Comforting Words: 11/2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Oleta Adams Get Here If You Can

This song has not dulled in my memory....still love it!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

National Emergency or National Panic Attack?

It is not often that I agree totally with a 'Conservative' talk show host or opinion-maker but there I was again today nodding as Charles Adler asked the question:

"Is this H1N1 situation a national emergency or a national panic attack…we'll get some answers when we come back?"

My training had ended a bit early and after having lunch with a colleague at a Caribbean food store in Calgary, I jumped in my truck (Rebel), turned on the radio for company on the drive home. I deliberately searched for Adler's show on AM 770 wanting something to keep me awake and I knew his opinions always do that.

Earlier in the day my thought was to write a piece about dreams as the previous night's dream was so vivid and poignant that I wanted to share with my readers. Adler, however, pulled me away from that idea with his opening salvo.

Apparently a caller to the show yesterday had sparked some controversy that refused to die – at least with Adler. Hence when I tuned in, he was replaying a clip of the conversation with this caller who he chose to identify as 'Blake'.

"What the f… did he just say?" flew out of my mouth before I had a chance to bomb-proof it. Adler must have heard me and replayed the clip and I remained as dumbfounded as I was the first time.

Here was a well spoken man saying that the H1NI shots should be given first to those paying the most taxes rather than to "the least productive" people in society. And who are these people? Well to Blake, "the homeless and the Natives," of course.

Adler's response was far more tempered than mine, albeit he did not hold back describing the comment as unintelligent after Blake refused to acknowledge the generalization in his comment. Not happy or maybe more surprised that the host, who in my opinion has some ultra-conservative views, did not agree with him and actually 'ripped a strip off his behind' Blake decided to send Adler an email.

That only made matters worse as he attempted to take the intellectual high horse – his two Bachelor degrees, his soon to be completed Master degree and the Native Studies that he took – to prove that he knew that the Aboriginals of this country do not deserve to be vaccinated before highly productive, high-income tax payers like him.

Adler continued to discuss the merits of his counter-arguments but soon focused more on whether book-smarts override experience with other guests and callers. He then adeptly made the connection between the so-called experts scaring the daylights out of the population to get vaccinated and whether there is actually a pandemic.

He obviously had but just before writing this piece I double-checked the meaning of the word "pandemic" and, while I am not an expert, to me it seems that the use of this adjective is at the root of comments and attitudes displayed by Blake.

The word pandemic is used to describe say a disease that is "prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area." It is a "general" situation.

While the H1N1 virus might be "prevalent throughout" say Canada, occurring in many cities – I will not be walking around in a mask – at least not yet. Pandemic as I understand it means that many people – not the majority – across the world have contracted this flu. However, the distinction that pandemic does not mean 'dropping down dying like flies' has not been widely made.

Instead, in their attempt to avoid the worst case scenario the powers that be have 'put the fear of God' in the hearts of the population. In Canada, and specifically in my neck of the woods, people are panicked and are lining up for as much as six hours to be vaccinated.

I agree with those who feel that the World Health Organization broadcasting pandemic level (1 to 5) largely served to "panic" many across this country. Our government officials and communicators did little to calm the nerves with their subsequent pronouncements, admonishments and even fostered ridicule of those who refused to be panicked.

What is interesting is the fact that the occurrence, prevalence and even fatality of the regular seasonal flu far outweigh the "swine flu." One source states that "the worldwide total for seasonal flu related deaths is generally between 250,000 and 500,000 a year."

As of October 29, 2009 the World Health Organization was reporting "44,555 official lab verified A-H1N1/09 cases and 1170 deaths." While this number is likely to increase and is in fact increasing, some think it will not necessarily surpass what we have seen for seasonal flu.

The decision to take the shot or not is personal. For many years I lived in Europe and not once did I take a seasonal flu shot. My family and I moved to Canada over seven years ago and I have still never taken a seasonal flu shot. Both my daughter and I have very compromised immune system but we have both independently decided not to take the H1N1 shot.

Being someone who have worked in the public service for many years – throughout the Caribbean and now in Canada – I do understand the need for a public emergency strategy and contingency/crisis planning. This is why, despite my personal decision not to get the shot, I am disturbed not only by the poor handling of communications surrounding this situation but the resulting attitudes like Blake's.

It is a government's responsibility – as it is the Church's – to facilitate and/or directly ensure that the basic needs of the "least among us" are addressed. This includes their health care. I am not for a moment suggesting that inherently the Aboriginal people of this nation fall at the bottom of any cultural hierarchy, however, it is an historical fact that they have been marginalized on all fronts for decades. Hence they are, in my opinion, one of the most vulnerable groups, along with the homeless, children, pregnant women and workers on the frontline constantly exposed to the flu (nurses, doctors, paramedics, prison workers).

Having created this crab-barrel situation, with people beginning to fight over what is a fast-tracked and largely under-tested vaccine, the Government must publicly answer Adler's question: Is this really a national emergency or a national panic attack? Then it must take corrective actions to temper the hysteria either way.
In the meanwhile, I will stick to my natural immunity boosters - Vitamin D, Vitamin C and my Cold-FX – and I will get more long sleeved tops for sneezing into and more hand lotion for my shriveling hands!

I pray that you my friends, family and readers will be guided to do what is right for you and what works for you without fear and panic.



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