From the moment Thomas Eric Duncan made headlines as the first person on American soil to be diagnosed with the Ebola virus, the country went into a hysterical frenzy that could rival even the most ridiculous soap opera. You can’t turn on the news or scroll down your Facebook feed without hearing or reading about Ebola and how we are practically on the verge of extinction, even though, to date, only one person in America has actually died from it.
The first couple of days, I watched as every station projected their “worst case scenario” on my flat screen, and it evoked the memory of a commercial on TV when I was a kid in the 1980’s, for Faberge Organics shampoo. In the commercial, Heather Locklear touts the wonders of the miraculous product, and every time she tells someone about it, they, in turn, tell someone else, “and so on, and so on, and so on,” until virtually everyone on the planet (or at least every American) is buying the shampoo. This entire spectacle reminds me of that commercial, only instead of beautiful, fresh-smelling hair and Heather Locklear, we are left looking at a picture of Thomas Eric Duncan in his green shirt, with visions of ourselves and our loved one’s bleeding from the anus while projectile vomiting. I will spare you the explosive diarrhea.
At this point in our history, the media is essentially nothing more than a marketing group whose main purpose is to drive Americans into a fear frenzy. They manufacture crises while ignoring the real ones and have a Houdini like ability to control public opinion. They repeat the same mindless drivel on every station, on every network, day in and day out, until we are not only buying into their horseshit, but we are left begging the powers that be to keep us safe–which some people might even say is the entire point of the dance: a scared populace is an easy-to-control populace. A scared populace is also willing to hand over the last scrap of freedom they have left (like the ability to come and go as they please), just as long as it means they will be kept “safe.”
I’m not going to lie – I was not thrilled that the virus had found its way to American soil; but unlike most people, “Ebola” has been in my vernacular since the mid-nineties, when I was teaching my fellow inmates at the Albion Correctional facility about the spread of AIDS/HIV. While most Americans in recent years have viewed both Ebola and AIDS as an African problem, the viruses themselves obviously don’t discriminate. The fact that mainstream America only began to recognize the issue after Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed in Dallas would almost be comical, if it wasn’t so damn sad. Good old “American privilege,” that false sense of security invented by the feeble minds of the ignorant, can only protect you for so long. The world is a great big place, and the RNA of the Ebola virus does not discriminate against the DNA of the human race. Eventually, the law of averages will work against you.
Sadly, this “us and them” mentality isn’t something that only happens on the world stage; it takes place on a daily basis in our very own country. It is now early November, and people are still taking to the streets in Ferguson, MO, protesting the death of Michael Brown, and here in NY, we are anxiously awaiting the grand jury’s decision in the Eric Garner case.
While I am quite sure you have heard about Michael Brown and watched the media’s piss poor coverage of what is – or should I say, isn’t – really happening in Ferguson, I am not sure if you would be as familiar with Eric Garner’s case. Eric Garner is the man whose life was cut short by the NYPD for the horrific act of selling “loosies” (loose cigarettes) on the streets of NYC. The sub-human officer who killed him, Daniel Pantaleo, put him in a chokehold (which, by the way, is a banned practice here in NY), cutting off Garner’s air supply as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe!” New Yorkers do not seem to hold much hope that the piece of shit who killed Garner will be indicted or face any repercussions for his actions; and really, who can blame them? History shows that very rarely are police officers held accountable for such actions, especially when the victims are men of color.
Obviously, the issue of police brutality is not purely a black issue, but when you look at the statistics, you’d be a fool not to recognize that these “incidents” happen at an alarmingly higher rate in black communities than they do in white ones. If you are a young, black male in America, you are 21 times more likely to be gunned down by a police officer than if you are a young, white male, according to a report by ThinkProgress.
As a species, it’s really no surprise that we have so much farther to go, not only in our quest for enlightenment and true equality, but also in our journey to become compassionate people who are capable of empathizing with all others, regardless of color or economic stature. Recently, I saw the most beautiful picture of a protester in Ferguson reaching out to hug a police officer. It was such a human interaction in a world where we seem to be losing so much of our humanity, and I was reminded of the simple, yet eloquent, words of Dr. Martin Luther King: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
For as often as I get depressed, I have to remind myself that while we do have a long way to go, we still live in a world where people are willing to stand up to injustice, and sometimes even risk their lives for strangers. There is Katie Meyler, the young woman from NJ who is bringing comfort to the children of Liberia who have lost their parents to Ebola; Reverend Billy Talen, from NYC, who has brought his unique style of activism to the streets of Ferguson; and countless doctors and nurses who have been donating their time and services to the people of Africa since the beginning of this outbreak.
And then there was Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who heard the cries of a sick, pregnant woman outside of his window and came to her aid. Ask yourself, what is it that you think the world needs more of? Is it more police, more military, more war, more ridiculous laws or regulations? Or is it, quite simply, more humanity?
Author: Cynthia Tarana is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Cynthia’s Articles/Essays Here