Little Lives, Narrow Minds, Bitter tongues: Kaci Hickox and the Schadenfreude of a Nation

Kaci Hickox, MSF Nurse

Kaci Hickox, MSF Nurse

There’s an interesting online drama being played out on a Dallas Morning News post.

Ms. Kaci Hickox, a volunteer nurse who only just returned from spending a month treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, is stopped at the airport in New Jersey. She is held (against her will) at the airport for 4 hours, interrogated, told she had a fever (when she didn’t). Then she’s transported to a NJ hospital, and shoved in a tent. She has no idea when she’ll be given her freedom.

She wrote about her experience on her post: UTA grad isolated at New Jersey hospital as part of Ebola quarantine

What I’d like you to do is read the comments. Some are kind, thank her for her work, and attempt to be supportive, but most read like this:

This self-indulgent, irresponsible woman is getting the treatment that she deserves.

We’re supposed to feel sorry for you because you were not allowed to go out and infect everyone else you came into contact you????

Shut up and stop whining.

Jane Dawson
Her charity work is evidentally conditional .   She regrets the variable downside of her charity.
And Christ never promised us happiness or fortune on earth just because we might give of ourselves here on earth.  IOW,
Charity comes with a risk.

Dawn McColm
So Ms. Hickox witnesses the horrors of ebola in Africa and the extreme suffering of those infected, and she whines about not being treated like a princess here.  Sorry, but it’s time for her to grow up.

Ewe Boreme-Sheep
Oh, grow up.

She could have been denied a visa to enter the US and spent her quarantine time in Africa.  Maybe she would have been treated more politely there.

Linda Bence
If Ms Hickox doesn’t like the treatment here, she is very welcome to go back to Africa and STAY THERE!

This is just a small sampling.

Not only are many of the comments callous and insulting, but the projections onto her (of expectations of a ticker tape parade, that she be treated like a princess, etc.) are ludicrous and show a venom, a bitterness that verges on the pathological.

So, here’s my theory about what is happening with these people:

1. They suffer from a spectacular lack of imagination. Their inability to imagine how, after returning what must have been a pretty traumatic month treating ebola patients, and 20 hours of transit, she’s treated like a criminal, told she has a fever, and given no clear information as to what is going on. She flew home, thinking she was coming to a place of safety, and got this.

2. A lot of them are terminally ignorant about the rights of US citizens to return, about due process, about questionably legal detention.

3. They are rabidly defensive of their own inaction, cowardice and lack of caring. They suffer from a strange bitterness over her temerity to go and do something they couldn’t contemplate.

4. They don’t have the intelligence to understand how, if the disease grows, it WILL come to the US, people will hide where they have been, and they will sicken and become infectious IN the community and hide it for fear of being treated like this woman was treated.

5. There’s a strange undercurrent of blind hatred for the scientific, the educated, the rational.

I suppose there was always a proportion of the population who has suffered from this weird combination of rage, self-righteous smugness, parochialism and schadenfreude. They just didn’t get to air it so widely before.

N.B This blog is MINE. I’m not a news organization and I am under NO obligation to house toxic comments on it. You are welcome to disagree with my posts but do so calmly, rationally and respectfully. If your comment shows disrespect for medical workers who have risked their lives to bring this outbreak under control at its source – something that most of us would not find the courage to do –  I will simply trash it. Don’t like it? Go troll some other part of the internet.