As North Texas Ebola fears subside with the calming passage of time, we should remind ourselves that the dangers have not passed. And, as we direct prayers toward the Georgia and Maryland bio-isolation units where two Dallas nurses are fighting the disease contracted here, the nation continues to evaluate how to improve on an initially shaky response.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tightened protocols. Hospitals are evaluating their readiness. Local governments are assessing what they would do if they faced a challenge like ours. This is all proper and part of the learning curve this pernicious disease has created.
But the simplest, most obvious thing we can take control of has become the subject of a needless struggle. For reasons no one can logically explain, there is a chorus of voices, some even within the medical community, resisting a policy that would mathematically reduce America’s Ebola risk the moment it is enacted: the complete ban on incoming passports from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa.
A large majority of Americans favor this policy, according to a recent poll, yet resistance can be heard from people who are supposedly smart on the subject of diseases. Like some doctors.
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As Dallas has baked under the light of national attention, I have made recurring visits to CNN to share local sentiments and reactions as the Ebola story has unfolded. Describing widespread approval of a travel ban, I received push-back from CNN’s Dr. Alexander van Tulleken, whose arguments defied not only science but basic logic.
He said the travel ban offered a false sense of security, doing “almost nothing.” Bizarre on two counts. First, no one suggests the travel ban is a cure-all; we simply welcome any small barrier we can place against the possibility of another Ebola-stricken visitor.
That straw man fallacy is sharpened alongside the good doctor’s own words: “almost nothing.” I will suggest the average American in Dallas or anywhere will gladly accept a reduction of risk of a fraction of 1 percent if the travel ban offers it. Look at the dreadful road we have had to travel with the arrival of but one Liberian carrying Ebola.
The other non sequitur of choice for the travel ban opponents is the wholly false conclusion that it somehow hinders relief efforts in Africa. Charter flights and military aircraft can make as many journeys as they wish to Ebola hot zones, carrying medicine, protective gear and as many brave people as the flights can hold.
What is behind these irrelevancies? What really drives anyone failing to embrace the obvious wisdom of a travel ban? When the odd answers about futility and hindrances to African aid are swatted away, sometimes truth comes out: I have heard concern over fragile West African economies and a desire to avoid stigmatizing an entire region of the world that is suffering mightily already.
Now we may be getting somewhere. But even if the travel ban critics become honest, their argument still fails. It is driven by the unfathomable assessment that America’s responsibilities as a global citizen outweigh the nation’s responsibilities to its own citizens.
When all else fails, some attempts to argue against a travel ban contain the reflex insults of racism and xenophobia, as if the strong American support for the policy is based not on concern for Americans but distaste for Africans. This rhetorical bottom-feeding is baseless and, sadly, typical.
Concerns about suffering people on another continent always deserve our attention. But it is the height of skewed priorities to invoke those concerns as an obstacle to a policy that offers even a small degree of reduced Ebola risk to Americans.
Mark Davis is a North Texas-based conservative talk show host who regularly writes for the Dallas Morning News. He is on twitter @markdavis. Readers may send him mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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