Blame: Ebola's weapon

How a virus made us turn on each other

The Science

Ebola Hemorrhage Fever is a virus that first made its appearance in Sudan in 1976. Ebola is "an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated" ("Ebola Virus Disease"). It has an average mortality rate of 50%. Ebola has infected an estimated 18,000 people and killed an estimated 7,000 primarily in Africa. Its symptoms include headache, soar throat, fever, diarrhea, and internal bleeding. The virus spreads through direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids. So far, there is no vaccine but there are multiple experimental drugs like zmapp. Some of the countries infected are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Sudan.
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Accusations Arise

The Ebola epidemic of 2014 began in Guinea in March of 2014 and was spread there from eastern Africa by a two year old child. The virus later spread from Guinea to LIberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Spain, Nigeria, Senegal, and the United States. Focusing on the United States, the individual who brought Ebola to the U.S was a man named Thomas Eric Duncan. He contracted Ebola while "performing an act of nobility and grace" (Baden and Moss). He assisted a pregnant woman who was gravely ill by taking her to the local hospital. He did not know she had Ebola when he traveled back to the United States. Duncan began showing symptoms on September 24th, 2014 and was treated at Texas Presbyterian Hospital. He later died but not before spreading it to two nurses who treated him. This incident kicked off wide spread fear within the U.S and led to controversial legislation by the mayors of New York and New Jersey. They decided to enact a voluntary quarantine for anyone entering their states from the Ebola stricken countries. In one case a Nurse named Kaci Hickox, who returned from Sierra Leone, was " [placed in] an isolation ward" ("Nurse Held in Isolation"). Both there individuals are examples of the beginning of the pattern of assigning blame. Americans tend to blame Duncan for bringing Ebola to the United States and therefore reacted differently when a Nurse was thought to be carrying the virus as well. Before either of these incidents, the U.S treated its Ebola infected citizens like heroes and brought them home to be cared for. After these incidents, it was clear that that would no longer happen.

Blame: A person or a definition?

When Ebola first appeared back in 1976 in eastern Africa, most of the world was unconcerned. This became a pattern. When more and more people started contracting Ebola, only those in Africa were concerned. When it spread to other continents, however, it threw the world into a frenzy. Accusations flew in a million different directions. When Ebola began to spread to other countries, it had already been in Africa for some time. We knew all the facts and yet we still chose to assign blame and to initiate fear. This pattern of blaming individuals keeps popping up in different places and the best embodiment of blame is in The Crucible. What ties the Ebola Epidemic of 2014 and The Crucible together is the theme that people, in times of fear, ignore the facts and proceed to accuse either an individual or an institution of initiating an event or problem.

The Crucible is a play about the disintegration of a community over the accusations of witchcraft. In the play we see families torn apart over the testimony of a few adolescent girls. Like with Ebola, there is mention of witchcraft existing elsewhere but there isn't much worry over it until it appears close to home. Mary Warren tells Abigail "the whole country's talkin' witchcraft! They'll be callin' us witches, Abby" (Miller 1034). Mary Warren predicted that the issue of witchcraft would arise and that once it was found to be inside the town, the officials would stop at nothing to end it. We see this pattern carry over to the issue of Ebola in the U.S. Before Ebola came to the United States, the U.S accepted American citizens (mostly doctors) back into the country to be treated at specialized hospitals. The public viewed these men and women as heroes for risking their lives overseas. However, public opinion changed at once when it learned that Ebola was unintentionally brought to the U.S by Thomas Eric Duncan. Public opinion had "a stark and troubling contrast in the way people talked [about him]" (Baden and Moss) and the way they talked about previous American doctors who had risked their lives in Africa. Ebola being in the U.S brought fear and rapid, but not always justified, action. Like in Salem, officials in the U.S promised a speedy end but ended up damaging their own citizens.

Out of all the characters in The Crucible, John and Elizabeth Proctor are one of the only ones who do not entirely believe in the witchcraft. Elizabeth is afraid when she learns the courts are blaming the incidents with the girls on witchery. Elizabeth says " the Deputy Governor promised hangin' if they'll not confess" (Miller 1055). John is some what shocked saying "they'd never hang" (Miller 1055) to which Elizabeth replies "the towns gone wild" (Miller 1055). What the officials are now doing is looking for scapegoats to blame the witchcraft on. Salem is ignoring the facts and choosing to indite certain people based only on the testimony of a few. In the issue with Kaci Hickox, fear of Ebola prompted to state government of New Jersey to place her in quarantine without her consent. This was done out of fear not rationality. Standard protocol is to let in American citizens from the afflicted countries but to trust them with their own monitoring. New Jerseys acted on that instinct of fear by basically keeping a nurse who risked her life hostage.
The largest factor that leads the normally rational human race to break order is fear. A mother would do anything if she believed her child was in danger. Essentially both the American government and the officials of Salem are that scared mother. It is interesting to see how the views on things that frighten us change when they grow closer, not only in size but in distance. Salem, fearing witchcraft would destroy their community, pointed the finger too quickly and, in the process, innocent people were killed. The United States shouldn't have blames Duncan for bringing Ebola to the U.S when at some point it was bound to happen. Only after his death did the media say that he contracted Ebola while helping a pregnant woman. The same issue arrises with Kaci Hickox. She should have not been quarantined without her consent but the government of New Jersey did what they thought was best for their people.

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