Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola is coming! We're all gonna die!

That's what you've heard recently if you have ventured into the right-wing echo chamber. It starts with Fox News and resounds through various fear-mongering websites and is finally spouted through the megaphones of people like Ted Cruz and Steve King and Joe Wilson. It becomes a torrent of sound with which the simple unembellished truth cannot compete. The voices of those who try to impart common sense and actual scientific facts about this disease are drowned out.

And that's how we get people in small towns and villages and large cities all over the country totally panicked that the Ebola monster is coming for them. Maybe through ISIS or Hamas fighters infecting themselves then sneaking over our southern border to spread disease throughout the country. (Did you ever notice how in these narratives the enemy is always sneaking over the SOUTHERN border? Now, I wonder why that would be? Obviously, their maps are defective and do not inform them that we also have a much longer NORTHERN border.)

The reaction of the media and the people in this country to two people who have become infected on American soil and a handful of others who have been treated here is really enough to make any sensible person who loves her country despair. Truly, it does not reflect well on the mental toughness of the country. If we were faced by an actual imminent and overpowering threat, our reaction to the Ebola stories leads one to think that we would probably be paralyzed by fear, unable to act.

Certainly if any action against the threat depended upon our elected representatives in Congress, we would be doomed. Their reaction would be to run to the nearest microphone and shout about how it is all Obama's fault, and why doesn't he do something to stop it? Preferably close the borders and reduce taxes - because, you know, that's their solution to everything.

There are certainly things that can be legitimately criticized in regard to the way our experience with this awful disease has played out so far. The hospital in Dallas where the visitor to our country from Liberia died and where two of their nurses were infected blew it. Big time.

When Mr. Duncan showed up in their emergency room with a fever of 103 degrees and informed the nurse who took his information that he had recently come here from Liberia where Ebola has been raging and people have been dying by the hundreds, you would think that might have put them on alert to check for that disease. But no. Their most important question to him from the hospital's point of view was, "Do you have insurance?" When they found out he didn't, they decided that, sick as he was, he didn't need to be admitted. So, they gave him antibiotics and sent him home.

He was sent home, I firmly believe, not because he was black or because he was not a citizen, but simply because he didn't have insurance. Citizens of Texas are turned away in just this way by hospitals all across this state every day for the same reason. And some of them die, too. Anonymously. The state, to its shame, continues to have the highest rate of uninsured (24.81%) of any state in the country and it is estimated that between 1840 and 3035 human beings die here each year because of that.

Both of those numbers could be cut considerably if Texas would expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act and as all sensible states that care about the health and welfare of their citizens have done. That will not happen as long as the state is dominated by men whose only concern is perpetuating themselves in office, rewarding the oil and gas companies that support them, and, of course, keeping women "in their place."

And so, we continue to blunder around, taking our information from people like Gretchen Carlson and Sean Hannity and refusing to listen to the medical experts who can actually explain what is happening and tell us how we need to respond. And our Congress continues to refuse to even confirm a Surgeon General who would be able to lead a public information campaign, because the man nominated by President Obama - who everyone agrees is highly qualified - is opposed by the NRA because he has pointed out that guns are a public health issue in this country, where over 30,000 people die each year from gun violence. Moreover, 10,000 children are killed or injured by gun violence each year in the United States. (Explain to me again how we are so "pro-life.")

One death from Ebola as opposed to 30,000 from guns - and which gets the screaming headlines?

So, the bottom line is, yes, we are all gonna die. But most likely NOT from Ebola!

(UPDATE: Here's another writer's take on this.)

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