Pride, a bike ride and the veiled threat of isolation

Man is the quintessential builder. Oftentimes, when seeking what he might see to be a greater good, he’ll destroy something that’s otherwise beneficial; maybe even necessary.  Men, mountains or ideas are all subject to the sacrificial block if it’s determined that either stands in the way of attaining that higher ideal, that bigger profit or that better way of doing things; even if “things” means only becoming better at being ourselves.

CDC photo of Ebola virus

CDC photo of Ebola virus

I’d like to think that Kaci Hickox is looking at such a bigger picture when she takes her defiant stand against the government; one that’s being painted by her concerns about the seemingly cavalier abolishment of civil liberties and the use of unlawful detentions.  But the conflict arises from the fact that Maine Gov. Paul LePage is looking at the same big picture, only he sees his in a different way.  His landscape illustrates his responsibility for the safety of the entire state of Maine along with the confidence its citizens have in their state’s ability to protect them in times of dire crisis.

So, whose greater good here is the greatest good that should be upheld?

That’s hard to say; each is worthy and truthfully, a best case scenario is one when the concerns of both camps can be equally addressed.  But we know that can’t be; sacrifices will have to be made, on one side or the other.  One thing though is certain: the public is afraid and extreme care needs to be taken.  With that in mind, I vote for an adherence to public safety policies and I would hope the medical profession feels the same way.  It’s dangerous to not have such compliance so early in this American “outbreak”.

See, I’m not thoroughly convinced that state travel-mandated quarantine is a response brought on by public panic and therefore, not a good thing.  I’m squarely in that prudent “safer than sorry” camp in regards to that.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize panic.  I see it in the families that keep their kids out of schools because their classmates are African immigrants.  I read about it when those same immigrants are shunned in communities that beforehand had welcomed them, if only in a taciturn manner.

And as much as I don’t see panic in some state’s responses, I do see pride in the actions of many doctors returning from African front lines. Across the board, I hear a whole lot of fulsome absolutes when they talk about Ebola, especially as it involves how we contract the disease.  It’s the pride of knowledge; the arrogance of confidence.  Kaci Hickox had it and it allowed her to take an hour-long bike ride in spite of her restrictions.

And while I’m not knocking the best available science and what it tells us to do to protect ourselves, I’m always hopeful for a bit of humility from man in the face of what nature hits us with.  I guess it’s because I’m also in that camp of “pride goeth before a great fall” that I think we should always be prepared for, and plan for, that unexpected.

But besides pride, I hear something else that might even be a bit more troubling.

From the head of the CDC to the President, I’ve heard from more than one about some ugly repercussions if state quarantines are enacted; that such prohibitive actions, however well intended, could decrease the numbers of doctors traveling to countries in need of their help.  How are we in the general public supposed to take such statements?  I know; what if we were to take it as nothing other than a subtle threat of further African isolation?

Like gangsters seeking protection money, nothing is explicitly said yet the risk is all too real.  That more resources are woefully needed in Africa (and elsewhere), and have been for a while, is nothing new.  Those opponents of state quarantine should take care that the use of such language isn’t perceived as leverage to change public policy and further isolate nations whose hold on adequate public health is tenuous, at best.  Doing so, at such a precarious time, could be considered somewhat underhanded and might strain the public’s trust in the medical fields.

As the isolation debate rages and creates more casualties in its wake, each doctor returning from the front lines will have to make his or her own decision about adhering to any quarantine in place.  The thing is though, now more than ever, we have to maintain faith in our medical professionals, especially as we’ve seen how the lack of such trust continues to hamper Africa’s ability to thwart the plague. Here at home, it’s a lesser good we can’t afford to sacrifice for the greater.

Hopefully those returning will recognize that and give America just 21 more days of their time.

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Filed under Health & Welfare, Life and Society, Opinion

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