Fear and a type of madness have taken over the news media, the blogosphere and politicians over the subject of Ebola. Science and medicine are being ignored. The most ridiculous statements about the disease are being made. If the HIV scare of the 1980’s was bad, the scare nowadays is terrifying. Already we have had one teacher placed on leave merely for having flown to the city of Dallas. Entire buildings have been evacuated based merely on a person being near a person who developed Ebola, even though that person did not have any contact with the infected.
Even worse, down in Dallas, people cleared of Ebola are unable to get an apartment out of the sheer fear that the medical community might possibly be totally wrong about the disease, see http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Ebola-Patients-Fiance-Unable-to-Find-New-Home-280127682.html. They are forced to live in a church camp because no one will rent to them.
Fortunately, a heroic nurse with gumption has for a second time become a hero. She defied the illegal and unsubstantiated government orders for her quarantine. How do I know the orders were illegal? Because a judge said so, see the video above. The judge has clearly stated that the rights of a person may not be removed on fear alone, but must be based on verifiable facts. Conspiracy theories, and a refusal to listen to medical experts are not, and cannot be, a basis for taking away human rights. Any legal moves must be based on facts and facts alone.
At the beginning of World War II, we committed one of the grosser violations of human rights in our history. We interned every person of Japanese descent who lived on the west coast. There was no proof and no truly legal basis, but it was done by the Federal government with the support of a fearful populace. We jailed people merely based on their ethnic descent. It took until 2011, under President Obama, that the Department of Justice finally filed a formal writ stating that the internment was wrong.
Three years later, we are again trying to repeat the same mistake. Fear, without basis in fact, is being used to mandate a set of restrictions that violate constitutional rights. Fear is blinding too many people to the reality of what is happening, a reality that in the long run is more dangerous than the disease. Fear may allow a precedent to be set that will cost us in later years.
Fortunately, a truly heroic nurse has spoken up and has refused to roll over. An equally fine judge has ruled based on law and not on fear. We need to applaud her for having the gumption to defy mistaken public opinion, and to insist that the government cannot take her rights away based merely on rumor and innuendo.
The phrase “in an abundance of caution” cannot be used to justify any actions by the government or even by private individuals. It is at our peril that we allow that phrase to become legally usable. It is at our peril that we give a tool for justifying any fear to any arm of the government. If we give that tool to them, we should not be surprised when our worst fears of intrusive government become reality and we find ourselves in an internment camp, or quarantined at home, or even unable to find a job or a place to live.