Friday, October 31, 2014


Peggy Noonan wants arrogant Ebola doctors and nurses to know that her great-aunt came to America from Ireland in steerage in 1909, and didn't do any whining when she was subjected to repeated health examinations:
... Every day the ship's surgeon (possibly brusquely, probably officiously) examined her for signs of acute or long-term illness. The card noted her details.... On the back it says, "Keep this Card to avoid detention at Quarantine and in Railroads in the United States." If she failed the physicals she would be held at Ellis Island or sent back. There's a little notch to mark each day the doctor found her healthy. In the end there were nine.

... She accepted with grace the needs and demands of her new nation, took no offense, and acknowledged the utility of a quarantine or ban -- why would America be bringing in sick people who could spread disease?

... I miss such humility, don't you? Did we fail to encourage it by forgetting to honor it? Or, if these questions are insufficiently ideological, whatever happened to courtesy to the collective? We should bring it back. We could answer the current quarantine question if we faced it with the calm of a 1909 immigrant.
Yes, Noonan is certainly entitled to lecture Kaci Hickox and Dr. Craig Spencer on this, because we're all aware of Noonan's quiet stoicism when she's inconvenienced in order to protect the public's safety:
[Let me] try to draw a fuller picture of what it was like to be taken aside at an airport last week for what is currently known as further screening and was generally understood 50 years ago to be second-degree sexual assault.

I was directed, shoeless, into the little pen with the black plastic swinging door. A stranger approached, a tall woman with burnt-orange hair. She looked in her 40s. She was muscular, her biceps straining against a tight Transportation Security Administration T-shirt. She carried her wand like a billy club. She began her instructions: Face your baggage. Feet in the footmarks. Arms out. Fully out. Legs apart. Apart. I'm patting you down.

It was like a 1950s women's prison movie....

I experienced the search not only as an invasion of privacy, which it was, but as a denial or lowering of that delicate thing, dignity. The dignity of a woman, of a lady, of a person with a right not to be manhandled or to be, or to feel, molested.

... Let me tell you what I say, in my mind, after things like this.... I think, We are embarrassing the angels.

... "Put your feet in the foot marks, lady." We are embarrassing the angels.

"You are embarrassing the angels." This is what I intend to say for the next 40 days whenever I see someone who is hurting the culture, hurting human dignity, denying the stature of a human being. I mean to say it with belief, with an eye to instruction, but also pointedly, uncompromisingly. As a lady would. All invited to join in.
A 21-day quarantine in an unheated tent in Newark, New Jersey (where, by the way, it's going to be 35 degrees and windy Sunday night)? Take it like my dignified immigrant forebear, Nurse Hickox! A ten-second patdown in the airport? WAHHHH! WAHHHH!

Noonan's great-aunt minded her manners and deferred to the authorities. So that's what we should all do now, right, Peggy? Well, no -- we shouldn't defer to authorities Peggy Noonan disagrees with:
Support among the American public for quarantine appears at this point to be overwhelming. You can know this if you walk down the street and ask people, or if you look at a CBS poll that found 80% of respondents think citizens returning from West Africa should be quarantined until it’s clear they do not have the disease.

But America’s "professionals" in the scientific and medical communities, and certainly those in the White House, seem deeply uninterested in the views of common people.
Don't you love the scare quotes around "professionals"? Yeah, just because you're a doctor and have years of experience in the public health field, you think you're a big know-it-all about infectious disease! I know stuff about infectious disease too, you know! I watch CNN and Fox!

But this is contemporary conservatism in a nutshell: government is always bad, unless conservatives feel they're at personal risk, and then everyone who doesn't defer to authorities is a traitor. However, if the authorities don't approach the (real or imagined) threat in a way conservatives like, then we need authorities who agree with conservatives, and anyone who doesn't defer to them is a traitor. Government is good as long as conservatives are scared, and as long as it's a government of the right kind -- in both senses of the word "right."


bgn said...

You're overthinking this a little. According to Noonan and her ilk, conservative pundits are the ones to be deferred to on any and all occasions. Don't you know we live in a punditocracy?

Steve M. said...

Yeah, but we should ultimately submit to government -- at least when it's run by Saint Reagan, or first-term George W. Bush ("He's got two of 'em!").

Victor said...

"Or, if these questions are insufficiently ideological, whatever happened to courtesy to the collective?"

Whatever happened?
Well, Pig O' The Fart, conservative people like you! You divided and conquered 'the collective.'
And you continue to do so.

"We should bring it back."
Yes, we should.
But that's impossible when people like you are anywhere near the levers of power.

The only collective you like, is like-minded bigoted white people.

All others aren't part of any collective you can accept.
"They," are "The Others" - to be scorned, denigrated, ridiculed, and taken advantage of.

Go make yourself another triple martini, with olives and Val*um - and STFU!

Unknown said...

Don't go the right wing road of ignoring the fact that error can be on both sides...Sure the tent with no shower or privacy was wrong, but to arrogantly assert a right of self-supremacy over the well established public health right to protect the public is also wrong.

Never Ben Better said...

Isaac Asimov:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Steve M. said...

to arrogantly assert a right of self-supremacy over the well established public health right to protect the public is also wrong.

But public health experts, in and out of the federal government, agree with Spencer and Hickox. This is the point I'm trying to make: if the authorities say things conservatives don't like, it doesn't matter that they're the authorities -- we're supposed to go authority-shopping until we have authorities who say what the right wants to hear.

Never Ben Better said...

the District Court judge in Maine has essentially said "NO" to a strict quarantine:

(CNN) -- A Maine judge on Friday ruled in favor of a nurse who defied a quarantine in a tense standoff with state authorities, saying local health officials failed to prove the need for a stricter order enforcing an Ebola quarantine.

District Court Chief Judge Charles LaVerdiere ordered nurse Kaci Hickox, who recently returned to the United States after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, to submit to "direct active monitoring," coordinate travel with public health officials and immediately notify health authorities should symptoms appear.


Late Thursday, the judge had ordered stricter limits on Hickox, requiring that she "not to be present in public places," such as shopping centers or movie theaters, except to receive necessary health care. The temporary order permitted her to engage in "non-congregate public activities," such as walking or jogging, but said she had to maintain a 3-foot distance from people. And it forbade her from leaving the municipality of Fort Kent without consulting local health authorities.

In Friday's ruling, LaVerdiere praised Hickox for lending her skills "generously, kindly and with compassion" to "aid, comfort and care" for Ebola patients.

"We owe her and all professionals who give of themselves in this way a debt of gratitude," he wrote.

Professor Fate said...

well - not to be boring and bring facts into the case - Peg's acestor was being examained by a Doctor - not the helpful drells of Homeland security - or a publicity seeking poltical hack.

Ken_L said...

Courtesy to the collective is so much greater in third world countries, where there is the constant risk of illness, injury and sudden death. Why in the slums of Metro Manila (i.e. most of it), one can hardly go down a street without seeing an open coffin under a tent, with the locals playing cards and drinking beer to show their respect.

I blame that Florey dickhead and penicillin for the decline of American culture. Collective courtesy was everywhere before bloody antibiotics.

I can't bring myself to read Noonan's tripe and give her a page hit. Does she also favour the reintroduction of yellow quarantine flags over the houses of the afflicted, to warn casual visitors, pizza delivery boys and Mormons?

Ken_L said...

BTW with Noonan's newfound willingness to follow majority opinion on technical matters, I look forward to her championing the cause of reducing carbon emissions ... since such efforts are supported by a strong majority of Americans.