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Friday, Oct 24, 2014

The Right Stuff

A politics blog by Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson's baseball card - if he had one - would report he throws left, writes right. In his columns and blog, "The Right Stuff," southpaw Jackson provides insight into the evolving human condition from a distinctly conservative point of view.

Dr. Brantly’s imbalanced ledger sheet

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The question is not, necessarily, whether safeguards at Emory University Hospital — where Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, a Christian missionary physician and his nurse are being treated — are sufficient to keep the deadly ebola virus from leaking into America’s ninth largest population center, or even whether some unwitting carrier will find his way to the world’s busiest airport, giving rise to a real-life “Planet of the Apes” scenario.

The likelihood of either concern coming to fruition is so vanishingly small as to be virtually irrelevant. You probably have a better chance of being struck by lightning while riding a unicycle to claim your winning Powerball jackpot than to contract Ebola traceable to northeast Atlanta. Although given the recent history of bureaucratic fallibility, National Review’s Jim Geraghty is not entirely convinced.

No, the question, asks the provocative Ann Coulter, is what the heck Brantly (and other American missionaries, but mostly Brantly) was doing in Liberia in the first place.

Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America’s premier hospitals. (This trip may be the first real-world demonstration of the economics of Obamacare.) ...

Why did Dr. Brantly have to go to Africa? The very first “risk factor” listed by the Mayo Clinic for Ebola — an incurable disease with a 90 percent fatality rate — is: “Travel to Africa.”

Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?

Coulter is not simply heaving bombshells here. Given the plight-filled and/or misguided existence of so many of our countrymen — Coulter sites examples — it’s fair to ask whether committed Americans of faith, tempting expensive risk in faraway fever swamps, aren’t serving their egos more than the Lord.

Why wouldn’t the good doctor unleash his healing skills on either of America’s twin centers of media blight?

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.

If, instead of the rancid in spirit, it’s the hardscrabble poor Brantly felt called to serve, he didn’t have to whip out his frequent-flyer membership card.

Right there in Texas, near where Dr. Brantly left his wife and children to fly to Liberia and get Ebola, is one of the poorest counties in the nation, Zavala County — where he wouldn’t have risked making his wife a widow and his children fatherless.

But serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been “heroic.” We wouldn’t hear all the superlatives about Dr. Brantly’s “unusual drive to help the less fortunate” or his membership in the “Gold Humanism Honor Society.” Leaving his family behind in Texas to help the poor 6,000 miles away — that’s the ticket.

Of course, we wouldn’t be talking about this if Brantly and Whitebol hadn’t been stricken, causing remarkable, resource-sucking measures to be spent fetching them home to world-class treatment. But they were, and they were, and so the alternatives posed by Coulter — prickly as they are — are worthy of any respectable after-action report.

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