Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

This October, the scares are more likely to come from a news channel than a horror film. Everyday the Ebola paranoia reaches a new height and the media might be more to blame than the disease. Even worse than Ebola, the most contagious affliction possible is spreading through our country: fear.

Fear is something that can be debilitating in one person, and becomes dangerous when experienced by the masses. It can be more deadly than any disease.

Just think of when there’s a fire in a crowded building. Often, more people are injured or killed while trying to get away than from the actual fire. Even if there wasn’t any real danger, people can still die from the hysteria. The bigger the crowd is, the greater the fear.

America is one giant, jam-packed building and Ebola is just the smoke. I’m not saying the threat of Ebola, or the “fire,” isn’t real. It’s more like a controlled flame than a massive inferno though. Ebola, in this country, is not an epidemic. And hopefully the panic surrounding it will prove to be just a flash in the pan.

With that being said, I don’t think Ebola should be taken lightly by the hospitals and the CDC. American hospitals were not prepared to deal with Ebola. Now, they are forced to learn how. If the CDC can’t regulate and enforce stricter guidelines then some sort of political overhaul might be necessary. Other than that, regular American citizens should not be concerned.

Sure, I could see being a little uncomfortable about sitting next to someone on a plane who seems sick. But, I don’t think it’s worthy of anyone spouting out his or her irrational fears like they are facts. You’re probably less likely to get Ebola on a plane than you are to die on that plane. It’s one of those things you just have to get over. Have a valium and a tiny bottle of vodka and try not to worry about it.

We are a nation of worriers. America is obsessed with making every little thing our problem and mandating it our duty to solve it. It doesn’t help we have a propensity for paranoia.

There’s a phrase that’s buzzing at every press conference stating what precautions are being made. Banks and stores are shutting down after possibly being exposed to Ebola “out of an abundance of caution.”

That could describe a lot our country’s behavior in general, not just regarding this disease. Maybe we should replace “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” to “United we stand, out of an abundance of caution.” It wouldn’t be the first time this country injected some current fear to change out nation’s founding fundamentals.

The Red Scare and the religious overtaking in our country is why “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950’s. I guess communism was as good of an excuse as any to bring the country together with religion. More specifically, it was the fear of communism – and not communism itself – that prompted a lot of changes.

Sure, there’s a rich history of fear and worry engrained into our country’s history. That doesn’t mean it’s a tradition we should uphold.

Surprisingly, the most direct and least fear-mongering reporting of Ebola appeared on Fox News. Last week, Shepard Smith took a few minutes to directly address his viewers with the facts on bola. A news anchor reporting solely on the facts of a story was so unusual it actually made headlines.

Smith called some people’s overreactions “irresponsible,” and I agree. Smith also encouraged viewers to get a flu shot, a disease that killed 52,000 Americans last year. If you haven’t seen the four-minute clip yet, I encourage you to Google it. If you can watch his speech and still be panicked about the disease then a diagnosis of anxiety disorder might also be fitting for you.

Much of our country wants to turn Ebola into this scary killer like in some post-apocalyptic horror film. As Smith pointed out, there’s plenty of other diseases to distress over in this country.

FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That might not be a comforting sentiment for health professionals at this time but it’s a pretty good motto for the rest of us Americans. So, relax America. Save your anxiety for more imminent threats.

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