I’m getting over the flu this weekend. If I had a nickel for every person that said, “Maybe you have Ebola”, I’d be wealthy. They say it as a joke, of course, but underneath any good joke there is always a truth, and the truth is, people are nervous.
And they should be.
I’m not a fear-monger in real life (although I get paid to be one for my job). I’m not a conspiracy nut. But I am a realist. And realistically, I look at the facts so far, and I get nervous, too.
1. As of this morning, one case has been confirmed in Dallas. We’ve heard of potential cases in Georgia, Utah, Hawaii, Colorado, Virginia, Washington D.C., Kentucky, and Toronto (which is part of North America, so I’m counting it).
There’s a chance some of these cases may very well be Ebola. There’s also a chance that none of these cases will be Ebola, and instead, will be panicked, frightened people with the flu who are convinced they have Ebola. The longer this goes on, the more frightened, panicked people you have. Enough frightened, panicked people with the flu who think they have Ebola can totally overwhelm our healthcare system, which is still fucked by the way, no matter what either political party tells you.
Overwhelm the hospitals and doctors with frightened, panicked people, and things will get very bad in time for Christmas.
2. The other thing that makes me nervous is the comedy of errors in the response so far, not only from Dallas authorities, but from the CDC, DHS, and other federal organizations. We’ve all seen the news footage of the crew pressure washing the victim’s highly-infected vomit off the sidewalk while not wearing any protective gear whatsoever. We know that he was misdiagnosed by the hospital, and sent back home to possibly infect more. We know that one of the people he possibly infected took a trip to Walmart to buy a blanket. We know that the ambulance he was transported in and the EMS professionals who were with him weren’t taken out of circulation until almost 48 hours later. We know that last night, the mayor of Dallas asked everybody to go to block parties and fish fries and football games (oddly echoing the mayor of Amity in JAWS, with his insistence that everyone go to the beach, despite the fact that a shark had killed somebody).
I can excuse the local Texas authorities. Local municipalities are seldom prepared for things on this potential scale of magnitude. They relied on information and orders from the CDC, DHS, and other federal agencies—all of whom have once again dropped the ball.
What really concerns me is the number of people who watch the CDC response, and nod their heads enthusiastically, and repeat, “We can handle this. We are not Liberia. Our government is equipped to deal with this.” Because that’s simply not true. They bungled their response on 9/11. They bungled their response to Hurricane Katrina. They bungled their response to the financial meltdown and the bank bailout. They bungled their response to Benghazi. They’ve bungled their response to Ferguson. And they will bungle their response to this new crisis. That’s because we are relying on bureaucracy. We’re not talking about your favorite political party or favorite President. This has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives, Bush or Obama. Bureaucracy exists beyond those parameters. Bureaucracy is a slow, lumbering, stupid beast, and it cannot respond swiftly.
Don’t expect bureaucracy to keep you safe from Ebola, or any other crisis. Responsibility for your safety and the safety of those you care about, begins and ends with you. Country boys like myself have always known this. These days, trendy folks call that “prepping” and there are TV shows about it, and I get to teach my city friends how to can green beans the way my Grandma did, and run a trout line the way my Grandpa did, and skin a buck the way my father did. You can call it prepping if you like. We always just called it a part of life.
Education and self-reliance will beat panic and bureaucratic incompetence every time.
If you disagree with me, that’s cool. It’s okay. But this Ebola thing? It’s not going away anytime soon. And at some point this winter, you or a family member are going to catch the flu. And at some point during that, you’re going to feel a twist in your gut, and you’re going to wonder…is it just the flu?
All I want for Christmas is for people to start thinking for themselves and taking care of each other, rather than letting bureaucracy do both.