Tons of stuff is happening in the world and the truth of human attention spans is that we just don’t have the capacity to pay attention. But every so often, it frightens me that the media is just as bad at noticing ongoing trends that are important and ignored as the rest of the population. (I know, the population only knows what to think about because of what the media discusses. I guess I’m just saying that the media needs to get on it. Or we should find alternative news sources. Like, ASAP.)
These are the 3 things on my mind that the American media seems to be ignoring:
1. Enterovirus & Measles
Yes, Ebola made it to Texas. The world is exploding! Side note: the number of stupid tweets about Ebola is absurd (it isn’t a musical group or a politician, people.) But the reality is that Ebola in the United States is and will remain about as dangerous as the common cold. Less dangerous, actually. If you want to be worried about Ebola, keep your worries centered in the African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Gambia, where the total infected is 7470 (as of Sept. 30). Where the growth remains exponential, and the totals are likely severely underreported.
But here’s the thing: there are other diseases WAY more frightening. In the United States. Infecting children and the elderly and people that haven’t been to West Africa recently.
It has similar symptoms to the first stages of Ebola – fever, weakness, muscle pain. Enterovirus is a respiratory disease, but also causes polio-like symptoms of limb numbness and paralysis. (Polio itself is another form of an enterovirus; enterovirus-D68 is one of the “non-polio enteroviruses”) Thus far this summer, 594 people in 43 states have been infected, and last week marked the fifth death in the US – a 4 year old boy in NJ.
The process to protect yourself from enterovirus is basically the same as protecting yourself from any other airborne flu/common cold, namely wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Drink out of your own cup. (All the things kids forget to do… hence they get infected more often and more easily.) And, with a mere 594 infections (0.00018% of the US population) and 5 deaths (a 0.8% death rate) we really shouldn’t be worried about enterovirus. But the math says we should be more worried about it than we are about Ebola.
If we want to listen to math, though, we should really be freaking out about the measles pockets popping up around the country.
I have no qualms with blaming this one on Jenny McCarthy and her anti-immunization following. Science is not an ideology. It creates advances that benefit your life, my life, and that infant’s life over there. When we ignore truths and encourage rampant speculation and falsehoods, we encourage things like local measles outbreaks that are completely preventable.
2. 60 Days of Air Strikes Against ISIS
This one might freak me out the most. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 was passed by Congress during the drawdown of the Vietnam War in an attempt to return the power to declare war to the Congress, where it originally sat. As time has progressed, however, presidents have slowly but surely degraded the WPR, until we have what happened today: President Obama’s 60 days are up, and he is ignoring that fact.
A lot of procedures have been employed by presidents in the past to get around the letter of the law. This time, the White House is submitting new declarations of strikes for each strike – arguing that each strike is, in effect, an individual act of war, completed the day it is undertaken and thus not subject to the 60 day limit. Back in September, Republican Representatives began the process of pushing through legislation declaring war against ISIS; Obama’s White House didn’t want it. Perhaps they didn’t want the specific restrictions that would be implicit in a declaration of war? Perhaps he doesn’t want to call it “war”? (Technically, the United States hasn’t officially declared war since WWII, although both the Iraq and Afghanistan “Wars” have Congressional authorization for the use of military force. In this manner, we’re currently involved in the neighborhood of 150 military engagements.) There is also the argument, made by others in government, but outside of the White House, that the strikes against ISIS in Iraq are still theoretically approved under the resolutions that created the approval for the Iraq War. Note that this war was/is not technically war. Not to be confusing or anything. But this rationale, using outdated and tabled language, wouldn’t cover our airstrikes in Syria. Even some of Obama’s closest allies are deserting him on this, and urging him to request formal Congressional approval or begin the reduction of troops required to be completed within another 30 days.
The bipartisan effort in 2011 to replace the War Powers Resolution with something stronger died a quiet death. Nothing is going to happen now, because we’re getting close to election time, and we can’t let governing get in the way of our democracy, now can we? It scares me that not a peep has been heard out of Congress and, with the exception of Fox News, not a peep has been heard from the larger news outlets. More and more, I’m realizing that we live in a nation of controlled media just like China, but our media operates under the assumption that it is free. But that’s a conversation for another day.
Sexual assault is getting a lot of attention around the country these days, and I totally support that. It is an important issue, especially on college campuses, but it isn’t the only thing on campus that needs attention. Hazing continues to be an omnipresent experience on campuses, students aren’t given proper methods to evade, escape, or otherwise deal with hazing, and it isn’t covered in the media until and unless someone tragically dies in a hazing event.
It isn’t just a college thing. It isn’t just an American thing. This is a photo a family friend took last week in Belgium:
Young men, on their knees in the street. Other men cheering. Outside a bar. It isn’t like these guys are getting arrested or anything. This is something they are “choosing” to do, but what we know is that it isn’t really a choice. In a world where there are so many issues students and youth deal with, where we are focusing incredibly societal energy on confronting online bullying, why don’t we address the very real issue of bullying under the guise of creating community?
Hazing in the military is a very real issue. It creates the opposite of what it is supposed to create – instead of fostering community, hazing in the South Korean military has caused at least 7 deaths, at least 4 of them suicides, in the last 3 months. Hazing in fraternities is a very real issue. Recent calls at Stanford to get rid of fraternity and sorority houses on campus make the argument that hazing is more easily performed when the frat has a house. Hazing in sororities is a real issue. I’ve seen pledging friends here at Tufts undergoing unnecessary stress for days, trying to impress all their future sisters, in order to join a band of sisterhood that could easily exist without the rituals.
Like the fundamental changes needed to change the American government’s approach to declarations of war, or the American public’s opinions on deadly diseases, perhaps hazing needs to be eliminated by instigating an about face in the way we view community and acceptance.
The media is, happily, covering the Nobel Prize, and I have a lot of things to say about the prizes thus far awarded. Basically, I think they’re awesome. But what are the other things you’re regularly thinking about that the media seems to be ignoring entirely?