Those of us who carry indigenous genetic material today descend from the survivors of biological warfare on a cataclysmic scale, principally smallpox and measles, both diseases caused by viruses that require no direct contact to spread and can survive on dry surfaces. The colonial pathogens were much more deadly than the colonial soldiers.
The colonial soldiers rode under the flag of “Christian Discovery,” a rabid monotheism dedicated by fundamentalist interpretation of the First Commandment to destroy all other “gods” in their path, with “gods” interpreted broadly enough to demand the burning of the Mayan Codices, erasing generations of knowledge and enabling the lie that Indians were too primitive for writing. This fundamentalist zeal was also much more deadly to our cultures than the mere presence of colonists.
Over 500 years later, we live in a constitutional republic founded on the ruins made of thriving cultures by disease and fundamentalist religion. Talking boxes have largely replaced talking leaves, and the talking boxes blare out that our way of life is threatened….by disease and fundamentalist religion.
Politicians of a certain stripe are riding to victory in the coming elections in a flaming chariot called Fear pulled by two sturdy horses, Ebola and ISIS. This “certain stripe” does not describe a political orientation as much as a moral orientation toward victory in government at any cost to the governed.
Ebola in fact carries a deadly sickness, but carries it in a weak virus, easily killed and contagious for only a short time. There is no cure at this time, but patients diagnosed early and kept hydrated have a survival rate in modern hospitals far above the survival rate in the broken medical systems of West Africa.
ISIS in fact commits horrific crimes on video to terrorize people. ISIS is as deadly to the body politic as Ebola is to the human body, but it carries deadly tactics in a weak ideology and is contagious in a healthy polity for only a short time.
What if, as former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen asks in a Washington Post op-ed, the twin threats of Ebola and Islamic radicalism converged into one? Thiessen cites Dr. Scott Gottlieb of the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute, for the proposition that Ebola is “the perfect bioweapon.”
Scott Steward evaluates Ebola as a terrorist weapon in the latest security newsletter by STRATFOR. He points out that ISIS has used chemical weapons back when it was Al Qaeda in Iraq by loading IED’s with chlorine, finding “the results were not worth the effort.” More recently, they have deployed mustard gas stolen from Iraqi or Syrian dictators. They would use Ebola if they could.
Using Ebola was explored by the much more sophisticated Japanese terrorists of Aum Shinrikyo. They sent a medical team to Africa to bring back Ebola virus to weaponize, but were unable to get the fragile virus back alive. Aum Shinrikyo had previously attacked Japanese cities with botulinum toxin and anthrax spores, attacks so unsuccessful they were only noticed after the group released sarin gas on a Tokyo subway and, as a result, their weapons factories were raided.
The other nightmare offered up by Thiessen was that a terrorist infects himself and then detonates a suicide bomb in a public place. He did not speculate how the terrorist would time his infection exactly to conceal nonstop vomiting and diarrhea to get into the country or how the puny Ebola virus would survive explosion and fire. An ordinary bomb would probably kill more people with less trouble, but of course explosives lack the fear quotient of the Ebola virus.
There have been many, many Ebola outbreaks since the virus was identified. The current one differs in that it’s loose among people who think the existence of a virus is a matter of belief and who do not trust their government enough to submit to a 21-day quarantine if exposed.
Let’s not get started on the Americans who think science is a matter of belief and who do not trust the government. There are people who believe climate change is a government conspiracy to destroy jobs and make us all dependent. Then they would be left waiting for the black helicopters to come and take them to FEMA camps. Some of them are armed to the teeth.
Those of us who descend from the survivors of biological holocaust unleashed by fundamentalist religion know better than to say it can’t happen on this continent because it has happened on this continent.
However, the Ebola virus is easily contained among people who understand how it is spread and resolve to contain it. The yearly flu will continue to kill more people because it spreads more easily and mutates more rapidly. That’s why we have a new vaccine every year. By the way, we don’t abandon people who get the flu.
Still, the former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, Todd Kincannon, suggested that all people who test positive for the Ebola virus could be “humanely put down.” Navarro College rejected applicants from Nigeria, citing a recently made up rule that they won’t take students from any country where the Ebola virus lives. No word on when they will start sending home all students from the U.S. A New Jersey school district sent away students from Rwanda apparently because Rwanda is on the same continent as the Ebola epidemic.
The disaffected individuals who are willing to do suicidal shooting sprees in the service of ISIS fundamentalism in the Middle East are frightening, but a population of suicides quickly shrinks.
Still, we are getting a new wave of politicians behind the chariot of Fear, the same gang that brought us the USA-PATRIOT Act, claiming that if we surrender more of our civil liberties we will be safer. Anticipate more eavesdropping (if that’s possible) and more searches without cause other than fear of ISIS.
Even if Ebola and ISIS did get together, they would not be able to hurt us nearly as much as they are causing us to hurt ourselves.
Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.