Quarantine Violates Civil Rights?
I do not understand the official response to the quarantining of Nurse Kaci Hickox.
Here’s my understanding of the situation:
Kaci Hickox is a member of a group called “Doctors Without Borders”, a group of volunteer medical professionals who travel to very poor disease-ridden areas around the world to help those who otherwise would never get medical care. She recently went to Sierra Leone and freely disclosed that she had actually been working with patients infected by the outbreak of Ebola devastating small villages there.
Ebola, for anyone who doesn’t know by now, is a hemorrhagic fever that sounds related to that holiday-misery-maker Norovirus. Except as miserable as norovirus is – and let me tell you, for some of us it's no simple 24-hour flu bug as my sister who took a year for her gut to recover will tell you – it’s got nothing on Ebola. Not to be too ridiculously graphic, but how does the thought of dying in great pain while bleeding from pretty much everywhere strike you? Oh and by the way, first you’ll spend a while possibly with a high fever, but most certainly with intense abdominal pain, throwing up and having uncontrolled diarrhea. Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t going to get horribly graphic…but this is not a little sniffle bug we’re talking about here. This is a nasty, nasty disease, the kind you hear about in dystopian science fiction stories. And personally, to me the politics surrounding it right now sound straight out of the same kind of scary story.
After spending a time working with sick people in Sierra Leone, Kaci Hickox returned to the United States and expected to walk off the airplane in New Jersey and head home to Maine as if she had never heard of a hemorrhagic fever raging in the country she’d just left. A fever she’d been around multiple times. A fever other nurses were contracting. And incidentally, when Nurse Hickox got off the plane, it was discovered a few hours later that she was running a slight fever.
You or I under these circumstances would probably have done the same thing the folks in charge in New Jersey did: get this lady secluded FAST before anyone else gets sick!
In case you’ve already forgotten my earlier description, let me reference bleeding from the eyes while dying in great pain from a disease with a whopping 50% mortality rate. Influenza, by the way - that dreaded killer we’re all suppose to rush to our nearest drugstore to get immunized against or else we’re horrible people who want to start a world pandemic - has a 0.5% mortality rate.
Nurse Hickox is a medical professional. I assume she knows these numbers if I do. But when she was immediately placed under quarantine after getting off the plane with a temperature, her first actions were to insist that not only was she feeling fine and not ill, but her civil rights were being violated by being place in quarantine against her will. The White House immediately got involved and the next thing you know, Governor Chris Christie caved to pressure and ordered Kaci Hickox released from quarantine and sent home with apparently a promise to self-monitor. “Oh, she hasn’t gotten anything in twenty-four hours, so we’re letting her go,” was pretty much the conclusion.
As I understand it, when you have a disease with a twenty-one day incubation period, you can be fine for twenty days (or four-hundred-fifty-eight hours) and then come down with it on the twenty-first day, presumably exposing everyone you come in contact with from that point on. So to say someone is fine in twenty-four hours is kind of silly, though I guess if her temperature went back down and she tested negative for Ebola I can see why at that point it was pretty safe to get her back to Maine where hopefully she could just have some quiet time at home for a few weeks until she was sure all was well and she could resume being out and about as usual.
But Kaci Hickox is not sitting peacefully at home recovering from jet lag and taking it easy for a few weeks. She has gone on a campaign to deliberately violate the quarantine she was asked to maintain. She feels great, so she’s determined to go out and about if she wants to. From what I can see, her standard of concern about spreading a horrific disease ends with whatever “medical science” has determined necessary and apparently, quarantine is “not a medically proven” way to stop the spread of a contagious disease.
Let me say that again: according to this particular nurse – and her lawyer, and multiple political people – staying away from everyone until you’re sure you’re not sick isn’t medically proven to prevent the spread of a virus.
I guess I can sort of see why when she’s not sick she’s not particularly concerned about spreading anything. As far as we know, as with norovirus you can't spread Ebola if you don't have any symptoms yet. Still, for the peace of mind of her neighbors and relatives and just on the off-chance that a disease we don’t know that much about might be contagious before we think it is…why is she heroically defending her civil right to ignore a sensible precaution? More strangely yet, why is this such an important point that even the White House is insisting a quarantine not be used to prevent the spread of Ebola?
Because, our leaders postulate, to quarantine everyone returning from these countries would discourage people from going over there to help treat the disease. Because even if you’re courageous enough to go help people who are dying while bleeding from their eyes, you’re probably going to chicken out if you find out you’ll have to stay in quarantine three weeks when you get back, apparently.
Invoking images from the shameful behavior of citizens to our soldiers returning from Vietnam, the President sternly lectured us this week that we need to treat our returning aide workers “right” and not subject them to all this outdated and pointless posturing like routinely quarantining them to make sure they don't spread anything when they get home.
Unless you belong to the military, of course. Turns out the soldiers being sent to help in Ebola-ravaged areas are still being placed in mandatory quarantine until it becomes clear they haven't gotten sick. So medical professionals can freely come and go without any concern at all...but watch out for those soldiers because they might carelessly spread the plague around!
I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on with the administration in charge. They haven’t wanted to ban travel to and from the countries affected. They haven’t wanted to give us accurate information about the disease. They haven’t wanted anyone to quarantine anyone who might be contagious. They didn’t even seem to take it seriously when a nurse who’d treated an Ebola patient wanted to travel even though she already had a fever and one of her co-workers was also sick and suspected of having the disease. Sure, they responded with heavy-handed force once the traveling nurse tested positive – they stripped everything from her apartment and got rid of it even though the Ebola virus has proven to live only a few hours on surfaces – but the whole saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” seems to have been tailor-made for our officials in this situation. They have pretended the issue didn’t exist at all and act annoyed that anyone would be worried about it during the ounce of prevention stage, that’s for sure.
The really paranoid black-helicoptor-sighting part of me says it’s almost as if they WANT there to be an epidemic of Ebola here. I can’t figure out why that would be beneficial to anyone, but their actions are certainly not those of people who want to prevent the spread of sickness. They took the Swine Flu thing last year a whole lot more seriously. If I had a nickel for every time I heard or read the word “pandemic”, I would be a lot richer today…and we don’t even own a television.
Maybe that’s what has me worried. Why is it that we’re pressured every which way from Wednesday to get the flu vaccine but we’re not supposed to worry about Ebola unless someone has already tested positive for it? Why is the White House putting heavy pressure on the states who want to quarantine aide workers? What could they possibly gain by it?
The only reasonably possible explanation I can come to (after I consider maybe some bizarre form of population control or racial overtones saying the United States has a guilt-ridden duty to help black countries no matter what the cost) is that this is an election cycle. There’s a big election in just a few days. Rule of thumb is that when people get scared during an election year, they kick out the party in power if that party can’t show strong leadership and present an immediately effective solution to the problem.
I think no one in charge really has much of a solution for Ebola right now, so the official stance is to try and keep people from getting scared. Hence… “Ebola? What Ebola? Oh, that Ebola. Why, that’s nothing. Nothing at all. Don’t worry about it. Remain calm. And when we do have a solution, we’ll proclaim it loudly and all will be well.”
It's about their images. It's about people not getting scared and acquiring a "vote the bums out!" attitude even more than they already have given the chaos our entire healthcare system has been thrown into. It's about the same thing it's always about when it comes to some kinds of officials: looking good, not looking for real answers.
But to be honest…I still don’t understand.
I really hope Kaci Hickox remains in excellent health.
Grappling With Information
I read an article today about a teacher who spent a few days "shadowing" two high school students in order to have a better understanding of what challenges those students faced learning the material the school taught.
She noted students spent their days passively sitting and being told things without really being given a chance to exercise thought. She called it not grappling with the information being presented. Rather than wrestling with ideas and testing them and pounding out an understanding, students spent their days sitting and trying to stay awake. Sort of like the workplace conference that never ends – one of those nightmares that goes right up there with realizing you’re standing up to make a speech in your pajamas.
Worse than the sitting, though, was the sheer lack of interaction. Students were not valued for their own thoughts, nor were they encouraged to do anything but pay attention and not interrupt. Teachers have even gotten into the habit of constantly reminding their students to shut up and listen.
This attitude radiates out into our whole culture, though, doesn’t it? We emerge from childhood (school) conditioned to passively open our brains and let someone - pretty much anyone! - pour information in rather than seeking to gain understanding. We watch the news and whatever we see tends to be what we believe. People in conversations are adept at small talk but haven’t had a whole lot of practice “grappling” with any kind of deep thoughts. We go to church and listen to someone else do all the talking. Who stands up during service to ask questions? That’s just rude and disruptive!
It’s all about molding rather than learning. There are a lot of people interested in molding anyone they can get their hands on but not so interested in really training minds to think.When you make a mold, you create a pre-set shape for soft material to be poured into so it can harden and retain that form. We have several institutional bodies interested in being molders, popping out citizens who have been mind-numbed for the most part into being whatever the current political fad says they ought to be. And heaven help us, current political fashion is just plain stupid. No one in their right mind should even entertain half the notions getting spouted off day after day, but somehow we do. From believing global warming is our fault to declaring we should vote for someone simply because he appears "presidential", we the people - at least the majority of us - accept as fact things that we are told without ever testing them because we are trained from infancy to sit and absorb rather than to learn.
Even when it comes to things as fundamental as our religious beliefs, it’s not easy to get at the root of why we believe what we believe. It is not easy to think rather than to just spit out our opinion. I was asked the question recently “what is it that makes you sure Jesus is the Messiah?” and I basically had to sit with my mouth closed because I had no clue what proof I really had to back up this belief. I believed it because I did. I mean, I can point to Bible verses here and there which state categorically that Jesus is Messiah, but truthfully? What proof is that for someone seeking the truth of a claim? You have to first establish the validity of a witness before you can accept testimony from them.
Just like everyone else I accept what I believe to be true simply because I believe it. When my daughter looks up at me and says, “Mommy, why is Jesus the Messiah?” I’d have to essentially say, “Just believe it because it’s true and I told you so.”
That is NOT a good foundation to build a life upon! It would be no surprise with that kind of answer if eventually she went looking for a better one. Hey, it wouldn’t be a surprise if she went looking for any foundation: “because I’m Mom and I said so” is not going to last a lifetime or have any impact on my grandchildren.
I want my children to ask questions instead of just stuffing information into them. I want them to grapple with information and seek for the truth of everything they hear. I want them to never take what they’re told for granted, not even when I’m the one telling them something. I want them to have a love of discovery, a joy in gaining an understanding mind.
If I want them to do it, then I really better be doing it.
Only a very few of us discover. We often just take in what others say and adopt those things as our own. That's why you can have people seeming to fervently believe one thing and then as soon as they pick up a new circle of friends, they think something totally different. That's why we are so insistent on finding groups to belong to, boxes to put ourselves in, names to identify ourselves by: because we generally believe in absorbing and regurgitating information rather than testing, thinking, applying, and discovering what we ourselves REALLY think.
Which is, of course, why I was bound to answer the question about why I believe Jesus is Messiah. Because if I can’t set the example in questioning everything I think I know to make sure I’m really thinking, I certainly can’t expect Abigail to. If I can’t test what I believe, even if I’m successful in teaching my children to mimic me for a while in the end I’ll be just as guilty as our school system of turning out a molded person instead of an understanding one. And those kinds of beliefs can’t hold up.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
I remember a long time before I met Ben, I had conversations with a few other young men to see if it was a good idea to get to know each other better. I was pretty serious how I approached those conversations. I believed there were a lot of surface things it wasn't worth getting bent out of shape about and I wasn't even looking for our views to exactly match up. I was looking for a very specific kind of man to marry: one who wasn't interested in loopholes.
Yeah, that's a pretty enigmatic statement. Let me explain.
It seems like there are two different kinds of people in the world: ones who want to absorb and implement ideas and ones who just like to do what they have to in order to get by. Anyone who's ever taken a written exam has faced this. There are the people who want to know the material and view the test as a way of examining their knowledge to see if they've grasped it. Then there are the people who constantly ask, "Is this on The Test? Do we need to know this for The Test?"
These attitudes carry through to life. I believe they are the two basic ways people approach living a good life.
I wanted to marry someone interested in Good. I really, really wanted to. In fact, it was my primary "list" item when it came to marriage. What I found in my various conversations was very discouraging, however. Even seemingly sincere Christian young men were not interested in what God wanted: they were interested in what they had to or didn't have to do in order to get into Heaven.
That was it. Heaven was the end goal and everything was about whether or not you could get excluded from Heaven if you did this or that while you were alive.
Everything was being viewed through the lens of whether it was an actual "sin" to do or not do...and since our salvation or promise of Heaven is something granted, not earned, every time I brought up some idea or thought I was told, "Well, that's not necessary for salvation. See, Paul says here and here and here that it's actually sinning for us to do anything like that because we would be trying to EARN salvation!"
But I wasn't talking about salvation. I was wondering whether they wanted to go an extra mile out of eagerness for God or whether they just wanted to pass the test and get rewarded.
The response of, "Oh, that's not necessary for us to do" was discouraging because I was trying to picture being married to someone who didn't care about doing things to make me happy either. They could just as easily say, "Well, you swore a vow until death do us part regardless of what I do, so this is what we're doing and you just need to be a good wife and follow my decisions." (One young man told me point-blank that it was my job to be a wife and submit and not hold onto my own dogmatic views so it didn't matter that we had a difference of opinion. I ran the other direction as fast as possible.)
Life - especially life when you believe in God - is not supposed to be about the loopholes. It's not supposed to be about whatever you can get away with and still be considered "okay". We're given lifetimes to do something with them and according to the great men and women of faith who were spoken about and who wrote the Bible under the influence of God's Spirit, the thing we're supposed to do is not sit back and say, "Well, we've fulfilled the minimum requirement...guess we're good now!"
We're in a race, running a marathon, and we're supposed to be loving God with ALL our hearts, souls and might.
The writer of the book of Hebrews - often thought to be Paul, though it was written to Hebrew people and therefore reasons quite a bit differently than the letters Paul wrote to newly-converted pagans - put it this way: "Even if it's not an actual sin, cast off everything that hinders you in being just like Jesus!"
Lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely.
That's a pretty broad statement. It doesn't leave room for loopholes. It means there is no easy list of sins you can just tally up and avoid. It means everyone has to be keeping a sharp eye on their own hearts and minds to understand what's hindering them in doing what God wants. It means that one person might be able to play Tetris in their spare time but someone else has to avoid it completely because they get so distracted playing Tetris they don't pay attention to what their small children are doing.
It means if there's a suggestion that God is pleased by something, someone interested in casting off everything that hinders rather than just fitting through the loopholes will immediately be interested and sincerely investigate. It means perhaps doing or not doing things that seem to have no bearing on whether a person has been saved or not. It means asking "Is this good?" rather than "Do we gotta?"
And this thought process is what has led Ben and I to the conclusion that ALL of God's Law is still valid. It is all still good. It is not done away with. It was not an evil thing God saddled us with that we have a loophole into avoiding but rather a good thing we have every opportunity to be blessed by.
Because in the end...I found a man who wasn't interested in loopholes. He was and is interested in good. That is why I am now doing things I never even thought "applied" to me, such as celebrating God's special days. Because we asked the question "Is it good?" and were willing to cast off anything that hindered - including our preconceived notions of who we are and what God wants from us.
So there you have it. We are camping out in October in our temporary dwelling because God said he wants us to do it and we believe him. And it is very good.
One of the things I'm coming to understand in life is the very, very great power of words.
So many times people say things that they think exist more or less in a vacuum and don't mean anything. They believe in speaking their mind and letting the chips fall where they may. Some people are honestly shocked that anyone would be hurt by their words and others couldn't care less that they've spoken badly of someone. Because in the end, people don't believe their words have significance. They're spoken, they disappear, end of story. This is a trait of Mankind, of all humans.
Let me tell you: words mean something.
Our entire universe and everything in it came into being when God spoke words.
At the end of our lives, we are going to be called into account for every idle word we speak.
God planned for his people to be blessed simply by speaking his name, a word that translates essentially to "He that was and is and is to come."
Our Savior who came to restore us to what we were made to be is called "the Living Word".
By words countries rise and fall, relationships are built and broken, and the entire course of history can be changed. It's no mistake that when we make up fairy tales, it's common for there to be an element of the "magic word" that contains great power. Depending on the spirit in which a word is spoken, words DO have great power (though obviously not the kind portrayed when the fairy in Cinderella says nonsense words like "bibbity-bobbety-boo").
Ben and I have been taking an online class in reading Biblical Hebrew because Ben has been working through the Bible for several years making his own translations so he can better grasp what is actually said. When God broke our ability to communicate at the Tower of Babel, he did more than just confuse the languages: he seems to have made it so even if you learn the basic form of another language, you may never be able to accurately transfer concepts entirely from one language to another. At best, the results are often approximations of the original. The fact that we have a translated Bible at all is nothing short of a miracle, since the literal translation of the Bible is like a collection of gibberish in English. People who understood concepts in both languages had to piece together the meaning from the original ancient manuscripts and that was no small feat. God is God and he shines through regardless: but language is still a barrier. Words mean things and using the wrong word can change everything.
I'm going to take what seems like a slight tangent, but bear with me. I really want to write about speaking words and what it means to speak evil words, but I want to first address what Jesus called the Second Greatest Commandment, quoting from God's Ways (usually called the Mosaic Law): "You shall love your neighbor as yourself".
Setting aside whether or not someone believes God's Law is relevant for Christians today, we're often told that the only commands that count are the ones Jesus gave. You can't get much more direct than this one Jesus referenced.
Leviticus 19:9 - 18 (modified ESV - see paragraph below)
9“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am Yehovah your God.
11“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am Yehovah your God.
13“You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God:I am Yehovah your God.
15“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am Yehovah your God.
17“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Yehovah your God.
These verses are incredibly important. God signed this piece of his law dealing with the relationships between his people with his Name FIVE times. Our Bibles translate his personal name and title as "the LORD your God", but in Hebrew it's his actual name - a very powerful Name - and title. I've added that in here because it's so important. When God signs something with his name it's as if he is underlining, italicizing and saying "PAY ATTENTION! THIS IS IMPORTANT!" Jesus calls this one of only two nails on which the entire Law and the the words of the Prophets hang.
We often hear the phrase "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" and Jesus' accompanying explanation "don't do anything to your neighbor you wouldn't want done to you". We don't often hear some of the details God explained about what that looks like. Being scrupulously truthful and just to each other. Reasoning frankly with each other. Not dealing falsely. Jesus further explained part of this verse by saying, "If you have even called your brother a fool, it is as if you murdered him in God's eyes".
Words mean something. They are powerful. We are not only to deal justly with each other in our actions, but in our words.
The word translated "slander" (pronounced phonetically raw-keel) in this verse is literally translated as "someone who travels bad news", or a scandal-monger. The root word is "merchant", which makes sense - merchants were the early news-bearers and an unreliable news-bearer could really do some serious damage to someone's name in a wide-spread fashion if they so chose. Sort of like Internet communication today. The Internet is where people today go for information and to buy things, just as people used to go to traveling merchants.
In Hebrew, to be a slanderer comes in three concepts: "lashon hara" (evil tongue), which means to use a previously unknown truth to damage someone; "rechilut" (gossip), which means to pass along falsehood to damage someone by inciting hatred or resentment; and "hotzaat shem ra" (spreading a bad name), which is the intentional destruction of someone's name to a wide audience using falsehood. We pretty much grasp these concepts in English by using the words gossip and slander, though I don't think those words are quite as strong to English speakers as the sort-of equivalents in Hebrew.
I wouldn't have ever considered myself as deliberately slandering anyone. But if you go by Jesus' explanation that calling my brother a fool is like murdering him, than even saying small hurtful things about people falls under the category of slander in this verse of Leviticus. It's one thing to report truthfully about something that is bad to protect innocent people from being hurt. It's quite another to wield truth maliciously in an attempt to hurt someone. God hates this. He hates even more when things are made up or when we pass along things we don't personally know to be true.
Let me say this again: God HATES this! He hates slander and untruthfulness and maliciousness and people deliberately attempting to bring down their neighbor's good name.
Proverbs 6:16 (modified ESV - re-entering God's name)
16There are six things that Yehovah hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
19a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
If I'm really interested in doing things God loves - acting as his child, not like a stranger who doesn't care what he thinks - this thought should get me out of my chair and make my hair stand on end. This means that even the things I think are just small little words, a failure to really be scrupulously truthful here, being unguarded or indiscreet about some information there...these things are painfully bad to God.
God is a God of love. He is Good. He is kind. And there are some things he really can't stand. He wants us to be careful with one another, to guard each others' names and hearts, to not wound and destroy each other. Slander can so easily come out of our mouths and off our fingers and those words have power. They have power and they do not disappear. They can be forgiven, but they have the power to destroy both the person being spoken about AND the speaker. Jesus said the one sin that can't be forgiven is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and it seems to me that blasphemy usually involves words at some point.
I remember attending a funeral for a close relative who had not been on the best of terms with his wife at the time he died suddenly. One of the saddest things I have ever experienced was the moment when his wife hugged me and said, "Be good to one another". I think she said it to everyone that day. Her great regret was realizing how many cutting words had been exchanged and how much she wanted to take hers back.
Be good to one another. Don't even speak what seems like a casually deprecating thing about someone. Those words mean things and God hears them. If there is a time to speak something unflattering, there better be a very good reason, those words better only be spoken to precisely the one who needs to hear them for the benefit of that person, and it should be done after great thought, with great regret, and with scrupulous care for the truth.
James 3:1-12 (ESV)
1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,a and set on fire by hell.b 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
I think I'm going to go tell my wonderful husband I love him.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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