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It is reality check time again in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Ebola has turned up in Texas, so the nation is on high alert. Texas apparently isn’t, but the rest of us are. As a true believer in government and governance as the glue that holds societies together and defines a civilizing common good, these past months have caused a pause for reflection. It is obvious that something is wrong with our Federal government when it presses forward with a long-overdue extension of access to healthcare that falls flat because computer systems were inadequate to meet the demand, when those protecting the President and his family perform like a disorganized and dispirited cadre of good old boys, when Congress goes home for a holiday as our children are again sent to war without debate, and the list could go on. At the State and local level, the dysfunction is even more disheartening – from botched executions, to cops killing kids, to schoolbook censorship, to homeless kids getting their only meal a day at deteriorating public schools in the inner cities…

But what does it mean? Does it mean we need less government and governance, as some say? Or does it mean we need better government and governance as others say? The answer isn’t a hard one – we all need and depend upon functioning, competent, and empowered government and government officials at all levels. Just ask the right wingers who are fighting so hard to undermine government and governance for the rest of us who they turn to when their proverbial shit hits the fan.

As always with regard to civic affairs, the State of Texas is a good place to look at. Lead by the Governor who hates government, particularly the Federal kind, this State failed to confront the emergence of a healthcare crisis in its midst. Faced with one real Ebola patient, Governor Rick Perry took his own temperature, seemed to be Ebola free himself, and then assured his Texas constituents and a worried nation that Texas could handle this international threat just like they handled the Mexican threat in the 1830’s and in 2014 – contain, confine and send it back to Mexico or Liberia or wherever it came from. Then reality set in - a guy from Liberia went to a Dallas hospital with symptoms consistent with Ebola and was sent home with some useless antibiotics. Unfortunately for him and those around him, he had Ebola and ended up back in the same hospital a few days later and has been in isolation since September 28 hoping for the best and slowly dying.

Then things got worse, the Ebola guy might have infected a kid who went to school with other kids, maybe even white kids – now what. Not sure what to do, Perry panicked and called in the Feds, but not before his health officials quarantined the unfortunate family of the Texas Ebola patient – a forty-two year old girlfriend/wife, her 13-year-old son and two nephews in their twenties.

Now pay close attention – this family was quarantined by Texas state health officials in their small apartment along with the sheets, pillowcases, towels, clothes, etc. used by the Ebola guy while he was contagious. No one apparently cared that the four poor souls in quarantine in the apartment could quickly become Ebola patients number 2-5. Following is part of an October 2 Texas Department of State Health Services News Release announcing the quarantine order:

“We have tried and true protocols to protect the public and stop the spread of this disease,” said Dr. David Lakey, Texas health commissioner. “This order gives us the ability to monitor the situation in the most meticulous way.”

Those protocols must be something to behold - #1 – Leave all the stuff that the infected person might have left the active virus on behind in the quarantine quarters with those actually quarantined. #2 – Wait a few days to see how the quarantined people do without food. #3 – Don’t tell anyone that you are doing any of this or mention it to the press. #4 – When the quarantined persons have had plenty of time to get infected, are really hungry, and the press finds out, call the Feds and beg them to take care of it.

The “Feds” in this case is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It bears noting that, as an opening confidence builder, the CDC always has some doctor at the ready to tell us not to worry because the US healthcare system is not the same as the healthcare systems in Liberia and other third world countries and that compulsive hand washing is the state of the art preventative for virtually all diseases. What is less clear is whether or not the constant drumbeat of less government, less taxes, and less regulation has left even the CDC unprepared to meet today’s viral challenges.

As for me, I just washed my hands, checked my temperature, looked at my passport to be certain that I had never been in Liberia, and made sure that I am sleeping on relatively clean sheets. In the end, I fervently hope that America wakes up before its governments at all levels begin to regularly perform as they recently have performed, as third world wannabes.

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