Happy New Year?

Happy New Year?

Last night, during the Monday Night Football game, Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field after making a tackle.  He remained motionless for several minutes, CPR was administered, and, eventually, he was taken via ambulance to the hospital, where he remains in critical condition.  The Bills later confirmed that the 24-year-old Hamlin had suffered a cardiac arrest.

In the immediate aftermath of the injury, while Hamlin’s condition was still unknown and while his teammates and opponents (the Cincinnati Bengals) knelt in prayer, a handful of political commentators/armchair physicians decided that the time was right for them to offer their diagnoses: the young and seemingly healthy professional athlete had, like a handful of young and seemingly healthy athletes before him, possibly/likely/probably experienced myocarditis caused by an mRNA COVID vaccine.

To be sure, our friendly neighborhood medical experts couched their comments in vague enough terms that they could possibly walk them back.  (“Hey, I was just saying it looked like a vax-death…”)  Nevertheless, they made their point and, unfortunately, did their damage.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed by John Blumenthal, a former magazine editor, in which the author complained that he’s embarrassed by the car that he drives – although not for the reason you might think:

A few years ago, I bought a used Tesla, not because I’m a car nut but because I had been a hypocrite. For years, I had been outspoken about the dangers of carbon emissions. Yet at the same time, I was driving an old gas-powered heap that got about 25 miles per gallon, and that sounded like a rocket launch every time I turned on the ignition.

The car was impractical, but it had sentimental value. My environmental activist friends were not impressed by my assiduous urban composting, LED bulb installations and energy-saving appliances. I needed to do more to diminish my carbon footprint. The icebergs were melting, my friends said, and at least one polar bear was wandering around homeless and hungry because of me.

Many insisted that Teslas were the best for the environment. Pricey but worth it. So I said goodbye to my gas guzzler and made the leap.

Someone once said that Teslas are smartphones on wheels, so for an adult like me who suffers from technical issues, sitting in the driver’s seat for the first time was like trying to master calculus after failing algebra. Where was the ignition? How do you make the thing move? What’s a fob? It took a few weeks to figure out the essentials, but I started to feel some real affection for the car’s sleek design and bells and whistles. But that feeling was short lived.

Because of the recent revelation of Elon Musk’s political views — all of which I abhor — I’m starting to worry about what sort of political statement the car is making. Will people see me as a symbol of right-wing environmentalism, a living oxymoron?

When I bought the car, I had no real opinion on Musk’s somewhat clouded political beliefs. Now that Musk has apparently swung to the far right — banning journalists from Twitter while reinstating neo-Nazis — I’m horrified to be associated with his brand whenever I drive anywhere.

Yikes.  We hope the delicate Mr. Blumenthal is more careful when he buys his next car, assiduously avoiding such brands as Volkswagen, Subaru, Nissan, and especially Ford.  Imagine being caught tooling about Santa Monica in a Mustang!  The shame!

We joke…but we shouldn’t.  Blumenthal takes this seriously, and because he does, we should too.  Likewise, we should take seriously the immediate, visceral impulse to blame every sudden cardiac episode on the COVID vaccines.  Heck, for that matter, we should take seriously the fact that vaccines are politicized in the first place, that the pandemic and its cause were politicized in the first place, that even the name by which we refer to the pandemic-inducing virus was politicized.

We know that this is an awful way to start out the fresh new year, but, unfortunately, this is the way that we, as a society, have decided to start the fresh new year, by continuing to transform every conflict, every disagreement, every issue – even those on which we largely agree – into a political matter.  This is the fate we’ve chosen.

One of the reasons that we (personally) have elected to stake our careers on the effort to “depoliticize” business and especially capital markets is that we believe that, as a society/civilization, we have to start somewhere.  We also think that it’s the right thing to do and the prudent thing to do, but mostly, we know how this story ends if we (collectively) don’t change course soon.

If we continue to blame athletic injuries on vaccines, shootings on gun laws (or lack thereof), unequal outcomes on institutionalized bigotry, and wildfires on cow flatulence and SUVs, then this simply will not end well.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.