It is not based on any clear public health evidence. It’s not the recommendation of public health and medical experts at this point. You know, I think we have to be very careful about letting politicians make medical and public health decisions, and all of the evidence about Ebola shows that if you are not symptomatic, you are not infectious.
– Kaci Hickox, nurse suspected of being infected with Ebola virus and involuntarily quarantined under recent draconian N.J. law.
What went on here in New Jersey for the past week is nuts. Wish I could embellish this observation more astutely, but I’ll stick with nuts. Governor Chris Christie and his partner in crime, Governor Mario Cuomo in neighboring New York, who have teamed up to keep both of their hides poised for doomed presidential runs, stood in front of reporters, live cameras and the citizens of their respective states and stripped them all of their civil rights.
As much as I get the human nature to panic over deadly African diseases that don’t involve homosexuals—how many thousands of American lives had to be sacrificed to AIDS before anyone lifted an eyebrow in the 1980s—not sure that suspect Ebola cases warrant dumping the entire concept of the Bill of Rights down the crapper. Ebola, terrorism, World Wars, refugee crisis, you name it; first sign of trouble we’re trading in our rights.
Blanket quarantines of health workers with fevers, even in an unwarranted panic state is patently unconstitutional and deserved the ensuing outrage. Slice it anyway you like, but Maine resident and Doctors Without Borders nurse Kaci Hickox was a victim of systemic overreach, to say the least. Remember, anytime your government, federal or local begins selling the idea of trading in your civil rights for the greater good, take it for bullshit.
Forget the unheated cell-like bubble Hickox was forced to subsist in for a few days, which could have been 21 full days had she even come close to actually testing positive for the disease. In fact, Hickox, who revealed no symptoms of the virus (the only time it is contagious) merely registered a low-grade fever on a forehead scanner, though she had not previously registered a fever and has not since.
Ebola scare aside, this type of lockdown is symptomatic of a grander systemic issue; a knee-jerk stripping of our rights granted by law every time there is some kind of crisis. This mentality has led to our right to privacy afforded by the Fourth Amendment being obliterated by the goofy Patriot Act and the legal vagaries of the Affordable Care Act or something as onerous as Eminent Domain or even the unconscionably cruel internment camps for Japanese citizens, not to mention the always lamentable suspending of habeas corpus every chance we get.
I suspect this kind of fascist lunacy in Texas, but New Jersey?
This also gives us an insight into this “holier than thou” tough-guy routine run amok displayed by Christie, which is totally out of character for a mealy-mouthed talking suit like Cuomo. It is this sort of iron-fist bluster that has dragged Christie down with the Bridgegate scandal, which has thus far revealed no hard evidence of his personal wrongdoing but reflects his modus operandi for bending the law on a whim. And wasn’t it Christie who rightly pointed out that a person should not be assumed guilty by mere circumstantial evidence? Then why was Ms. Hickox assumed ill with less evidence by the same man?
Back home in Maine, Hickox is fighting for her freedom against another hypocritical Republican governor, who claims to represent individual rights over the “public good” in matters of gun control, federal funds to support national health care, and this childish notion that denying the civil rights of gay citizens somehow protects the “sanctity of marriage.”
Here is a doozy from Governor Paul LePage: “While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state.”
Can you imagine if a liberal Democrat blurted that claptrap? It would take all of three seconds for someone to call him a Nazi.
Ah, but LePage nor Christie are Nazis. They are symptoms, deeper and more egregious than anything threatened by Kaci Hickox; this idea that it is perfectly fine to ignore the most fundamental right, more vital than the First Amendment or Second Amendment or any of the others—the right to exist. Once parameters are put on this, we might as well close up shop.
Even if the argument based on even a shred of medical evidence beyond panic is offered for rounding up a citizen and quarantining her, then what is to keep state or federal officials from throwing you in a bubble for sneezing? There is a crawling skin disease afoot and you happen to have an itch? In the bubble!
And then there is this very real social disease of ignoring the science in place of spastic hand-wringing.
A doctor on the scene at Newark Airport, where this state-sanctioned crime was first committed, stated clearly to officials that Hickox’s forehead reading was not an accurate one and that her flushed features did not constitute a lasting fever. In other words, this de facto jailing was done without proper medical science being administered; a classic ploy used to create unsubstantiated claims into law involving drugs (marijuana, steroids) or matters of environmental hazards (toxins, pesticides) or the poisons corporations are allowed to put in our foods (GMOs).
For years I have written of the war against intellectualism; specifically science, usually waged by either “traditionalists,” who claim that because something was always done this way that it should always be done this way and damn the facts, thus spitting in the face of progress or religious loons, who prefer voodoo reasoning backed by century-old screeds dictating modern law over the nuisance of reality.
This is what dooms us; not Ebola. Ignoring science and plowing ahead like frightened children is our disease. The entire scare, in a pathetic series of them, perpetuated by hungry media outlets looking to trade fear mongering for ratings and politicians, who love to exploit a crisis to appear decisive is a flimflam; a house of cards in which we place our precious right to exist.
“This is the government’s job,” Christie said of this dangerous law.
Causing undo panic, stripping civil rights and ignoring the facts presented by medical science? I suppose then he’s right.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus” and “Y”.