I am not afraid of ebola. I just want to say that, right now, as a big “fuck you” to the media that has been doing its damnedest to foment national panic (and evidently failing because the fact that they keep hammering at it, becoming ever more shrill, indicates to me that they feel that the popular hysteria level is not where they’d like it). According to the Huffington Post, 40% of Americans have some fear that they or one of their family members will contract ebola. Which seems like a lot to me; but then again, it probably isn’t a stretch to suspect that 40% of Americans are probably also afraid of asteroid collision, zombie apocalypse, and spiders crawling into their ears at night as they sleep.
You contract ebola like you contract HIV. It’s not the common cold. Casual skin-to-skin contact where there are no open sores isn’t going to do it. I get that; therefore I am not worried. And the good news is that 60% of Americans, a solid majority in sensibility, isn’t either.
There were 4 cases of pneumonic plague–yes, The Plague™!–in Colorado in July. This is the kind that DOES have airborne transmission, but did you hear of it this summer? I didn’t until I looked up USA plague statistics for this post. Granted, it’s curable, and ebola is not (although neither is it necessarily fatal), but still–double the number cases, and it was a non-issue, this disease that killed 75-200 million people in the 14th century. There are thousands of flu-associated deaths every year; the flu killed 30-50 million people in 1918-1919, and yet we debate each year whether or not we’ll get a flu shot. But 2 ebola cases in a country with excellent sanitation and health facilities, and people are losing their shit. Which probably only confirms to them that they’ve got The Ebola.
I am firmly convinced that there is a not inconsiderable segment of the population that, deep in their quivering brainstems, has not evolved a fear response beyond that of the tiny mammals that tried their best not to get stomped on and/or eaten by dinosaurs. They are afraid of everything, all the time, and find living on this planet day-to-day harrowing at best, because at any moment they can be killed multiple ways, by tsunami, or a carjacker, or an illegal alien, or their drinking water, or whatever the local news has been hinting at all day but will not tell you what’s threatening your life until you tune in at 10 o’clock. (If I can wait several hours to find out what might be killing me today, I figure it’s not imminent.)
But I think it is worth remembering the truth that scared people are controllable people (how else do you pass the USA PATRIOT Act?), and before succumbing to the fear-mongering du jour, you have to ask yourself who benefits from your fearfulness? It’s a significant act of revolution to refuse to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by fear, especially fear in the abstract. Reasonable people take reasonable precautions in life, and let that be enough, realizing that there are no guarantees and never were. For those people who would like to lock themselves away from all risk in life, I’ve got news for them: Life is inevitably fatal. People who accept that tend to do better in their lives, and make more of them. If your fear of death makes it impossible for you to actually live, then you’re pretty much DOA at this moment.
For the record, I am also not afraid of the following:
-ISIS invading the United States: They’ll need a navy for that, and it’s a long trip they’ll probably not survive if they set out by boat to get here. If they attack us, it’ll be by a handful of people, a la 9/11.
-Asteroids: If we are headed the way of the dinosaurs, there’s not much we can do about it. This solar system has been evolving since long before we were on the scene, and will continue to, regardless of our adorable little plans.
-Becoming part of the eventual white minority in this country: People’s concern about this baffles me. There are no non-racist, non-privilege-protective reasons to be concerned about remaining the majority race. My concern level about this is non-existent.
-People who don’t speak English
-Microwaved plastic wrap
What I might be afraid of is the behaviors of scared folks, and the people who would exploit that fear to make them do stuff that’s not very nice. Frightened people lash out, usually all out of proportion to the actual problem. They are dangerous, because they suffer from two diseases out there already that I fear more than any other: the loss of reason and the loss of compassion; they are epidemic, and kill more people than ebola ever will.