November 12, 2021

Aaron Rodgers & the No-Brainer case of Vaxsplaining vs. Critical Thought.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but that thinking makes it so.” ~ Hamlet, via Shakespeare.

In World Pandemic News, this week, as you likely know by now, championship-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers was diagnosed with COVID-19.

His wasn’t a breakthrough case, but rather it became clear that despite stating that he’d been “immunized,” he had in fact not been vaccinated.

As a result of his diagnosis, Rodgers wasn’t allowed to play with his team over the weekend, and he and his team were fined.

Rodgers defended his choice to mislead his teammates, fans, and the NFL with a smorgasbord of common misinformation. His reasoning included:

“I’m not some sort of anti-vax flat-earther. I am somebody who’s a critical thinker.”

 Is that like being a “stable genius?”

I’ve always thought that critical thinking was the same as, you know, thinking. Isn’t saying “critical thinking” like donning glasses or tweed and believing you look more intelligent that way?

I learned that, while that may be true, it is also a much ruminated-upon education style, a foundation, a conference, the subject of numerous books, and chapters within other books. To say that we’re all, by nature, critical thinkers would be to undermine academic thought on the subject.

And in my albeit-limited review, nowhere has critical thinking been described as “ignoring public health” or “hoping nobody finds out.”

Critical thinking is defined as the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. You know, gathering knowledge and thinking about that knowledge. Not all thinking is critical thinking: we sometimes think about the taste of our coffee or what is next on our to-do list.

But, all critical thinking is still thinking…with the added benefit of analysis and judgment.

Dr. Richard Paul, author and founder of The Foundation for Critical Thinking states:

“Knowledge exists, properly speaking, only in minds that have comprehended and justified it through thought. And when we say think, we mean think critically. Knowledge is not to be confused with belief nor with symbolic representation of belief.”

While doubt is vital to critical thinking, reference points matter (do we look to fake news or science for answers?). In the case of Rodgers, and, well, all of us, in our journey to better understand COVID-19 and its implications for our behavior; one might be compelled to read multiple scientific journals or research the history and science of pandemics and vaccine efficacy. And that same person might consider the origination of Operation Warp Speed, designed to support the rapid development and distribution of effective COVID-19 vaccines. Or, if we’re lazy, which I am, to read some good journalism and listen to some trustworthy scientists in the field. 

Then, one might have given the five million deaths around our fragile planet some care and, add that to the likelihood that some of my teammates, media, families, and staff at my NFL team potentially fall into high-risk groups. One might conclude that COVID is a major public health issue, and

“I can’t make a selfish decision that could endanger my teammates, their families, media, staff, and my fans.

But no, Rodgers decided instead to “…march to the beat of my own drum…. I’m making the decision that’s best for me and my health, and for me, it was a no-brainer.”

No brainer? No brain involved.

While all this vaxsplaining was going on this weekend, and I was delving into how deep was Aaron Rodgers really, I recalled how my Saturday morning began:

My husband met my intentional gaze over the hunched back of our large dog leaving her daily deposit. He knew immediately to unknot the already-used green plastic bag he was holding, still warm and weighted with our small dog’s contribution. He bent down, flared out the edges of the bag to make room for more while keeping his hand fully protected. With one finessed move, left hand holding the small dog’s leash, right hand partially in the bag, he reached down, picked up, and re-sealed the bag. Together, accomplished, the four of us walked on.

You see, I too am a critical thinker. As such, I have thought about the poop-pick-up experience, analyzed it, and judged that shared moment as one of pure perfection, of truth…

…yet still just a load of sh*t.

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