Ebola, Discrimination and All That Jazz

It was only a matter of  time before the “shock jockeys” of public media would begin to spin their conspiracy theories on Ebola.   Rush Limbaugh argued that President Obama was bringing Ebola to the United States to “get even” over slavery.  Not to be outdone, Reverend Jessie Jackson suggested that “discrimination” might a motive for the sloppy treatment the late Mr. Duncan received at a Dallas hospital.   Most sane people would argue that “the truth” is totally missing from either of these biased and irrational points of view, which is probably a good reason why politics and politicians are held in such low regard by the American public.

Regardless of the antics of these spin-Meisters, it is next to impossible to be unmoved by the New York Times story of a Liberian mother who can’t pick up her crying child for fear of contracting Ebola. While I share this parent’s “worst nightmare,” I don’t feel any better knowing that many other parents can also be sharing this same “nightmare” if we don’t get a handle on this epidemic or more accurately: pandemic.

As far as I know, the only way to stop an epidemic from becoming pandemic is “isolation” or “containment” and we ought to drop this silly pretense of “civil liberties” and “American values” until we can control this deadly virus that is currently ravaging West Africa – and now other countries.  Simply read one of the many plague chronicles (A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman comes to mind) to get an idea of the horrible consequences of pandemics.  It certainly isn’t a pleasant chapter in the annals of human evolution.

I Am PilgrimI would like to be reassured by the CDC and our political leaders that they know what they are doing, but deploying U.S. military troops to West Africa to combat “epidemics” doesn’t seem to me to be an “appropriate” mission for men and women who normally carry weapons rather than porta-potties.   It strikes me that a boatload of doctors and nurses with syringes is a far more effective response.  (Editor’s Note:  I guess “boots on the ground” in Africa plays better to the American public than “boots on the ground” in the Middle East.)

For those who have read that international best-seller “I Am Pilgrim,” the risk of a pandemic is no idle treat whether terrorist-related or simply a case of bureaucratic incompetence.

I have no idea how the Ebola crisis will play out, but the more “sweet talk” I hear from political leaders, the more concerned I become.   As Ebola spreads and cases begin to appear in other countries outside West Africa (latest in Spain), I suspect that widespread panic will soon manifest itself.   For those political leaders who love to promote  Twitter “democracy,” please don’t tweet “mea culpa” when you get skewered by Twitter “outrage.”

In yet another pathetic response to dealing with this pandemic, the U.S. will pass out questionnaires and take the temperature of passengers returning from West Africa.   Seriously??  It is like applying a bandaid to a bleeding artery.

In the words of the immortal John Lennon’s Imagine:  “Imagine all the people sharing all the world.”  Hopefully, that world doesn’t include the Ebola virus.

Editor’s Note:  I am saddened to report that Excalibur – the dog owned by the Spanish nurse stricken with Ebola – has been euthanized to prevent the spread of Ebola.  Predictably, it drew 325,000 protests from animal right’s activists.


Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: No Place for an Old Man

New York Times Macbeth

Can you imagine walking into a sacred place to watch a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth? Well you can, if you are one of the fortunate few who managed to get a ticket to the riveting production now on for a limited engagement in June at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City.

Short of being covered in a shower of viscera from one of the battle scenes in Macbeth, I am terribly disappointed that I won’t stand in line on the vague hope that I will get a ticket following Ben Brantley’s rave review in the New York Times.


Sure, I had considered using my disability sticker and a wheel chair to gain a little sympathy at the Armory, but I realized that I was in New York City where those with disabilities are cut no slack.

When I mentioned to Alison “Baguette Lady” that I could not endure standing in line for Macbeth of the oft chance that I would be awarded a ticket, she flew into a rage of Shakespearean proportions. In fact, she threatened to steal Richard III’s horse and queue for tickets herself. (Editor’s Note: Shakespeare himself would have appreciated the irony of the recent discovery of Richard III’s corpse in a parking lot in Leicester. In the words of the great poet, “If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.”)

Al, I am disappointed in myself for not making the effort, but “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”


Let Murakami Rock Your World

kafkaI still go to the library but often forget my reading glasses and, as such, am often forced to “judge a book by its cover.” This is generally not a good idea as the vast majority of book covers are done by illustrators who have never met the author, let alone read the book. Fortunately, Dan “Pit Bull” Broderick is kind enough to read the New Yorker magazine and keep me clued in on the some of the latest literary trends. For that, I am most grateful.

I realize that reading is somewhat of a lost art in America – 28% of Americans haven’t read a book in the last year – but this shouldn’t dissuade someone from visiting a library where you can check out DVD’s of the latest films and login to the Internet for free.  Now I am sure that there are many good reasons why Americans don’t read, but I don’t recall the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts handing out the “Stupidity” merit badge to literary underachievers.

Several years ago, Dan gave me 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami for Christmas.   After reading some 300 pages for reasons that then seem incomprehensible, I realized that I was in the hands of a master story-teller.   I devoured The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and have now just finished Kafka on the Shore, which I had recently checked out of the library for a trip to Florida.

Now Murakami may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the “two worlds” which are recurring themes in his books make for compelling reading.  In fact, in Kafka on the Shore, there were several scenes or revelations so powerful that they caused me to audibly gasp.   While somewhat more pedantic than his other books, Kafka on the Shore rocked my world and, if you give it a chance, just might have the same impact on yours.

How refreshing it is to have authors like Murakami continuing to push the boundaries of our consciousness.  I am so excited that I have more of your novels and short stories to read.