Just when we thought we could never show our faces again, thank goodness for Chris Christie. We owe him. Only the governor of New Jersey could make Dallas look good on Ebola.
Look, we won't be bragging any time soon about the day Ebola hit Dallas. It was a mess. We all get that. Now with the perspective of time, we might be tempted to say we suffered the bad luck of being first, and it doesn't really look as if other places would have done much better in the same positon. But that would be whining, and we mustn't do that.
What we did need -- the impossible dream, really -- was someone so callously crass, so utterly ugly, so very vulgar and flamboyantly foolish that he made us look -- well, I have to say, you know, somewhat slick. By comparison. And now we have that person.
We may have fumbled the ball a few times in the heat of the moment, but our local officials were clear and consistent on two points. First: that any potentially exposed person who must be quarantined must also be treated humanely and with respect, or, as Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins put it repeatedly, "These are people who need our compassion, our respect and our love. Treat them the way you would like your family to be treated."
The second point was just as strong: that the healthcare workers fighting this disease here or fighting it in Africa are heroes who are defending our country just like the soldiers who risk their lives in war. Again and again from Jenkins, from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and other community leaders, the word was heroes. Heroes -- people who deserve to be met at the airport when they come home by cheering flag-waving crowds just like the soldiers.
Nurse Kaci Hickox says she was treated like a criminal the moment she showed up at Newark Airport after fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone with Doctors Without Borders. Now she's confined to a tent she describes as being like a prison. Based on the pictures on TV and on-line, I've got new for her. It's worse than prison. In prison you get TV and a flush toilet.
And I realize there's a debate about her condition when she got back -- whether she had a fever or not. I'm actually not here to second-guess anybody on that stuff. In fact we don't know yet exactly what kind of quarantine regimen is appropriate. I don't think Dallas is ready to hold itself out as the expert, even if everybody else is learning from our example (Note to Self: remember, no whining).
It's the sheer jerkishness I'm talking about, making it sound as if Hickox is the bad guy and Chris Christie is Captain America, stoutly defending the nation, no pun intended, from insidious incursions by self-Ebolatized nurses.
"I'm sorry if in any way she was inconvenienced," he said, "but the inconvenience that could occur from having folks who are symptomatic and ill out and amongst the public is a much, much greater concern of mine."
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SHOW ME HOW
Did you get that? Did you catch it? Did you see how brave he was in his own mind and what an irresponsible and anti-social person that nurse was who risked her own life in Africa to save the world, not to mention this country, from the kind of global environmental collapse these diseases represent?
Hey, Christie. Forgive me for not getting this right maybe -- we're a long way off from you here -- but are you not the same dude who shut down a major bridge and caused a near civil disaster to get even with a minor political adversary? Oh, no, now I remember: you were totally innocent of that, weren't you, but you did have to heave your deputy chief of staff, a woman, off the bridge to keep your own skirts clean.
Yeah, now I remember. So I guess your idea now of how to get your hero badge back after heaving one woman off a bridge is by bad-mouthing another one. Mr. Christie, whatever else you may be, you are not a gentleman, sir.
As I say, the main importance and value of this whole narrative is what it says about Dallas. No matter what we got wrong, no matter how long it took us to get it right, no one in Dallas ever spoke the way Chris Christie did about the victims of this horrendous disease. I'm proud of us. That's allowed, isn't it?