Ebola has dominated the news for weeks now. Clearly, it's politics that drives the discourse, not the realities of the vicious virus. Few medical professionals have been asked to voice their opinions and concerns. What happened?
Hysterical Handling of Ebola Hurts Immigrants and America at Large
Lacking no-nonsense ideas on the social/economic issues they've been elected to handle, far-right GOP politicians and their sympathizers jumped on a bandwagon linking Ebola to immigration--to cater to their base of Tea-vangelicals and get re-elected in November. This desperate pursuit of self-preservation and attempt to appear "current" at all costs makes politics a dirty word. A genuinely terrifying threat, Ebola became easy shorthand to inspire the rich imagination of certain conservatives looking to refresh their anti-immigrant scare tactics. This is why many immigrant-related Ebola "conspiracies" have been pumped by conservative websites, radio talk shows, and Fox News.
Their shrill fantasies make them look hysterical; this linkage is nonsense. As one counter-example, Ebola has never been reported in Latin America which sends us the most immigrants. The facts dispel the fantasies: there's been only one immigrant Ebola case in the US; other scares proved false. Characteristically, conservative pundits and politicians never retract their hyped misinformation; probably nobody ever taught them to say "Sorry" or "Excuse me." Nonetheless, they want to look like ladies and gentlemen.
It always saddens me to watch the people who use politics exclusively for personal profit. But there's more than sadness to it: if this kind of politicking continues to divert minds and resources from medical-humanitarian action steps to stop Ebola at America's doors, we can be doomed indeed.
America's many celebrities stood up with meaningful responses to Ebola threat--quietly, without scaring us or scapegoating immigrants. There have been huge gifts from American billionaires--$50 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a $25 million gift from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan (the daughter of immigrants), and $11.9 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's foundation. Their beneficiaries included the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. After a slow start, several celebrities--including Whoopi Goldberg, David Beckham, Alicia Keys, Idris Elba, Forest Whitaker, and Naomi Campbell--joined forces, using their star power to teach fans about the dangers of Ebola as well as to encourage people to support campaigns against it. They educate viewers regarding the global health situation, promoting hope and counteracting hysteria and panic. People like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or other celebrities contribute without making noise--unlike the conservatives--because their pursuit of happiness doesn't include the pursuit of office. They deserve more recognition than they get, and certainty much more than the conservatives and affiliated pundits.
But more of this meaningful help is needed, especially in West Africa, the epicenter of Ebola, according to Doctors Without Borders. Let's see how American doctors suggest we handle Ebola.
A prominent professional--Paul Offit, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, author/co-author of 7 books, reminds us that a hundred years ago, "the frightening poliovirus had also been pinned on immigrants, as Ebola is today. Luckily, at that time the media couldn't spread hysteria/panic the way it does today--so virus was finally contained by healthcare workers using proper precautions."
A heroine of my upcoming book on immigrant women leaders, Dr. Audrey Evans, has also made relevant remarks.
Dr. Audrey E. Evans, from England--A Woman Who Cares
With impeccable credentials, Dr. Evans has been on the forefront of the clinical study and treatment of childhood cancer for decades--as a pioneer who developed the Evans Staging System for neuroblastoma. She's globally known as a co-founder of charity-and-volunteer-based Ronald McDonald House, the "home-away-from-home" for the parents of cancer-stricken children undergoing treatment. Today there are over 300 Ronald McDonald Houses in 35 countries. She learned by experience what it takes to cure a dangerous disease. As a doctor on top of her game, her mantra was to rely on well-proven facts, not fantasies. A woman who cares, she volunteers in a church-affiliated educational center for underprivileged kids, continuing in her mission of caring for children.
Audrey and her husband, Giulio D'Angio, M.D., another outstanding cancer researcher, worked hand-in-hand together for over 50 years. It's not easy to mislead professionals of their caliber with Ebola-immigrant nonsense. This is what they had to say: "Effective quarantine technique, used by the Romans millennia ago and updated to the 21st Century, is what's needed to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus to our shores. Fears of an Ebola epidemic here are being exploited for political purposes; for example, demands that our frontiers be tightly sealed. Such draconian proposals, driven by party politics, are to be deplored."
Do you remember the kids' rhyme, "And the doctor said, No more monkeys jumping on a bed"? Even for doctors, monkeys are hard to reason with--and the rest of us should take note!
Politicization instead of Meaningful Ebola Handling Dooms the Nation
Ebola response should be medical and humanitarian, not political. Only meaningful and professional handling of Ebola can ensure that no valuable time is lost. American politicians need to step aside, enlist professional help NOW, and let the experts take over.
Hysterical handling of Ebola, with conservatives blaming immigrants for just about everything that goes wrong in the country, is shamelessly self-serving. If politicizing Ebola prevails in the November elections and beyond, our nation is definitely doomed. Why? When politics replaces professionalism with sensationalism, the virus will spread much more quickly.
The Ebola scare provides a cane to help the conservatives who lack any real ideas limp through elections pretending they care for people's best interests. But Americans are not that naive.