It’s difficult to write this, not for any reason other than my head is still spinning. I thought I had somewhat of a grip on what was going on in the news, you know, economic collapse, creeping socialism, War Without End on the road (coming soon to a location near you), etc, etc, etc. Suddenly, out of the dusty urban blight of our southern neighbor’s capitol comes: The Dreaded Swine Flu. Not just the DSF, but a pandemic! Immediately the “Look, I learned a new word today” legions of what passes for a free press in this country jump on the story, the fear, and the word. Add pandemic to the list of words which the “media” have mindlessly tossed into the lexicon: tarmac (once a lowly runway), impacted (when not used in reference to a molar), empowered (thanks, Oprah), ad nauseum. So now we have the story of the month, a new fear, and multiple sources of distracting misinformation. Excuse me, but from this less than lofty perch what I see is the goddamned flu!
Cooler heads, many of whom have medical diplomas hanging on their walls, point out that nearly 30,000 people die each year in America from the flu, or some virus which falls into this general category. Many of these victims are already weakened by chronic health problems, advanced or underdeveloped age, American diets, and a host of other immunity-defeating conditions. Along comes a virus, sets down beside us, and frightens Miss Couric away. Yes, but what of the staggering deathtoll in Mexico from this new invader? Let me venture an uneducated guess. Mix one part grinding poverty, one part urban overcrowding, two parts total lack of access to adequate medical information and health care, add mutated virus, stir, and serve. Muerte on a grande scale.
The hysteria is not restricted to our hemisphere. In this time of prolific international travel and instant electronic transmission of unsubstantiated “facts”, the advancement of hype and hyperbole knows no geographical boundaries or lingual limits. Nations of the world have united in their determination to turn what should be a non-story into the latest rage. Reports from the world’s capitols keep us aware of the count of new cases among each populace. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has ordered the execution of every pig in the Land of the Pharaohs. The irony of the massive slaughter of animals whose meat is a religious taboo to the bulk of the citizenry is not lost.
Even our own president, who thus far has demonstrated a keen ability to discern fact from fantasy, is at a podium warning us to wash our hands and cover our mouths when we cough. Where have I heard that advice before? Thanks, O-Mama. I’ll cut some slack to the Commander-in-Chief, as he is also a politician who knows that when popular hysteria explodes, he must throw his two-cents in as an insurance policy against getting blamed for a microscopic mishap by Sean Hannity and his network of nattering nabobs of neo-con negativism (I love throwing bullshit back on the assholes who shat it in the first place).
So now, as most of us are struggling to figure out which crevice next month’s rent is going to ooze from, we have yet another boogieman to hide from under our collective bed. Maybe the government can save us, immunize us against the danger of this prickly porcine trespasser. As I recall though, the last time we undertook a massive immunization project to ward off this microbial menace (see swine flu, 1976), more people were paralyzed from the vaccine than died from the actual disease.
The saddest part of this whole episode, aside from it confirming our national gullibility, is the fact that once again, an innocent animal has been slandered by having its name attached to a perceived problem. When it’s time for a slab of hickory-smoked ribs, or a side order of bacon, we worship at the altar of the Other White Meat. But when we need a focus of blame for our fat-laden diets or stubborn refusal to take care of ourselves, we point the finger at the poor pitiable pig. As I understand it, the Giver of Breakfast Links has nothing whatsoever to do with this latest virus being transmitted to humans. Ah, perhaps it’s the endless chatter in Washington about the elimination of pork that has inspired this latest misnomer. When all is said and done, I think we can really trace the source of this latest Chicken Little scare to an affliction far more widespread and eminently more insidious than the Swine Flu. That is the Peter Pan-demic, which is manifest in the steadfast refusal of the hordes of politicos, pundits and press to just grow up.
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