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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.


motheramelia said...

Elizabeth, you are correct this happens with every "emergency" I do not understand why some people need to scapegoat. I'm reminde of Robert Frost's Fire and Ice. "Some say the world will end in fire, some say ice. From what I've tasted of desire, I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate, to say that ice is also great, and would suffice." That's from memory, so there may be some slight errors, but the icy-ness of hate is what kills us figuratively and literally.

David said...

beautifully, powerfully put.

as a certain priest once powerfully taught it's our vocations as those redeemed by the Risen Christ, to step or breathe our way through our individual fear, and then to step out into the larger fear in the world, where the same Risen Christ is awaiting us to be the arms and legs moving beyond fear in love.

i'm just waiting for some imaginative soul to invent a series of cheeky, imaginative, fun stickers to decorate all those masks people are wearing. it could become a hopeful, life-affirming trend, we could sell them a solve third-world poverty!

just a thought!


David |Dah • veed| said...

O Dios mio, thank you Madre Lizabet for praying for us. We have been turned upside down.

By Presidential Executive Order nationwide our schools are closed from primary to university. All public gatherings are discouraged; cinemas, museums and sports stadiums are closed. No parades for 1 May or 5 May. Even church services are discouraged.

Our population in the streets is a sea of white and blue surgical masks. We are encouraged to not greet each other by touching and to stay away from one another; Latino personal space is normally less than 90 cm (3') but we are being told to double that.

In Israel, the orthodox refuse to except that it is swine flu, so they have named it Mexican flu.

The bad economy (not to mention the narcos) has hurt the tourist industry, but this flu has administered the coup de grace.

And I fear that it has become similar to the early days of AIDS. Everyone who wakes with a tickle in a dry throat is convinced that they have it, so how many days until they die!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I had forgotten Frost's poem. Thanks, Motheramelia.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

What a great thought, David. I'll have to put my imagination to work.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Prayers ascend, Dahveed. Your note did give me one chuckle. Instead of 'OMG' I think I'm going to start texting 'ODM' = O Dios Mio

JCF said...

Latino personal space is normally less than 90 cm (3') but we are being told to double that

So maybe you should call it Gringo Flu? ;-/

[Lo siento, querido: just trying to find a bit of humor for you. Saludo!]

MadPriest said...

I blame them wimmin and the Americans. I always do. It saves having to think about every separate disaster that comes along. So as you fit both categories I think we should just ceremonially lay the sins of the Mexicans and pigs onto your back and send you out into the wilderness. That should do it. It's Biblical.