Insert Foot: Know the difference between Dolly Parton and fascism

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton circa 1976. Courtesy: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

There’s Dolly Parton. Then there’s the rest of us.

Before joining the media pile-up pledging eternal love for one of history’s greatest country singer-songwriters—deserved without saying she’s a better human than us—I’ll start with “the rest of us.” It’s sort of like setting a dark background to secure dramatic contrast so you can paint the brightest picture possible.


Rendering: Adam Pardee/STAFF.

I just took my two-hour Saturday walk, which I fool myself into believing makes up for the rest of the week. The last leg cuts through downtown Lafayette, a well-to do Bay Area enclave where the well-bred gather in public because they’re better-looking than us and how else can they prove it?

I can criticize Lafayette because I like it … and like pretending I’m not a hypocrite. My 18-year-old daughter and I both like old buildings near downtowns, despite not loving old buildings without modern insulation, allowing us to see our breath indoors in December. But I digress.

Today is another day during which more United States’ citizens die of COVID-19 than Al-Qaeda murdered on 9/11—a day that outraged us into fighting two wars for the better part of two decades.

Today is also a day I saw gatherings of happy maskless people enjoying fancy restaurant lunches on either sidewalk, block after block, in my town. I’m not sure what part they missed of “stay the hell home” a new round of restrictions screams to the rest of us, but it’s frustrating.

Yes, my germs and I were out walking. Good point. I also stroll around with a semi-pricey mask, obtained from a website that also sells lasers that start campfires. Which makes no sense, but it’s always worth mentioning because it’s hilarious.

Know that I also cross residential streets to avoid others, not because I believe they’re disgusting filth monsters, but because it’s a nice way to show some respect. Others do it as well, and I appreciate it. It beats abruptly attacking strangers with Lysol, which I had to stop months ago.

I know—I said I was going to write about Dolly Parton. This happens. Stay with me.

Later, I saw something on social media from someone I knew a long time ago, a good-looking successful chap. He seemingly has this COVID thing solved. I quote:

“If you’re old, fat, sick or any of the aforementioned, stay home. Thanks. Now the rest of us, including students, can get on with our lives. That was easy.”

That was also breathtakingly stupid and borderline fascist, which, thankfully for many, is something we’re allowed to express in this country.

The idiot was applauded with exclamation points by other myopic morons from fine families who grew up in the same toney suburb (not Lafayette, but not far off, either).

It’s sad. It’s embarrassing.

So let’s talk about Dolly Parton, about whom I read on Axios right after experiencing the simple-yet-miraculous cure for COVID. If you’ve never been in love with Dolly Parton, it’s just because you haven’t been paying attention.

As you likely know, the 74-year-old music legend gave seven figures to Moderna in its quest to develop a vaccine. Almost single-handedly, Parton reduced dropout rates significantly in her home county in Tennessee by promising to personally hand middle school students $500 if they finished high school.

Parton’s Imagination Library has mailed more than 100 million books to children, for free, from the time of their birth until they start school. Her My People Fund gave $1,000 per month to families who lost their homes to wildfires in 2016 in the Great Smoky Mountains. The evidence of her greatness just goes on and on.

Yes, she’s rich. She’s also one of 12 siblings born in a one-room cabin in Tennessee. She grew up dirt-poor, which is why she understands human suffering. She realizes she has more than she could ever spend, she can’t take it with her, and she honestly cares. That’s empathy; something of which we could all use more, both in giving and taking.

I thought the contrast in approaches was remarkable. It’s almost as simple as just telling someone not to weigh the rest of us down by being old and fat.

How about trying not to be stupid … and being more like Dolly?

Follow music critic Tony Hicks at

(3) Comments

  1. Stella

    Witty, remarkable, giggled and laughed even red out loud to my darling 73 year old mother, she giggle along too, thank you, I feel charmed and a even a little enlightened and of course, lovin' Dolly all the more, cheers!

  2. Joliene

    Just got my second COVID vaccine, and I have the privilege of being named Jolene. I take my responsibility to consequently try and be 1/100th of a good person (which is still astronomically many times better than most folks manage to be) as Dolly, 110% seriously.

  3. Joliene

    Almost forgot the most important part: great, engaging writing and an original approach to Dolly by 'putting the rest of us' first.

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