Maybe you haven't heard the news. Not only does The Homeland now have its very own Ebola Czar, it has spawned yet another shadowy government agency. It's called N.I.C.E. -- the National Institute for the Co-Optation of Ebola.
In C.S. Lewis's dystopian novel That Hideous Strength, N.I.C.E, stood for the National Institute for Controlled Experiments -- a shadowy government agency designed to exploit and destroy everything it touches through the copious use of propaganda. Torture and prison are in store for the few malcontents refusing to get with the program. The novel, the finale of Lewis's Space Trilogy, derives its title from a 16th century poem about the Tower of Babel myth, in which a massive structure built by the oppressed masses for the glory of the elite few resulted in death, destruction, and lots of people talking past each other.
In dystopian 21st century America, a lethal little microbe that has killed a lot of people in Africa and sickened a few people here has been magically transformed into a political wedge issue, a campaign talking point that serves more to demonize the other side than to frighten the ruling establishment into implementing sanitary living conditions and true universal health care for all people, all over the world.
It turns out that not only can Ebola be grown in culture, it has quickly become an integral part of the American culture wars. Health care workers have become the latest pawns in the identity politics game played by the two sides of the corporate duopoly. Ask not if we can study and treat this disease. Ask which "side" can best co-opt Ebola, and then pick your team. Are you with the Republicans, who cast nurses as demons to be cast out of society or burned at the stake along with their illegal immigrating germs? Or are you with the Democrats, who cast health care workers as exemplars of American military might and superiority?
Are you with Chris Christie, vicariously insulting your peers who dare stand up to the hideous strength of the boorish ruling class? Or are you with Barack Obama, who pays lip service to Doctors Without Borders even as his hideous and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership would put life-saving medicines out of the economic reach of poor countries fighting Ebola and a whole host of other treatable diseases?
Chris Christie: (nasty, brutish and short to accommodate hate-infested A.D.D. sufferers) "Sit down and shut up."
Barack Obama: (droning on and on in jingoism to accommodate the fiscal needs of the Military-Industrial Complex he so ably serves): "I said this at the U.N. General Assembly -- when disease or disaster
strikes anywhere in the world, the world calls us. And the reason they
call us is because of the men and women like the ones who are here
today. They respond with skill and professionalism and courage and
dedication. And it’s because of the determination and skill and
dedication and patriotism of folks like this that I’m confident we will
contain and ultimately snuff out this outbreak of Ebola -- because
that’s what we do. A lot of people talk about American exceptionalism. I’m a firm
believer in American exceptionalism. You know why I am? It’s because
of folks like this..... What we are -- what we need right now is these shock troops who are out
there leading globally. We can’t discourage that; we’ve got to
encourage it and applaud it."
(Did you ever hear Florence Nightingale described as a bellicose shock troop before? Moreover, tiny socialist Cuba is leading the fight against Ebola. It's not as concerned with border security, partisan politics.... or profit-driven health care.)
Dr. Kent Brantly, the physician successfully treated for Ebola, again was co-opted by Obama as a photo-op prop on Wednesday. After the president displayed his utter sincerity by referring to Brantly as "Keith," the good doctor delivered a gentle but pointed retort to the jingoism:
"At this time, perhaps more
than any other, we feel the impact of our position as citizens of not
only the United States of America, but as citizens of the world. We must
strive together for the good of all mankind to put an end to this
Of course, Obama never once applauded or even mentioned Kaci Hickox, the nurse whose civil disobedience does not jibe with either Obama's political needs or the fiscal needs of the Military-Industrial Complex. The war budget is now so bloated that it actually boosted the GDP several percentage points this quarter. Obama himself cut the budget of the Centers for Disease Control.
So pick your poison. Better yet, refuse to drink. Or better yet, go for a bike ride as you try to ignore your police escort.