Several years ago, when the NFL cancelled an game in Philadelphia, because of a predicted snowstorm (that only totaled about 8 inches), former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell scoffed at the move, which prompted him to label America as a “nation of wusses,” a phrase that later appeared as the title of his autobiographical book.
The reason Rendell’s remark received so much attention wasn’t just that it was a bit of an insult to Americans, but more because the statement was mostly true. We in America have become so concerned over our safety that we will forgo living life out of even the most remote fear of losing life or suffering even slight inconvenience.
America’s reaction to the recent Ebola outbreak is further proof that Rendell nailed it – America just keeps getting wussier. When the first few Americans got Ebola, the CDC told us that the disease is barely contagious, that to get it, you have to come in contact with bodily fluids of the carrier; you cannot get it through the air, from objects touched by a carrier, or from casual touch with the carrier. President Obama also tried to reassure the public. The response from most of America, especially those at Fox News was that the CDC and the president were lying to us, and that this Ebola outbreak would sweep the nation, killing millions. As a commenter on Mike Huckabee’s Facebook feed said, “Obama wants to give us all Ebola, so he can declare martial law.”
It turned out, however, that it was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who came closest to declaring martial law, when he sentenced a health care worker returning from Africa (who did not have the disease) to three weeks alone in a parking lot tent with a Porta-Potty in the very same room. There was no trial or hearing, just a knee-jerk decision from a Republican politician who likes to push people around. Ironically, the party who accuses Obama of being tyrant who will someday lock up all who oppose him has become the tyrant who locks up the sick and those who help them, all while fully supported by the panicky wusses who are so quick to throw away freedom out of fear of getting a barely contagious disease.
Imagine if our government had taken such an action during the days of polio, tuberculosis, or even the yellow fever outbreak that killed thousands in cities from Philadelphia to Boston in the 1790s, when George Washington was president. Did Washington lock up all of the sick and those who came in contact with the sick? Of course not, that would have been tyranny – the very thing all of our nation’s founders despised.
Here’s an interesting piece of history: It used to be that street vendors sold children bite size servings of ice cream known as penny-licks. The vendor would place ice cream in the equivalent of a shot glass and give it to the children in exchange for a penny. Then the vendor would take back the empty glass and place ice cream in it for the next kid. This helped spread TB like wildfire. The solution was the invention of the ice cream cone, which allowed each child to have his or her own edible ice cream container, thus greatly reducing the spread of germs. This is what I call a compassionate solution.
What people, including the government, did not do in those days was lock up everyone who had TB or came in contact with those who had it. Nor did they stop living life. I really fear that if we were to have an outbreak of something like TB today that society would collapse. All restaurants would go out of business, so would most hospitals and physicians’ offices, because everyone would be so afraid of contracting the illness that they would chose not to live life. And worst of all, I fear that politicians would impose a tyranny on America that differs little from the Hitler and Stalin-like tyranny that Republicans have been accusing Obama of planning. Apparently, fear-mongering works for the Republicans on two levels: first they can use it to make baseless accusations that Democrats will take away our freedoms, but then, when the Republicans take control of government, they can use the threats of diseases, wars, and terrorism to rob us of our freedoms and our money, too.