Mon 2021-Mar-08

I guess I like Dolly Parton?!

Tagged: COVID / PharmaAndBiotech / Politics / SomebodyAskedMe

There is an apparently famous American country music singer named Dolly Parton. I was never a fan because… country music, ugh! But it appears I need to be a fan of the woman herself, because of her philanthropy and her encouragment of vaccination. Hmm… I had no idea.

Country music and me

Dolly Parton (Wikipedia) Frankly, American country music and me… we don’t really mix. I always associated it with low-brow, loud, and crude entertainment for people who are (usually) annoyingly right-wing rural types. Not my demographic, really. I of course have no objection to other people liking it. (Though I am politely puzzled. I mean, some people like professional wrestling.) I just don’t want to suffer through it personally.

So when somebody asked me to see about Dolly Parton, I was skeptical. I thought maybe I was being trolled. I mean: the big hair… the provocative figure… the loudly performative stage persona… this did not look hopeful!

OK, let’s find out about Dolly Parton

I’m happy to report that I was thoroughly wrong. I have a heuristic about some things in life: you should be happy when you find out you’re wrong, because you’re about to learn something. Such is the case here.

She’s an accomplished artist, albeit in a particular art form that isn’t my cup of tea. Still, she practices her art at a high skill level, and that deserves some respect.

Even more the case, she’s employed her wealth in quite a bit of philanthropy, without seeking huge publicity. That deserves considerable respect.

What’s that got to do with COVID-19 vaccines?

Apparently she had some relationship with doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who helped her recover from some injuries. At some point, they hit her up for a donation to vaccine development and clinical trials. She obliged, to the point of $1 million! [1] While I’m hesitant to say rich people can earn respect through donations, this is clearly an important thing to have done.

Even more impressively, she did not try to get vaccinated early, but waited her turn. When it came, she got vaccinated by her friends at Vanderbilt, and did it on video. She did something silly replacing part of the lyric of one of her songs with the word “vaccine”, and then got the shot. More importantly, she encouraged others to do so as well:

I’m old enough to get it. And I’m smart enough to get it. … And I wanted to tell everybody that you should go out there and do it, too. … I’m dead serious about the vaccine… So I just want to say to all of you cowards out there, don’t be such a chicken squat. Get out there and get your shot.

Not quite sure what a “chicken squat” is, but it doesn’t sound like a compliment to those reluctant to get vaccinated. And the thing is, her audience demographic skews heavily rural, white, and Republican. We talk a lot about vaccine hesitancy among Blacks, but statistically the most reluctant group is White Republicans: [2] [3]

"Axios: White Republican vaccine hesitancy"

So she’s applying pressure to do good, be good, and act good in exactly the right place, where vaccine resistance is strongest. And that, dear readers, is how it is done.

Still not a fan of country music. But… I may be a fan of this woman: smart, kind, funny, and generous. That’s something we can all hope to imitate.


Notes & References

1: M Lee, “Dolly Parton announces $1 million donation to Vanderbilt for COVID-19 research”, WJHL / Tri-Cities News & Weather, 2020-Apr-01.

2: C Owens, “Republicans are least likely to want the coronavirus vaccine”, Axios, 2021-Feb-25.

3: A Samuels, “Why Fewer Black Americans Are Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine (*No, It’s Not Hesitancy)”, Five Thirty Eight, 2021-Mar-09.

Written Mon 2021-Mar-08

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