Lead Republican thinker Ann Coulter has declared war on American Ebola victims.
In particular, Coulter is upset with Dr. Kent Brantly, a Texas doctor who caught Ebola while doing medicinal missionary work in Liberia.
Brantly and his family travel around the world providing basic medical services in regions of developing countries where basic medicine is rare.
In her latest screed, Coulter says Brantly is “idiotic” for going to a continent that she refers to as a “disease-ridden cesspool.”
Yes, imagine a doctor going where there is disease. What was he thinking?
Coulter says there’s more than enough spiritual healing needed at home in Amurika, so why go and help those darn furnrs.
Except one problem. While Ann Coulter divides the world up into Americans and others, and Republicans and others, and good Republicans and others, actual good human beings see people as, you know, human beings. And a Liberian in need of medical care is no different from an American in need of the same. They’re both human beings, and Dr. Brantly doesn’t lower the value of the social good by helping a cesspool Liberian instead of a vainglorious American.
Oh, and Jews.
Coulter apparently thinks one of the reason all of our good doctors are leaving the country in order to help dark less-deserving dark people is because of the Jews.
Of course, if Brantly had evangelized in New York City or Los Angeles, The New York Times would get upset and accuse him of anti-Semitism, until he swore — as the pope did — that you don’t have to be a Christian to go to heaven. Evangelize in Liberia, and the Times’ Nicholas Kristof will be totally impressed.
Which explains why American Christians go on “mission trips” to disease-ridden cesspools. They’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots. So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.
Actually, missionaries have been going to “convert the savages” for at least 500 years, and then some. They were doing it back in a day when racism was still a virtue, and nobody had ever even heard of the term “homophobe.” So no, Ann, missionaries didn’t recently flock to developing countries because they could not preach bigotry in America.
Coulter is confusing missionaries with Republican activists, who regularly travel the world attempting to spread intolerance that is no longer tolerated at home.
But getting back to the main point, what’s so wrong about trying to provide medical services in an African country that’s wanting in health care? I don’t get it. Yes, there are Americans in need too, and how are their lives any more worthy than the life of an African child? (Not to mention, when is the last time Ann Coulter worked at one of those American clinics for the poor that she’s now criticizing Dr. Brantly for not working in?)
This is what’s so dangerous about the Republican insistence on the concept of “American exceptionalism.” They don’t just think our country is great, they think we’re somehow god-ordained better than the rest, and that therefore our lives are somehow more worthy, have more value, than the lives of those unfortunate enough not to be born American. And it leads them, when they’re caught being brutally honest (as Coulter is wont to do), to the conclusion that it’s “idiotic” to attempt to save the lives of people outside of our borders. And I just don’t buy it.
Everyone has a cause, everyone has a purpose. We all can’t spend our days fighting on behalf of every issue. I have chosen to devote a good chunk of my life to civil rights, and more generally international social action (I’ve done a lot of international trainings of civil society groups, teaching them to use the Internet for marketing and social change). And because I’ve devoted myself to becoming an expert in those areas, I haven’t had as much time to develop an expertise in the environment, or racial issues, or women’s issues. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about those issues. It doesn’t mean that I don’t write about those issues from time to time, because I do. But it would be impossible for me to be good at what I do if I tried to be everything to everyone and every cause, lest I leave someone or some thing out.
It’s a gripe I have with the “intersectionalistismyadayadacumbaya” crowd. They want people, and advocacy organizations, to work on every issue simultaneously because it just wouldn’t be fair for, say, a gay rights group to work on gay rights and not climate change. (Though, of course, in Coulter’s case, she’s not worried that Brantly is working with too few nationalities — she thinks Brantly is working with the wrong nationalities.) While it’s all well and good for progressive groups to support each other, and thus for gay groups to support union issues while unions support gay rights (your basic political quid pro quo backscratching to mutual gain), it’s quite another thing entirely when you insist that gay rights groups work on every non-gay cause under the sun, at the expense of their overall mission, which is to promote the civil rights of the people they represent. No one has unlimited resources, be they time, money, or manpower. You have to triage your concern, or you’ll end up accomplishing nothing.
In the end, you’re forced to rely on the (true) belief that saving the world isn’t a zero-sum game. While you devote all your free time to climate change, others will step up to fill in the gap elsewhere, be it on gay rights, saving the whales, or even God forbid saving the Liberians.