De-Branding America

A traditional Carnival mask allowed freedom for the wearer not to be identified. He could break free of cultural and societal norms, if only for the moment. The Carnival mask hid the eyes and left the mouth free to expound and play and enjoy. Carnival was the opposite of COVID masking. All we have left free is our eyes. We are losing ourselves and our American identity.

Where I live, everyone wears a mask, often two and, sometimes, a face shield on top. Gone is any chance smile, or frown, or hint of recognition. I see people by themselves and children playing or on bikes, all of them covering up religiously. This palpable fear of COVID is irrational. The only people seemingly exempt are the homeless, who rarely wear masks at all.

I remember, when the rush to avoid COVID began a year ago, we were holed up at home, pretty much afraid of our shadows. February 2020 was an alarming time because we didn’t know the shape of this thing. I wrote in my diary about how hard it was to grasp. How elusive facts were. How lethal was it? How easy to get?

We methodically cleaned every surface anyone touched, we were cautioned to sanitize hands until they bled, and we worried about what was unleashed upon us. We hoarded toilet paper because the unknown was so frightening. Our world began to grow smaller and it’s kept on shrinking ever since.

Schools started shutting down last March; by mid-March, businesses were all closed. It wasn’t until April that we officially were asked to wear a mask, but once we were, things shifted. Until then, interaction was possible and, despite our fear of the unknown, life held a certain amount of joy. Once we were covered like a Niqab wearer from Middle Eastern cultures, though, we became hostile to interaction.

This time last year we loved walking the dog. We met up with other isolated people, in their front yards, smiling and craving interaction. Social contact flourished, we met neighbors we’d not talked with in the 26 years we’ve lived in our home. We were all in it together, we had a common cause, we would beat this virus! Two weeks to flatten the curve was our slogan. That grew longer and, now, it’s become a year and we still don’t know what we’re dealing with -- but not because it’s unknowable; rather, because they don’t want us knowing.

In my little town, the kindergarten just opened. There is some plan for younger grades to return to in-person school, but slowly, after ski week “vacation” is over. Never mind that other districts and private schools were open with no problems. Don’t look there! We must be cautious (as long as the teachers are being paid).

Coinciding with the obliteration of our human identities, we’ve started to cleanse all societal branding. Tearing down statues started it. Team names came next. San Francisco is going to rename all the schools. (I’ve heard some suggestions, all of them rather funny.). Formerly identifiable brands are becoming something other. De-personification, the removal of identity, is happening across the culture.

The left’s rush to cleanse all character in the name of political correctness has reached into every corner of life. You may never have bought Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix or syrup, but I’m betting you remember her. Her modernized image smiled from bottle and box. She was a brand for well over a century. She looked happy that you were buying her product. You could see she had a good heart and, like moms and aunts of every culture, she wanted you to eat and be happy.

Now her brand is replaced with a generic name, no doubt created by committee, without any hint of offensive personality. Too bad they’re not rooting out bad ingredients too! Pearl Milling Company now provides the flavored high fructose corn syrup and empty carb pancakes that used to have the allure of a brand name. I’m betting the new brand falls flat as a…never mind. PepsiCo owns it because it bought Quaker Oats a while back, and Jemima was a Quaker brand. Is Quaker next?

In recipe-land, a place I visit frequently, we have Epicurious.com reviewing its 30,000 recipes for offensive ideas. This apparently means stripping context that might provide a historical or cultural reference, in the name of so-called sensitivity.

Perhaps, being in California, I’m over sensitized to these issues. The latest state brouhaha is over Squaw Valley. But if you want to go all the way woke, and erase history better, maybe rename Washington DC. Something like Barb Wire City should do the trick.

IMAGE: Carnival Mask by Max Pixel. CC0 Public Domain.