If ever there was an emotional topic that needed a pragmatic approach … it would be the COVID-19 vaccine.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It's very frustrating and heartbreaking that so much of the recent COVID-19 surge of serious cases and deaths could've been avoided, but regardless of your beliefs, it's certainly an emotional topic which is something that comes naturally for Red, while Black (in her typical fashion) approaches it pragmatically.
Red was initially apprehensive about the "newness" of the vaccine, but ever since the pandemic had started has done everything in her power to protect her family, admitting at times that she's gone overboard but she prefers to take more precautions than not enough. So, when she and her daughter were eligible for the vaccine, she decided the fear of getting a serious case of COVID-19 was reason enough, not caring which vaccine they received. And although it's been months since they've been fully vaccinated, and Red's recently started to go out to eat and to the movies, she still wears a mask and socially distances as much as possible.
But now, the Delta variant's running rampant, is highly contagious, and causes severe cases requiring hospitalization. Of course, Red was alarmed by all the "news" that the vaccinated can get and transmit COVID-19 until Black explained that you needed to look at the actual numbers and small percentages. But that doesn't change the fact the variant's spreading at a similar rate to chickenpox. And it doesn't stop Red from feeling sad, angry, and frustrated, especially when she hears the stories from moms and nurses about seriously ill people who had chosen not to get vaccinated,
It's heartbreaking. I look around and see people who didn't need to get sick and so many vulnerable people, especially children, that are at risk. I don't understand why anyone would take that chance when a vaccine's available. And why put others at risk? I agree with the argument that everyone has the right to their own body, but at a certain point, doesn't public health override personal freedom?!
Black, on the other hand, although she shares Red's concerns, has a very different (and pragmatic) way of looking at the current challenge of changing people's minds, knowing that unlike herself, most people don't respond to statistics and studies (except when the "news" takes those numbers and "spins" them to make headlines), or being told what to do. Instead, they need something more emotional – or personal – to engage them. Or to get them to at least listen, which is where the power of stories comes into play.
Unfortunately, as the Delta variant continues to spread, hospitals are again becoming overloaded with cases, and deaths are growing week-by-week. Maybe that will help convince some of the people who previously refused the vaccine, no matter the strategy used, to reconsider,
I will not get into the issues of sensationalized headlines and mixed (and unclear) messages coming from the CDC. Or, the politics of it all. Or, that many businesses and organizations are starting to require vaccination, while others fight whether that is even legal. Forget trying to tell people what to do and guilt trips (being raised by a Jewish mother, I am immune to guilt trips). Acknowledge that many people are reluctant for a variety of reasons, and that respecting their right to a different opinion is different from agreeing with it.
Instead, if we focus on the real issue at hand … preventing serious illness and death … the answer is very easy. We all should get f-ing [four-letter expletive deleted] vaccinated.
We're starting to see that not everyone that has refused a vaccine remains steadfast. We're sure there are studies and statistics about why they changed their mind, but the point is they changed their mind and are getting the vaccine. Which means that there's the potential for millions of others who can be persuaded.
No matter what holiday you may celebrate, Red can’t help but quote a line from one of her favorite Christmas songs, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. From now on, your troubles will be out of sight.”
And Black can’t help but point out that the song wasn’t introduced in a Christmas movie but in the movie "Meet Me In St. Louis."
Wishing you a merry everything and a happy always!
This is one of Red’s favorite Banter Bites in large part because of Black’s “corny” puns, but also because fresh corn is a summer staple – whether cooked on the grill or in the microwave, whether eaten on its own or as a primary ingredient in refreshing summer salads …
This may be one of the corniest things you’ll ever read.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It’s just a vegetable, so how can it possibly elicit such a strong reaction from Red, while, for Black, it’s more a source of amusement and even, it turns out, admiration?
Corn. That’s what immediately came to mind when Red started receiving emails from Dewberry Farm about its annual fall festival. It was a family tradition when the girls were growing up, and between the fun but often frustrating corn maze (she and the girls were lost for a few hours one year), the corn cannons, and all the other activities, it was a marathon day that always seemed to be the unofficial start to fall (even if the day meant 90+ degree temperatures since, after all, it’s Texas). Of course, enjoying all the incredibly delicious food, like freshly popped kettle corn, from outdoor stands made it even more special.
And Black’s reaction to all these corn-related memories? Red was expecting sarcasm, but not this,
I knew I would get an ear-ful from you but am glad you did not send any corny jokes. Given how much you love fall, and everything associated with it, I expected many kernels of truth in your sentimental memories. However, I have one question, I am sure it was ear-ie when you got lost in the maze, but did you feel like you were being stalked?
The funny (not punny) thing is that Black’s comments, although somewhat out of character, reminded Red of our dad and his endearing sense of humor. So, when Black added that as long as Red had brought up the subject of corn, she might be interested in the Corn Kid, Red thought she was referring to a goat that ate corn. Until she discovered the best corn story – about how a little boy who simply loved corn became a viral sensation. (Red also loved his appearance in a Chipotle video because she, too, loves their corn.)
And Red could relate to the Corn Kid’s love of corn,
I never realized how much I love corn, not only for its taste but for all the memories associated with it. Whether turning a can of cream corn into soup (just add a little milk) when I was recently sick and realizing that I hadn’t had it since our mom made it for me as a kid. I know food triggers many memories; for me, it’s corn (including candy corn), although my love of popcorn is about more than memories!
Think you can avoid artificial intelligence? Think again …
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Red already fights technology at every turn, preferring to keep her ostrich head in the sand, plus, she finds Artificial Intelligence (AI) scary; whereas Black knows ignoring reality merely postpones the inevitable, so she’s started playing with AI to understand it better …
Red knows that she has the ability to learn how to use technology, so tries not to default into freakout mode. However, when it comes to AI, it’s an entirely different story, and she lets her theater degree and love of movies take over,
AI reminds me of the 1968 movie “2001 A Space Odyssey,” the computer named HAL, and the potential of machines to harm vs. help us. And while some, ok many, people might accuse me of being overly dramatic … am I?
Usually, Black would tell Red that her theater degree’s showing and to calm down. But when it comes to generative AI (it “studies” existing data and generates “new” content), many of the leading experts, including the “Godfather of AI” and one of the creators of ChatGPT (a leading AI system where users can pose questions) are the most vocal critics. They’re warning us of the potential dangers of the technology and the need to slow things down and have guardrails in place.
Unfortunately, Black knew that taking emotion out of the equation and focusing on the pragmatic would not ease Red’s mind, but that didn’t stop Black from explaining,
AI can be used to help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems but wherever there is opportunity for good, there can also be bad actors. I have played with it and seen firsthand how quick and easy it is for AI to generate intentional misinformation (including visual images) that seem plausible and real.
So, do we need to be worried? Well, as AI becomes more integrated into our lives, it will be critical for all of us to understand what it can and cannot do … meaning critical thinking will be more important than ever.
P.S. This content was NOT generated by AI. It was created by human authors (although Red claims Black’s a Vulcan) without the use of artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms.