He stares across the crowded room. Someone who once knew someone who went to West Africa is sitting at the bar.
Does John Wayne walk out of the bar shaking with fear because this person might have been exposed to Ebola? Does he form a task force to deal with the potential epidemic? Does he quake in fear?
John Wayne walks up to the bar and has a drink — something it seems that precious few people who live in America could do. I’m glade the Duke didn’t live long enough to see his country emasculated because ever since I returned from Africa last week, I’ve learned a thing or two about the state of America’s manhood and frankly, I have nothing positive to report.
Sitting in Kenya, everyone was baffled at America’s response to the ‘ebola crisis.’ What puzzled people the most was not just America’s reaction to the ‘ebola crisis’ but the fact that a country that was once a true superpower considers one person dying of a disease they picked up in West Africa a crisis in the first place.
There’s no spread of the disease; and contrary to what you might believe from media reports, people are not dropping dead at every corner and no one is bleeding through the nose on a subway.
We’ve progressed, wait, wrong word, declined to a level where a school in Maine put a teacher on leave because the teacher traveled to Dallas where one person and two nurses were. There’s no evidence the teacher was exposed — but they were in Dallas you see.
“An over abundance of caution” is a phrase that’s being used a lot during this false crisis — actually what it is is a pathetic overreaction by a country once known for its daring and bravery.
Now, we can’t even get our hair cut if we’ve been to West Africa — and frankly, as we show the worst of our worst side to the world, and least that Boston hair salon is punishing people who actually have been to where there is ebola, unlike the school in Maine who must have confused Dallas with Liberia.
Then there was the ‘cruise ship” crisis where someone who may have handled a sample of the Dallas ebola victim but had no signs of the disease forced a cruise ship back to port.
It’s not just ebola that has turned Americans into a nation of quote unquote men who can’t travel without their blankies— Americans refuse to travel to anywhere where there might possibly be a hint of anything dangerous. Why take a chance? You can hear the travel agents saying and see the customers nodding.
Go to Orlando — at least you can drink the water.
“A SHIP IN PORT IS SAFE. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT SHIPS ARE BUILT FOR.”
Travel is about exploring. Travel is about taking some risks. Travel forces you outside your comfort zone if you do it right.
So let’s take one of the more interesting places in the world — Lamu off the coast of Kenya. Travel warnings galore. They all conveniently ignore the facts — starting with the one about the U.S. Naval base that’s between Lamu and Somalia border.
I went to Lamu last week — challenging both the global ebola epidemic and terror warnings — maybe I should get an eye patch like John Wayne wore once. The terror warning is interesting because no one was ever hurt or attacked on Lamu — but there were attacks nearby so in an ‘abundance of caution’ the authorities have warned against everything but ‘critical travel’ to the region.
So here’s what’s happened to this remarkable area of the world. Tourism has plummeted — down maybe 80% or more at this stage. Hotels and restaurants are paying people half wages and the economy is collapsing. It would be one thing if there was actually anything to worry about — but since there isn’t it’s hard to justify. It’s harder still when you visit and you wander the streets alone.
“People think I am hiding here in a bunker, it’s crazy” longtime resident Dion mused. “You’re the first American we’ve seen in months.”
Dion’s family has a remarkable property called Kizingo — in this picture below, it’s eight small bandas out on that point in the middle. It’s incredibly safe, remarkably beautiful and well worth traveling to. In fact, right now is actually the perfect time to go — the weather is good, the fishing is amazing and the beaches are more empty than usual. You can walk all the way down the beach to the incredible Peponi Hotel — home of the best seared tuni sashimi I’ve ever had and I’ve had a lot. The Peponi is usually packed and happening this time of year — a friend of mine, Dean Paschall from Boulder and I were two of just a handful of guests having dinner the other night.
Americans have become the land of all swagger, no cojones. We like to walk around with guns in public in Texas — maybe they’re hunting ebola — we talk tough when we send other people’s kids to war.
President Obama is usually pretty good at staying above the insanity — but even he felt the pressure. Now we have an Ebola Czar whose job description is to tackle the imaginary crisis and there is a military rapid response unit as well. What exactly are they going to respond to? All swagger.
Ironically, the country that’s showing its true colors is Cuba. They’re sending supplies and doctors — they’re fighting the disease, not living in fear of it. Of course, most Americans won’t travel to Cuba because it’s dangerous and there’s a travel ban which isn’t really much of a ban — you can get around it with some ingenuity and creativity.
As fast as the false ebola crisis escalated, now it’s fading. Nigeria is ebola-free. South Africa? Not one case there. Slowly, the crisis will only be a crisis where it actually was a crisis — West Africa. By the time our new ebola czar gets his business cards back from the printer, there won’t even be a false crisis to deal with. What the hell is the military swat unit going to do? Chase down reports of people with flu-like symptoms on subways?
When the false crisis is gone, I was thinking that maybe then we can talk about the thousands of men, women and children who have been killed by hand guns since Sandy Hook. Maybe then we can talk about the horrific suicide rates among our veterans.
I’m kidding of course — we won’t do that — nevertheless, it will be fascinating to watch the media who created the crisis now try and deal with the wind down. Wait there’s more, and then there isn’t. Hopefully, maybe at least some members of the media will be embarrassed by all the false crisis stories they filed — but I’m kidding about that too.
Ebola is a crisis that will solve itself by doing absolutely nothing. And nothing is, I might add what America is best known for these days.
Where have you gone John Wayne? Where have you gone….
It’s a great time to visit Lamu — head for Kizingo and tell Dion James sent you.
UPDATED: CNN.com has a great take on this issue as well. More facts (and silly stories) than I have in mine.
UPDATE 2: And Nate Silver, as always, crushes it.