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The Politics of Epidemics and Pandemics

Practical Politics

David l. Horne, Ph.D OW Contributor | 3/19/2020, 9:54 a.m.

Last week, this column said number 45 was going to declare either a National Emergency or Martial Law. The difference of course is the role of the military---dominant in martial law, auxiliary in a National Emergency.

Well, lo and behold, he did just that before the ink was dry on last week’s issue. Fortunately, though, he has still not understood what he has in his hands, and though things are still not good, they are not as bad as they will soon get.

Meanwhile, while it is certain that many US residents and citizens are going to be infected and many of them will die, this isn’t the first nor probably the last nationwide epidemic.

We’ve had Yellow Fever outbreaks several times (still no vaccine if you get it), cholera outbreaks, diptheria epidemics which killed a lot of children, various flu epidemics, typhoid fever scares, etc. Once again we are having another flu bug to add to the so-called Hong Kong Flu, the Asiatic Flu, the Russian Flu, the Spanish Flu, and now the Coronavirus, which is a more acute flu-like disease.

Even as medicine has advanced very far in the modern age, we still cannot erase periodic disease contagions from modern society. And like most of the others, this time around rumors and misinformation accompany the disease on its trip through the population. For example, once again there is the myth that this is a White person’s disease and most Black folk can’t get it. That is indeed misinformation.

During the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic that ravaged Philadelphia and the Northeast, a journalist spread the rumor that Blacks were immune to the disease that was taking white residents out by the thousands. The Free African Society (FAS) a major group of non-slave Black property owners who helped found the AME Church, stepped forward and volunteered to help offer care to those who fell ill. They did a magnificent job, and were honored by Philadelphia, but also damned in the media by pamphlets saying they were gouging White clients and stealing from them as they lay sick and weak.

Eventually, the FAS members cleared their names, but it left a bitter taste for all the work they put in. And a handful of Black residents did in fact fall ill to the Yellow Fever bug, but very few.

Thus far, very few African Americans have been reported in the list of those infected by the Coronavirus, but we should not take any pleasure in that yet. The lack of a viable testing protocol may be the prime reason for that. We surely don’t have a gene that makes us immune to the virus, and a great many of us are part of the hospital staffs that are working overtime to handle this new crisis.

So, no time for false rumors and misinformation. In fact, there’s already far too much of that. We must listen to and follow the same handwashing and sanitizer regimen as everyone else. For this virus, we are not special. We can and will get sick and die like everybody else.

In the meantime, start talking again to those cousins and family members in the deep South who may have, or can get, something we can use.

We have to survive this. We’ve great work to be done before we sleep. So try anything and everything you can think of and come up with through your meditation, takin’ it to God, and anything else available.

For all the various permutations and missing national leadership, what I will say is this will not take the vast majority of us out. We’ll still be here, ya’ll.

Thank you, Jesus !!!