By Lee A. Daniels
The world is rightly on edge over the latest appearance of the lethal Ebola virus. President Obama has committed American troops and millions of American dollars to help those countries in West Africa where it threatens to reach epidemic levels. The diagnosis two weeks ago that Thomas Duncan, a Liberian national visiting relatives and friends in Dallas, was suffering from the virus (he died last week) raised alarm bells throughout the country, prompting government officials and the medical community to check and re-check the multi-faceted preventative “screen” they’ve assembled to defend against the virus.
On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a nurse who had “extensive contact” with Duncan in Dallas has contracted the Ebola virus, the first time it has been contracted by someone inside the United States.
Duncan’s death was sufficient to trip yet another outbreak of a different kind of horrible virus that has been coursing through American society for the past six years. This virus shows itself as the workings of a diseased mind, not a diseased body. I follow the lead of others who’ve called it “Obama Derangement Syndrome.”
The readers of these pages are no doubt familiar with this current curse on America’s body politic. It erupted barely a month after President Obama took office, when adherents of the newly-formed Tea Party began whining about being “enslaved” by Obama and vowing to “take our country back.”
What followed has been a long, tawdry list of charges against and conspiracy theories about the president. This flight from reality has been taken up not merely by the fringe elements of the conservative movement. Indeed, the hydra-headed conspiracy-theory dynamic about Obama almost immediately became a major foundation of the Republican Party’s opposition to him: Recall that well into 2012 the “Birther” movement’s notion that he wasn’t born in the state of Hawaii but in another country and that his claimed citizenship was part of a worldwide plot to take over the U.S. was one of the major “talking points” of the GOP presidential primary contest.
True, there’s a very old tradition in American politics of one political faction or another wallowing in the cesspool when out of power. But what’s news about the Obama Derangement Syndrome is its racist underpinnings. Because he’s a Black American of mixed heritage, the “typical” condition of political derangement that’s occurred in past eras has now been intensified by the toxic combination of a deep-rooted anti-Black bigotry made all the more white-hot by his success in being elected president not once, but twice.
So, it should be no surprise that those gripped by the Obama Derangement Syndrome see the Ebola outbreak not as a humanitarian crisis demanding a worldwide mobilization but as another link in their endless chain of Obama-led conspiratorial plots. Rush Limbaugh – of course – asserted that Obama’ allowed the ebola-infected individuals into the country because he’s a liberal and liberals feel “[Americans] kind of deserve a little bit of this.” Conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham contended, even more strangely, that Obama’s “core ties to the African continent” have kept him from doing more to stop its spread.
But the winner in my book for the most deranged response thus far is conservative crusader Phyllis Schlafly – if only because she’s made her addled thinking so clear. In an interview last week with the right-wing website World Net Daily, Schlafly agreed that Obama has deliberately allowed Ebola and other infectious diseases into the U.S., declaring “There are all kinds of diseases in the rest of the world, and we don’t want them in this country. And it’s Obama’s job to keep them out.”
She supported the assertions other conservatives have made that undocumented Latin American immigrants are also threatening Americans with infectious diseases, and said, “of all the things [Obama’s] done, I think this thing of letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people is just the most outrageous of all. She said Obama hasn’t acted to protect the U.S. because “Obama doesn’t want America to believe that we’re exceptional. He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”
I think the best brief comment on Schlafly’s, and all the other Obama derangement notions conservatives are addicted to, was put by a reader, “Try winning the argument,” who responded to the World Net Daily interview this way: “[It’s] actually more widespread than that. There’s a huge epidemic and [it] is called Moronic Stupidity. Researchers do not know why people have become so *** stupid to believe *** like this but [it began] spreading right around the same time as when Obama took office.”
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.