Peggy Noonan wants arrogant Ebola doctors and nurses to know that her great-aunt came to America from Ireland in steerage in 1909, and didn't do any whining when she was subjected to repeated health examinations:
... Every day the ship's surgeon (possibly brusquely, probably officiously) examined her for signs of acute or long-term illness. The card noted her details.... On the back it says, "Keep this Card to avoid detention at Quarantine and in Railroads in the United States." If she failed the physicals she would be held at Ellis Island or sent back. There's a little notch to mark each day the doctor found her healthy. In the end there were nine.
... She accepted with grace the needs and demands of her new nation, took no offense, and acknowledged the utility of a quarantine or ban -- why would America be bringing in sick people who could spread disease?
... I miss such humility, don't you? Did we fail to encourage it by forgetting to honor it? Or, if these questions are insufficiently ideological, whatever happened to courtesy to the collective? We should bring it back. We could answer the current quarantine question if we faced it with the calm of a 1909 immigrant.
Yes, Noonan is certainly entitled to lecture Kaci Hickox and Dr. Craig Spencer on this, because we're all aware of Noonan's quiet stoicism when she's inconvenienced in order to protect the public's safety:
[Let me] try to draw a fuller picture of what it was like to be taken aside at an airport last week for what is currently known as further screening and was generally understood 50 years ago to be second-degree sexual assault.
I was directed, shoeless, into the little pen with the black plastic swinging door. A stranger approached, a tall woman with burnt-orange hair. She looked in her 40s. She was muscular, her biceps straining against a tight Transportation Security Administration T-shirt. She carried her wand like a billy club. She began her instructions: Face your baggage. Feet in the footmarks. Arms out. Fully out. Legs apart. Apart. I'm patting you down.
It was like a 1950s women's prison movie....
I experienced the search not only as an invasion of privacy, which it was, but as a denial or lowering of that delicate thing, dignity. The dignity of a woman, of a lady, of a person with a right not to be manhandled or to be, or to feel, molested.
... Let me tell you what I say, in my mind, after things like this.... I think, We are embarrassing the angels.
... "Put your feet in the foot marks, lady." We are embarrassing the angels.
"You are embarrassing the angels." This is what I intend to say for the next 40 days whenever I see someone who is hurting the culture, hurting human dignity, denying the stature of a human being. I mean to say it with belief, with an eye to instruction, but also pointedly, uncompromisingly. As a lady would. All invited to join in.
A 21-day quarantine in an unheated tent in Newark, New Jersey (where, by the way, it's going to be 35 degrees and windy Sunday night)? Take it like my dignified immigrant forbear, Nurse Hickox! A ten-second patdown in the airport? WAHHHH! WAHHHH!
Noonan's great-aunt minded her manners and deferred to the authorities. So that's what we should all do now, right, Peggy? Well, no -- we shouldn't defer to authorities Peggy Noonan disagrees with:
Support among the American public for quarantine appears at this point to be overwhelming. You can know this if you walk down the street and ask people, or if you look at a CBS poll that found 80% of respondents think citizens returning from West Africa should be quarantined until it’s clear they do not have the disease.
But America’s "professionals" in the scientific and medical communities, and certainly those in the White House, seem deeply uninterested in the views of common people.
Don't you love the scare quotes around "professionals"? Yeah, just because you're a doctor and have years of experience in the public health field, you think you're a big know-it-all about infectious disease! I know stuff about infectious disease too, you know! I watch CNN and Fox!
But this is contemporary conservatism in a nutshell: government is always bad, unless conservatives feel they're at personal risk, and then everyone who doesn't defer to authorities is a traitor. However, if the authorities don't approach the (real or imagined) threat in a way conservatives like, then we need authorities who agree with conservatives, and anyone who doesn't defer to them is a traitor. Government is good as long as conservatives are scared, and as long as it's a government of the right kind -- in both senses of the word "right."
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog