The behavior of Americans is contributing to the spread of ebola in war-torn Africa. We’ve got to change.
Inbound airport screening is useless. Reactionary raising of funds “for ebola victims” in schools or churches is abject nonsense.
One of the world’s best virologists said today, “I know that President Obama has raised the whole issue about screening at the airport. It has not worked in the past. It has not worked with influenza, it’s not worked with SARS, MERS. You know, all you do is cause confusion and upset.”
These kinds of knee-jerk responses foil real efforts that could stop the epidemic in parts of West Africa.
First, it distracts real and necessary aid of the sort Obama has sent with our military, so that later an idiotic Congressman can vote against raising the deficit to build hospitals in Liberia because their home-town middle school is already doing something.
Second, it gives all those fear loving Americans a quick fix. Quick fixes don’t work. Even gorilla glue doesn’t live up to its reputation.
Quick fix mentality is why Americans are in such a horrible state, today, socially and morally. It’s why there’s jihadism in the Middle East, and so much poverty and disease in America compared to other industrialized nations.
We are the head of the snake that bites our own tail: Our own regular lives become disrupted by irrational fears.
This is squarely, and clearly, because of individual American reactionism. It all begins at home, not with your Congressperson, so don’t blame her. She’s just reflecting your own irrational fears:
The first warnings about AIDS, the nuclear air raid drills I undertook as a young teenager in remote northwest Arkansas, the police cars guarding the East Dubuque bridge after 9/11, the thousands of people certain that at midnight, December 31, 1999, either their whole world or at least their hard drive would stop.
It doesn’t even have to remind. Americans at this very instant are reacting against themselves: A majority want to bomb Syria and Iraq but that same majority doesn’t believe it will work.
There’s no doubt that irrational ebola fear can be found anywhere in the world where the media has sensationalized it, and that’s where it all begins. Americans, though, believe in their choice of media more than anywhere else in the world, despite their lavish protestations to the contrary.
We Americans tout ourselves for being so generous, but so much of “our giving” is senseless and ultimately useless. Is that really generosity?
It’s likely that now that every American knows that ebola is less of a threat to herself and his community than this year’s flu epidemic ready to begin. It’s likely right now that almost all Americans intellectually accept that their chances of getting ebola are nil.
That it is not very contagious. That it is pretty easily contained in a community with even a half efficient public health system.
Much more importantly, I think most Americans know that if we isolate those three countries in western Africa by stopping air service, for example, that we will not give ourselves more protection yet we will manifestly increase the misery there.
Yet: click here.
Or here, of course:
It’s hard for me to not panic against the panic, but I’m trying. Take a deep breath as I’m doing. Let’s remove the exclamation points and get on with our lives. Send your kid to school. Let the airplanes fly to Liberia. Take that vacation as planned.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about how you can do good. Let’s just start today by stopping doing bad.
I agree that the US is in the grip of irrational fears and reactionism. Public discourse is theater. If it were only that okay, but the theater is followed by costly irrational commitments.
Bravo!!!! Well said.
Right on Jim.
Keep up the pressure!
You said what I was thinking….thank you (as an American) for saying it !
Agree. Thank you, Jim.
I totally agree with your sentiment. It’s not just Ebola. The irrational fear and simple mindedness is the same regarding ISIL, Ukraine, etc.
Here is a letter I sent to the Tribune:
Re your editorial, August 24:
The President and Congress should debate and explain the threat posed by the Islamic State. But, the debate should not begin by assuming the conclusion: that ISIL is a threat to the United States.
Before Congress “swiftly authorizes, increased military action,” please explain how this group without any aircraft or ships can threaten anyone other than their immediate neighbors (like Assad, who we also oppose). And they threaten them by taking weapons we gave to our “friends.” If they have adherents who have US passports with which they can enter our country, how will military action stop them. How will military action do anything other than create more enemies? And how much is it worth to the US? Will we engage in this adventure on a credit card like the last one? The media recently fell for the stories of Armageddon from the past administration and we entered disastrous wars. Can we this time hope the Tribune and others question the assumptions and not contribute to the hysteria?
“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” – Pogo
Amen! We have this same kind of fear mongering right here in Galena where the schools are going overboard training the kids to attack possible school shooters.
Companies are spending more than ever to get our attention and it is no different for the business of journalism. The cranked up, out of proportion hype works and then we react disproportionately, just as news coverage is disproportionate.
Well said, Jim. We are fearful people whose sustenance is a never- ending supply of fear.
I do agree that the media tends to sensationalize stories for ratings leading to hysteria, however, I also think your article is also misleading.
I agree that knee-jerk responses delay examining the causes and facts accurately, but the lack of a quick response has caused the deaths of millions of people as recently as the 20th century with pandemics like the Spanish Flu and the Asian flu and diseases like Polio.
The Spanish Flu affected 500 million people; 27% of the world’s population and killed 3-5% of those infected. Did this epidemic turn into a pandemic due to the lack of medical knowledge – no. At the end of WWI, in order to maintain wartime morale, government censors minimized early reports of the seriousness of the illness and mortality rates throughout the world. The largest factor of its spread was the worldwide increase of travel.
Should we isolate the infective countries? Yes, we should. Is it ignorant to protect humanity?
In 1918, news of the Spanish flu was spread mostly through word-of-mouth from railway officials down the line. In Canada of 1918, a medical officer received a telegram informing him a train filled with war vets had become infected with what appeared to be the Spanish Flu. The officer wasted no time in meeting the train and quarantining 15 soldiers showing symptoms and allowing the other soldiers to continue their journey. That decision proved to be deadly. Those remaining soldiers brought the disease to Calgary and Edmonton, causing the deaths of hundreds more.
In an eerie repeat of history, the “misinformation being shared by the government and the CDC is also extremely misleading. Screening at airports is useless and a waste of time. Not securing the southern border (an equally shameful decision with the diseases known to be brought into the U.S.) and sending 4000 marines to the infective areas will do what? Restricting travel is necessary, not just by the U.S. but by the world. Medical aid to these countries is another story and should not be stopped.
Should we be cautious? Yes, we should. Paranoid… hiding in your bunker… isolating oneself from the rest of the world – no. At least not for now.
No Ebola here but I suspect that with our excellent public health system any outbreak would be quickly contained. And with an infectious virus like Ebola (that is, not very) that’s the key to the whole thing. After all influenza is orders of magnitude more contagious and we don’t have huge epidemics. And that’s not due entirely to vaccination since not a large percentage of the population gets vaccinated on a yearly basis. And then of course there is the problem as to whether the vaccine makers bet on the right strains!
I’m entirely agreeing with you. The solution is to control the disease at its source. Read a statistic a few days ago: less than 200 people enter the US from an “Ebola” country each day. I would have thought that as any or even more people with malaria enter the US each day but we never hear about it.