The Politics of Swine Flu

by Devanshu Mehta

We all have our bogeymen, the thing we blame for everything. For some it’s immigrants, for others it’s Cheney and for still others it’s the French. Similarly, we all have our panaceas, the thing we believe can solve all problems. For some it’s Obama, for others it’s the free market and for some others it’s covering-your-ears-while-shouting-lalalalalala-i-cant-hear-you.

Swine flu has brought out the worst of these tendencies. So far, I’ve seen the following:

  1. Susan Collins, Republican senator from Maine, has been put on the defensive for negotiating to remove pandemic preparedness from the stimulus approved by Congress. aka The Republicans are to blame for swine flu.
  2. A caller on NPR’s On Point yesterday tried to connect the spread of swine flu to illegal immigration. As if people didn’t legally travel between the Mexico and other countries. aka I have a sad life, can I blame an illegal immigrant?
  3. To prove that even people on the left see the world through ideological goggles, another caller on NPR’s On Point said that maybe if we had Obama’s universal health care, we wouldn’t have the epidemic. aka I have this great hammer, and all I see are nails!
  4. Yet another caller, said that maybe factory farming is to blame. aka I buy groceries at Whole Foods, why don’t you?

In another context, I may agree with each of these points to different degrees. But I also find such ideology driven comments for every unrelated national news story as knee-jerk and self-centered.