October 8, 2014 at 10:00 am EDT | by Richard J. Rosendall
Diseases and demagogues
Ebola, gay news, Washington Blade

President Barack Obama’s Ebola response has triggered a wave of baseless right-wing attacks. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Obama Derangement Syndrome spiked again last week over Ebola, after a man from Liberia was diagnosed with the viral disease in Dallas.

Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham asked, “Why did Obama let the Ebola virus into the U.S.?” Another radio demagogue, Michael Savage, said Obama “wants to infect the nation with Ebola” as part of a war on white people. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said that the American troops being sent to West Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak are really being sent “to go catch Ebola and die.” Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) managed to connect the Dallas Ebola case with ISIS, the IRS and Benghazi. Fox News host Steve Doocy asked Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Tim Frieden, “Why should we believe you when you’re telling us this stuff?” since Frieden works for Obama.

It is difficult enough to confront resurgent diseases without an explosion of unhinged conspiracy mongering. We are not just facing Ebola. Health officials are trying to determine whether a few dozen polio-like paralysis cases in California and Colorado are associated with the reappearance of the enterovirus D68. There is a revival of measles, mumps, whooping cough and chicken pox thanks to people refusing to be vaccinated.

Instead of attacking President Obama, whom conservatives have reviled for the socialist depravity of passing health care reform devised by the Heritage Foundation, perhaps they should rebuke the ignoramuses in their own base for their anti-vaccine paranoia.

Turning from fools to hypocrites: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has been harshly critical of Obama on Ebola, proposed a 2012 budget that would have ended all U.S. foreign aid. This would have closed the U.S. Agency for International Development, which gave $95.3 million to fight Ebola in the fiscal year just ended. Paul’s budget proposal would also have cut CDC funding by 20 percent from 2008 levels. An anti-government ideologue hardly has any business demanding more from agencies he would have shrunk or eliminated. Then there is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who talks of seceding from the Union yet relies on federal health authorities in his state’s first Ebola case.

Some fault federal officials for urging calm, as if that in itself is a cover up. Excuse me, but just by saying “Ebola” Obama is already ahead of President Reagan, who refused for years even to say the word “AIDS.” The right simply cannot give Obama credit for anything ever. Back to reality: just as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire taught us something about workplace safety, any disease outbreak can expose weak spots in our public response. We need not become a nation of Chicken Littles on that account.

There are legitimate issues surrounding the Dallas hospital’s handling of the Ebola case. But we should not look for enlightenment to Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, Republican congressmen from Texas, or the smug nitwits on “Fox & Friends.”

Are you concerned about deadly threats? In 2011 there were 11,068 firearm deaths and 32,479 motor vehicle deaths. There were an estimated 12,000 deaths from the 2009 flu pandemic. Influenza is much more easily transmitted than Ebola. What do you suppose is different in this case? Can you say Africa? A few months ago the same unscrupulous pols and pundits were telling dire tales of diseased hordes of brown children at our southern border.

How can we tout our national greatness while being driven by fear? We cannot wall ourselves off from every danger. A great nation confronts global challenges and shares its expertise, as America is doing in West Africa (though for thousands it is too late). But why try to help, some on the right appear to be asking, when there is a political opening to be exploited?

The arc of the moral universe does not bend toward justice by itself. It is up to us to defend our country and its values against the armies of ignorance and contempt. If decent and thoughtful citizens hesitate, or withdraw from the public square in disgust, we can be assured that the know-nothings and bigots will fill the gap.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@starpower.net.

Copyright © 2014 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

2 Comments
  • Rather than addressing the extremes of a FUTURE political issue, we damn well better focus more on Ebola itself and its CURRENT exponential breakout in certain West African countries.
     
    For better or ill, it is rightfully THIS sitting president (and his party) who will be held accountable (perhaps for decades) if Ebola, a highly communicable and highly lethal disease, NOW growing exponentially in West Africa, is negligently allowed to spread to and impact day to day living in the United States.
     
    I’m not convinced President Obama’s and his people — our government — are way ahead of this, as they should be. It’s a fact that federal, state and local officials and the responsible health care providers in Texas have already screwed up, massively, the very first case they received.
     
    That’s not wide-eyed, crazy paranoia. That’s simple, clear-eyed observation and common sense.

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