The Other Columbus: 60 seconds of window dressing is not an answer to our problems
The Ohio Department of Health recently released a video that asks and answers an apparently rhetorical question: “How do we recover from a global pandemic unlike anything we've seen before? Ask Ohio, we'll show you.” The 60 second spot features OSU basketball legend Clark Kellogg reading from a script that cites some of Ohio’s historical accomplishments, all set to old news clips and OSU game footage.
My first question upon viewing the presentation was, what is it? Is it a commercial? A call to action? A public service announcement? It is somehow all of these things and none of them at once. It sells nothing, educates no one and doesn’t ask viewers to do anything but look to Ohio for answers to our country’s many social ills.
Which then begs the question: Who is this video for?
That the PSA holds Ohio up as an example of how to tackle COVID-19, political unrest and unifying a broken nation proves that its audience isn’t anyone who actually lives here. Ohio has had several globally noted cases of police abuse in recent years. We stay camped in the top 10 for new virus cases nationwide. Our state still went for Donald Trump even after four years of perilous leadership that operated as if segregation were still legal. What answers is Ohio supposed to possess?
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If the (let’s call it a) commercial is meant to cheerlead anyone into action it is the uninitiated, those who do not know that we drove our top health official out of her station and where half of the state still thinks wearing a mask is a cunning plan to divorce them from their liberties. There are more businesses open now than there were in April, despite having 10 times the number of daily COVID cases. If you want to see a movie, have a drink in a bar, purchase a gun and eat a steak in a restaurant— a pretty All-American agenda if you ask me— you can do all of those things right now.
Perhaps the video is to be seen in the same light as Gov. Mike DeWine’s tepid response to our mounting health care crisis, balancing the seesaw of surviving a pandemic on one end and doubt that one even exists on the other. In this light, we can see the strategy of every campaign meant to sell the state to its neighbors: Fake it until you make it. Pretend that things are better than they are. Always look for the silver lining, no matter how large the storm cloud. Infantilize citizens. AND GO BUCKS AT ALL TIMES.
Showing clips of the Wright brothers, Neil Armstrong and, of course, OSU athletes, the theme of the video is that Ohio is a place where people who do notable things can be found. It is an odd sell in the midst of a pandemic. A whopping two seconds of this video show a nurse or doctor, and neither of them are tending to a stacked emergency room, which is what things actually look like in Ohio right now. There are more seconds of OSU sports shown than of health professionals. Is Ohio slam dunking the virus away?
America isn’t hurting for answers; it is hurting for leadership. Ohio isn’t exhibiting any of that right now. I’d advise the country to do some window shopping here but spend your money elsewhere.