in 1967. Ten years further on, in November 2017, there is hardly anything to be heard in the land but “Thank you for your service.”
Veterans for Peace contingent in anti-war march, Seattle, Washington, 27 October 2007. Photo by Joe Mabel.
The wars haven’t stopped; peace hasn’t broken out. Meanwhile, citizens choose to get upset over some football players and others kneeling during the National Anthem in protest against police brutality toward minorities, though what a lot of those citizens are really upset about is their misconstruing of the protests as being against the Anthem, the Flag, and members of the Armed Services, something that was strongly suggested to them by Supreme Leader. NFL owners and administrators are upset that customers are turning against their product on account of the protests, the top administrator of the league saying that fans don’t pay to see protests.
True, but can the NFL have it both ways? The NFL has for years wrapped itself in the Flag, put the Anthem front and center as part of each game’s introductory ceremony, and had a nearly symbiotic relationship with the Armed Services, including military color guards and fighter jet fly overs as part of its pageantry. All the patriotic trappings were good for marketing to its clientele, some of whom enjoy a good jolt of jingoism with their spectator sports. The NFL owners and administrators neglected to clamp down on players’ personal, political displays in contract negotiations with the players’ union, however, and now they are caught in a bind between some of their more principled players and the sunshine patriot fans angry that plantation politics is intruding on their football fun.
It’s a certainty the military/NFL partnership will be on full display at the games this Veterans Day weekend. Some of those same fans who howl with hatred at the players kneeling to express concern about the abuse of human rights in this country will quite likely take time to say “Thank you for your service” to someone in uniform or to a veteran. It probably won’t occur to the fans to examine any of that. It’s why the football stadiums are often filled to capacity, now more than ever, but not many folks are interested in marching in the streets against war, injustice, and the brutality of establishment enforcers. Hardly anyone understands placing flowers in rifle barrels anymore, but most everyone can say “Thank you for your service”, and without needing to understand it very well at all.
Ladybird beetle perched on Forget-Me-Nots. Photo by Yvette Thiesen.
The craft beer industry has expanded since the 1980s from a handful of breweries to thousands, increasing consumer choices along the way and boosting local economies over the profits of huge corporations. In the 1970s, the brewery industry in the United States was diminishing to fewer choices for consumers as small, local breweries went out of business or were bought out by larger competitors, and their distinctive brands of beer disappeared.
The effect could be seen in national television advertising of the time, where only a few big brands could afford to compete. Even the beers on sale that did not appear to be sub-brands of the major players were not much different than them in flavor and makeup, only in price, usually being cheaper knock offs. To get a taste of something different and a little better in the late 1970s, American beer drinkers turned to European imports. The beer market had become like the wine market, where American brands were viewed as okay for everyday drinking, while the European product was considered superior in quality.
That started to change in the early 1980s with the startup of some local craft breweries that eventually gained national prominence, notably Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada in northern California. American beer drinkers once again had a choice among domestic varieties, even as the biggest national brands became more than that, expanding into multinational corporations. The return of local and regional breweries, and in a few cases breweries that reached a national market, added consumer options because the new breweries were not interested in competing with the multinational outfits in producing the same old watery lagers.
A figure decorated in representations of hops at a festival in Germany in 2006. Photo by Andreas Praefcke.
A funny thing happened, however, on the way to a new land of craft breweries specially tended by artisans who labored as much for their own enjoyment as that of their appreciative customers. For one thing, the big multinationals took note of the new phenomenon, also known as competition, and decided that unlike how they had bought up small competitors in the decades before the 1980s and subsumed the competitors’ operations within their own, they would now ride the craft brewery wave by retaining all the packaging, logos, and lingo of the smaller outfits when buying them out. Consumers would be none the wiser as they made their selection in the store, and when they got home and cracked open one of their favorite “craft” beers they still might not notice the difference, despite changes in brewing and bottling facility practices, particularly if the consumer’s taste buds were swayed more by psychological factors than by honest opinion.
The other thing that has skewed the craft beer movement is the tendency for snobs and macho men to take over and ruin the fun for some of us. The same culture that has made spicy food its domain seems to appeal to a minority of brewers and beer drinkers who always want to competitively up the ante on the hoppy bitterness of craft beers. That wouldn’t be that bad if it weren’t for the unfortunate side effect that these people tend to be snobs with undue influence on some consumers. “It’s so bitterly hoppy that it’s undrinkable,” the brow-beaten craft beer supporter complains. “Drink it and enjoy it, or you’re a philistine,” exclaims the snobby beer person, a category that didn’t exist until twenty years ago.
Beer Wars, a 2009 documentary by Anat Baron that examines how the big breweries have co-opted the market share of many smaller breweries.
Such people have been around for ages, trying to belittle others who are susceptible to their nonsense, all so that they can then feel more exalted in their self-proclaimed expertise. They’re usually men, and they have haunted wine circles in this country long before beer became a drink of anyone other than the common people. You can find them in restaurants which specialize in spicy foods, such as Thai, Indian, or Mexican, always advocating for heat regardless of flavor, because that’s the manly thing, you sissy. In a somewhat different way, they are also familiars of the online gaming community, and of computers in general, and long before that, when know-it-all males were still accustomed to getting their knuckles dirty with grease, the world of automobiles and mechanical contrivances.
Never mind them. The great thing about the craft beer movement of the last thirty years is that there are brewers now producing beers for every taste. If you still can’t find what you like, then the staple lagers of the big multinationals will always be available. Drink those if that’s your thing. If you do like the beers of the craft breweries, though, and you like the idea of supporting smaller businesses, please do read the fine print around the back of that cardboard six-pack package to make sure your dollars are going where you intend, and not into the coffers of the big watery lager breweries, pretending to be what they’re not.