Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Birds and Pigs, Gays and Mexicans
The 'pandemic' of swine flu has caused a re-occurrence of another, more insidious but none the less viral and deadly epidemic: fear.
It's part of the history of every epidemic we've ever had. I witnessed it first-hand during the early years of the AIDS pandemic. Indeed, we had a term for it.
The flames of fear that are born of an epidemic or pandemic stoke the fires of hatred and prejudice and bigotry. Some one has to be to blame. Someone must be offered as sacrifice to the God who brought the plague upon us in the first place, to punish us for something.
I played a hunch yesterday morning while driving back from a nursing home visit in a community about 30 minutes from the church and tuned my car radio to one of those conservative, Republican, evangelical radio talk shows.
You guessed it: Their answer to 'the plague' - and, that's what they called it. Not epidemic. Not pandemic. Plague. - was to lock down the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and quarantine all Mexicans living in this country.
There was much excitement about 'detaining' all 'illegal Mexicans'. One didn't need to be a Rocket Scientist to know that 'those people' - the 'illegals' - were the source of the 'swine flu.'
And every last one of the callers on the radio considered themselves "good Christians".
We have more recently seen this dynamic during the West Nile Virus Epidemic. Members of the Nigerian communities who live here in the Northeast Corridor were under constant surveillance and scrutiny - in much the same way bird watchers pursue their hobby.
Except, of course, 'birders' mean no harm.
Yes, yes, it's more important to wash your hands now than it ever was before.
It's very important to sneeze or cough into the inside crook of your elbow rather than your hands.
See your doctor or get to an "Urgi-center" or "Doc-in-a-Box" if you get flu-like symptoms and your symptoms persist.
It's okay to eat pork, as long as you take the usual precautions of cooking it well. Nothing wrong with having a side order of crispy bacon or a BLT if that's what you're hungering for.
With allergy season upon us, it's going to be hard to tell is someone is just suffering from the "green rain" of pollen or is coming down with the flu.
Probably wouldn't hurt to wear a mask if you're coughing and sneezing due to allergies. It will cut down on your pollen intake and probably allay the concerns and fears of others when you sneeze or cough in front of them.
And, don't blow your nose on a tissue and then leave it around. Throw it into the trash bin immediately and try to remember to wash your hands afterward - or at least use one of those alcohol-based hand disenfectants like Purell.
Just be careful - as in 'full of care' - not fear.
You don't have to worry about birds or pigs, Gay people or Mexicans - not even Gay Mexicans who eat pork and watch birds with Nigerians.
(Unless, of course, we're talking about our beloved Dah-veed, and then you'll have a lot more than the flu to worry about. That boy has been known to steal hearts from sea to shining sea!)
Be not afraid. Enjoy your day, for this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it - 'green rain' (tree pollen) and all.
And, let us keep the people of Mexico, all who have 'swine flu', all who have died of this outbreak of influenza and those who mourn the loss of their loved ones, in our prayers.