An End Or A Beginning?

How about that blood moon? Pretty impressive in the night sky, daring anyone to look away. Made me ponder the moniker, though. Why isn’t it a rosy moon or a cherry moon? Earlier in the evening, before the eclipse stained her face, Luna was so close, so big and bright, the words that came to mind were ‘bombers moon.’ Why are we schooled to automatically reach for the most dire and dramatic words to describe things we see? Life is hardly so humdrum and mundane that we need frightening teasers to keep us ever on edge and prepared for the worst.

Political Blog, News, Information, Astrological Perspective.

By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

This week a Jehovah’s Witness acquaintance of mine cheerfully greeted everyone she met with an enthusiastic announcement that “The pestilence is here!” I assume, for her (and as implied by frequent illustrations in the JW recruitment magazine, the Watchtower) that triggers happy thoughts about lions lying down with lambs and a utopian society where all is regulated by benevolent theocratic authority. For most of the rest of us, though, just mention of the word pestilence frightens the bejesus out of us and turns us against one another as suspicious germ-carriers.

Some idiot sneezed on a plane this week and followed it with a crack about being from Africa. After landing, authorities in hazmat suits escorted him off the plane, fellow passengers hooting and clapping, even as the black man protested that he was joking. Is idiot too harsh a term? Not realizing the highly-charged emotional climate into which one injects dark humor seems more than just clueless, it’s reckless. A word of advice? Don’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre or ‘bomb’ in a busy airport and, these days, don’t joke about pandemics.

Nothing scares us more than something we can’t see coming. It prompts us to do stupid things, as when pretty but vapid “The View” alumni, Elizabeth Hasslebeck, now a FOX News contributor, suggested that a National Institute of Health* doctor seal the borders. His answer was both logical and nuanced, enumerating the consequences of such an action, which seems to have stumped Elizabeth and, very likely, her viewers as well.

Surely it can only be fear that prompts us to believe the stupid (and glaringly manipulative) things political operatives say, like Rush Limbaugh declaring that Obama has allowed Ebola in as punishment on white people for slavery. Like Phyllis Schlafly commenting that the Prez wants Americans to die from this virus so that the U.S. will be more like Africa. But WTF, folks! A little brainpower would be refreshing about now, don’t you think? A little common sense to go with our panic attack?

It’s entirely human to become self-protective in the face of danger — our bodies flooded with fight-or-flight waves of adrenalin that pitch us into action — but living in a constant state of fear over supposed matters of life and death is simply exhausting, self-defeating and stressful. We can blame the corporatists for chipping away at the educational system that might have given us the cognitive skills to put all the chaos we see around us into proper perspective, and thank the fundamentalists for much of our nihilistic mind-set, setting up a scenario where we desperately need ‘saving,’ not to mention the adoption of a one-size-fits-all moral code in order to deserve  it. And, yes — because if the buck doesn’t stop here, I don’t know where it stops — we can thank ourselves for slowly allowing that kind of regressive thinking to color our world in tones so densely dark and somber that now we have to fight our way back up into the Light.

As successful scaremonger and director of suspense-thrillers, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, told us, “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” And although we might argue that the world has gone full-blown drama queen, shot-gunning out its dysfunctionality to pepper any casual bystander, twist any rational mind, there is a lot of fabrication going on. This distillation of the shocking, saddening, salacious or most severe of our behaviors finds easy access to performance art, filling the pages of a script, stuffing scads of dysfunction along with promises of thrills and spills onto its pages to create the ultimate soap opera, otherwise known as the world, today.

In order to write such a scenario, we have to leave out anything that relaxes us, repairs our jangled nerves, or makes us comfortable, focusing instead on the dire and the dismal. In order to appreciate the drama at hand, we have to begin to live out the consciousness that propels it, and some of us, Hitch said, come by it naturally.  “I’m fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn’t make a good suspense film,” said the iconic director.

Ratcheting up anxiety over every possible danger in these last years, we’ve created a society that expects the worst and takes a kind of perverse satisfaction in being proven right. Makes me think of my JW friend, pleased to be the first to announce gawd-awful news. What the hell kind of happy-dance will she break into when famine shows up? Reminds me — as does so much of what I see, these days — of the Course in Miracles affirmation, “You can be right or you can be happy,” and Richard Bach’s warning, “Argue for your limitations, and they’re yours.”

The kind of hysteria we’re experiencing because of the Ebola epidemic has a good deal to do with what we’re NOT hearing. We’re not hearing how this is a problem that has its roots in poverty, feudal hygiene practice, and medieval burial procedures; hence, the very cause of the problem we must eventually address. We’re not hearing that modern medical practice can certainly contain the worst of this, or that an actual cure for such a frightful scourge won’t be found so long as those who suffer from it have no money to pay. And although we’re hearing — from progressive providers everywhere — that this is not something to run with our hair on fire about, we don’t have a definitive voice to tamp out the sparks that are flying, fast and furiously.

And who might such a one be, you may ask? An American Surgeon General would do, for starters. Someone who can speak for public health, and represent the integrity of the medical institutions charged with containing such a danger. We haven’t had a SG in almost a year, ever since the physician Obama proposed — Dr. Vivek H. Murthy — had the temerity to consider guns a danger to the health of the average citizen (and I doubt that any doctor working an emergency room in this nation could disagree.)

The NRA did not take such a notion kindly, and its minions, comprised of the entirety of the Republican party, jumped on the chance to stonewall Obama’s choice, refusing confirmation and denying the nation a national physician. Clearly, even on his best day Sanjay Gupta doesn’t cut it, but corporatist Dems haven’t raised an appropriate amount of hell to push a confirmation vote for Murthy, nor has the Prez. We are, as usual, without what we need when we need it. We could really use a hero, but with none forthcoming, I’m thinking it’s on you and me.

Some say that the appointment no longer has the weight it once did to represent a politicized nation, and looking at the reason Murthy has been waiting in the wings all this time may prove the point. When the physician of moment is on board with the party in favor and its philosophical idiosyncrasies, rather than the medical needs of the people, then perhaps the position is, indeed, no longer viable. Yet most often it’s the administration, rather than the medical representation it chooses, that wimps out.

Do we all remember C. Everett Coop? While he was Reagan’s man, and a devout anti-choice conservative, he would not buck science in favor of his personal politics. He advised condoms for protection against AIDS without demonizing homosexuality as did the Reagan camp, so he was not advised in the early — and crucial — years of the epidemic. At the end of his tenure, Coop found no evidence that abortion caused lasting psychological harm to women and said so, despite his own personal hesitations. Those on the right were surely not pleased.

And perhaps you remember our first African American Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, a pediatric endocrinologist who advocated the distribution of condoms in schools to protect teens from STDs? Controversial from the get-go, she suggested that teaching masturbation would be a likely tactic for discouraging teens from riskier forms of sexuality, and — bless her — said, in 1994, “We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children.” Clinton fired her that same year. (I’m pleased to report that she continues to be a front-and-center advocate for childhood issues, calling abstinence-only sex education a form of child abuse and voicing support for marijuana legalization, citing nicotine and alcohol as far more dangerous drugs.)

Yes, it would be good to have a wiser head to listen to, not left twitchy and almost manically uninformed — like Egypt that killed hundreds of thousands of pigs when there was a hint of swine flu, or Indochina, that snuffs chickens by the millions at the mere mention of Avian flu — but perhaps it’s too late to stem the tide of stupidity and fright. Ebola already has its first animal sacrifice: Excaliber the dog, belonging to the Spanish nurse who has since died of Ebola. For whatever reason, it is easier to feel the loss of a beloved pet than that of our neighbor, so for God/dess sake, please do. We will not overcome this challenge to intellect and compassion unless we open our heart to it.

When things get grim, the first thing we hear in this nation is a great wail about how End Times are finally here. The newest “Left Behind” movie is out this week, just in time to capitalize on all the spooky, scary and largely irrational conjecture about vanishing believers and vanquished evil, bathed in fire and blood. Good times, eh? Great drama, pure soap opera and lots of shocks and jolts, but — seriously, my dears — nothing new.

I’m reminded that in 1918, with WWI still in progress and the whole of the globe tired and sad, an epidemic of flu gripped approximately one-fifth of the world. Here in the states, over 675,000 citizens sickened and died, more than a quarter of all Americans. Unusually severe, it bypassed the very old and very young. Those between 20 and 40 were consumed so quickly that there was no way to handle all of the bodies, so they were left in their beds, their homes closed and quarantined, and family members displaced until pick-up and decontamination could be arranged. My great-grandmother was among them, leaving a devastated husband and two little boys to an unthinkable future without her.

There was a great cry and howl about End Times during that frightful period, count on it. There was hand-wringing and angst, foretelling the rise of Christian Dominionists who would embrace the concept of Rapture rather than stick around to bury the dead. Yet it was during this same period that science reorganized to address the fearsome challenges of modern medicine, pushing to discover the wonder drugs of the 20th century, define treatment of sepsis, and design and implement the vaccination policies that brought childhood disease to a standstill.

The Ebola threat is just the newest version of … let’s call it … a healing crisis. It has provoked our oldest, deepest cell memories of fear and loss, but it is not the end of anything. Perhaps it’s even the beginning of all that must come next if we are to restore sanity and survive into this new century, the dawning of a new era. As the world changes, so must we, and the first thing we have to let go of is superstitious fear and irrational — if shiveringly entertaining — things that go bump in the night.

* With elections coming up it’s worth mentioning that sequestration removed some 1.5 BILLION dollars from the NIH and 300 million from the CDC, which would have staffed, equipped and enabled a speedy response to this global emergency.  Even now, the funding requested by Obama to address this challenge is being used as a political football to garner mid-term votes.



4 thoughts on “An End Or A Beginning?

  1. Patricia Proctor

    I don’t see racism at all. The idiot denied having been around anyone with Ebola, and then it turned out he’d had sex with the woman who died. How many thousands of people get sent home with antibiotic from the ER every single day? I’m pretty sure the questioning will be a little deeper from here on out – but really! Why lie when your life depends on it??? He had to know!!! Apparently, the only test they need to give in ER is a polygraph test.

  2. Amanda Painter

    Patricia — if you could please let us know where you care getting the information that “and then it turned out he’d had sex with the woman who died,” I’d appreciate it. So far, the only mention of such a thing I have seen is that Eric says there is something in the astrology indicating something like that. But we can’t know 100% what the astrology is describing at this point.

    The one major problem with the sex theory is that my understanding of ebola transmission — told to me by a doctor who has been researching it — is that you must be *actively exhibiting symptoms* to be contagious.

    In other words, a person with ebola must have a fever and will likely be vomiting and having diarrhea to be contagious — this is NOT a disease where someone can be contagious *before* exhibiting symptoms. So that pretty much rules out sex with an infected ebola patient for any reasonable human being.

    Maybe any “secret” sexual contact on Duncan’s behalf might be related to the situation Judith has mentioned here in the comments — that is, that sexual contact happened in that span of time, or maybe with someone in the family of this girl he transported home from the hospital. And maybe he came in close enough contact with this pregnant girl for the virus to be transmitted (as in, saliva or vomit getting on his hand, and he wipes it off and then wipes his eye or nose) — but NOT that he had sex with someone *actively* exhibiting symptoms.

    I’m thinking that whatever Eric saw in the astrology referring to sex for Thomas Duncan might be a more oblique situation/reference, and that we need to keep our minds open and look for *verifiable* news stories and evidence before jumping to conclusions.

    And yes, I do think the ebola pandemic is earmarked for being a racial issue. Culturally, much of the West still puts African nations into this category of “exotic” and “primitive” and “other.” Those are important, insidious biases to watch out for.

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