Wednesday, October 8, 2014

cola cola granola ebola

What was going to finally inspire me to return from my extended blogging hiatus? I'd barely scratched the surface of my impressions of Dominica; its lush beautiful Caribbean landscape, the friendly people, those joyful and frolicsome children, and the disturbing lack of African culture in a Black nation that's been culturally and historically regulated by Christian missionary doctrine. I pondered my experience long and hard, but, for some reason, didn't turn to the blog as an avenue of expression.

Certainly years of bottled-up emotions had been dislodged and rattled by watching the HBO presentation of Larry Kramer's, "The Normal Heart," but apparently that wasn't enough to motivate a blog post either. Likewise, the recent overabundance of violent police overreach, the cold-blooded murder of unarmed Black children in the streets of America by those sworn to serve and protect. I've thought about pouring my emotional response about that onto the internet, but what could I possibly write that wasn't being said more eloquently by people and communities more directly affected than me? Instead, I simply turned away in disgust and tried not to engage in the media minefield of tragedy and bad news, or the embarrassing and shameful debate about the law's just/unjust use of force in such cases.

Gun control, climate change, Truvada... there's certainly no shortage of news items or political stories to get my attention or to fire me up. However, I'm trying to limit my media consumption lately, and am simply attempting to practice more detachment and acceptance these days. Of course, this might not help my radical, community organizing, one-voice-can-make-a-difference protesting inner child, but it does allow more room for serenity and detailed attention to the small stuff of daily living. 

So what brings me here now? 

I've become disturbed by a trend I see on my Facebook feed and on some Internet news sources encouraging hysteria with over-the-top fear-mongering regarding Ebola. Sure, I expect science-free bullshit from FOX "news" and other ignorant right-wing propaganda machines, but not necessarily from individual people on my Facebook feed. Frankly, the people I see stirring up a ballyhoo about Ebola are more likely to be taken down by heart disease, diabetes, or random gun violence than a West African virus. Perhaps they'd be better off exhibiting some of the same urgency in regards to donuts or fried food. 

And am I the only one to notice the distressing parallel between these initial Ebola reactions and what happened in the early days of AIDS? A deadly virus runs unrestrained in communities that are seen as expendable, and the majority of the world looks away. Suddenly, Western white professionals (doctors, people seen as important or as having value) are infected and the world press takes note; right-wing pundits begin to promote fear and irrational, restrictive measures against the virus' most likely potential carriers, who are, after all, people who always seemed suspicious and dangerous anyway. Politicians and certain media outlets, of course, benefit by stoking these fires of fear. Lack of treatment and the documented tragedy and horror of those infected become conflated with fears of transmission, and it's all too familiar and all too infuriating. 

Thomas Eric Duncan, the 42 year old Liberian, and the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died this morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Why, I'm wondering, were the two white, American missionaries, who contracted the almost-always fatal virus, and who have been recovering in an Atlanta hospital since August, given the experimental serum ZMapp and Duncan not? Why, for that matter, has the serum not been given to the almost 4000 other people who have died from the fatal virus in other West African nations?

Just like in the 80s when I saw elders in my community and some of my own friends dying; when I was an emotionally overwhelmed, dumbstruck kid wondering what was happening, I wanted to believe that the negligence of the U.S. government had nothing to do with the orientation of who was most being affected by a killer virus. I wanted to believe that I could trust the healthcare system, trust my country, trust the United States because life mattered. Life was sacred. I grew up fast, and I learned.

Funny how certain factions are calling out Obama for not taking fast enough action to combat this potential epidemic. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that there have been no American deaths due to this virus: none. Zero. Zip! Yet shrill cries of the President's negligence and ineptitude are being sounded from televisions and Waffle Houses from sea to shining sea. Cries from the same folks who've shot down his nomination for Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, because the man dared tell the truth that gun violence in the U.S. is a national health threat. 

I would also like to remind those same strident anti-Obama-Ebola's-gonna-get-cha shrieking chicken littles that president Reagan, their very own hallowed Ronnie the Great, didn't even mention AIDS until there had been more than 20,000 dead Americans. And in the event that you've forgotten just how the Reagan administration handled that health crisis, you can read this 1982 detailed account of Reagan's Press Secretary, Larry Speakes responding to questions about the burgeoning epidemic.  

Now, here we are in 2014, and I'd like to believe that we live in a post-racial world, but I'm not blind and I'm not stupid. I'd like to believe that race has nothing to do with saving lives, or with police shooting unarmed children, or with anti-Obama vitriol, or housing, or employment, or crime, or education, or infant mortality... 
but like I said, I'm not blind and I'm not stupid.

Wake up America! Wake up world! Our responses are being documented. The rest of the world is watching and taking note. African lives matter. Asian lives matter. Black lives matter. Life matters, and life is short. So do the right thing; be just, be kind - the alternative is simply too costly and too terrible. 

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