I had an odd day yesterday. Somehow nothing got off the ground, I chased myself up dead alleys, simple tasks were bogged down in other people’s passivity and I didn’t make it to yoga. But it was my last encounter at the nursery down the road which gave the day its theme. Fear. Not the kind that has you screaming back at the TV as an axe murder hunts down the little girl in a pink party dress, rather a lumbering, doughy version that is suddenly in your line of vision out of nowhere, and that causes you to throw up in your mouth a little.
Fear 1: I had a call at 8.00am from a Ward Sister at a well known Cape Town Hospital. She was looking for some advice. A woman had arrived, well into her final contractions and, unable to wait any longer in the emergency room, had given birth to her baby in the toilet. One of the emergency nurses had run in behind her and grabbed the baby from the bowl. And, as she did so, had smeared blood on her arm.
All of this is standard fare for an African hospital. But the nurse was terrified. She had a tiny scratch on her hand. The mother was HIV+ and the game changed instantly. “What” asked the Sister, “are the chances that the new mother has transmitted the virus?”
This Sister has worked in a General Hospital in SA for over 20 years. She knows enough about the transmission of HIV to be have been fairly certain that the Nurse was safe. Blood does carry HIV, but the circumstances and amount of blood and the nature of the cut on the young nurse made it extremely unlikely that transmission would have occurred. Plus, as the mother had attended pre-natal clinics, she would have been tested for the virus and was likely to have been on ARVs – the drugs that help the body to manage HIV.
ARVS lower the amount of virus in the blood, lessening the risk to the child – so the mother probably wasn’t highly contagious. But I couldn’t give the Sister a 100% guarantee. I am no doctor and we both know that only time and a test would tell. There is a 30 day window between exposure and infection before any diagnosis can be made. And sometimes it takes longer. I reminded Sister about all of this and she said: “The thing is – its back again and even stronger.”
Fear 2: Some friends of a friend have cancelled their trip to Cape Town over the holidays. Citing the Irish patient as evidence that … “this thing (Ebola) is travelling”. “Let’s face it,” they said; “over Christmas people move around. There are going to be a lot more Africans in the air than during the rest of the year. So we don’t want to take any chances. No holiday is worth dying for”.
Fear 3: Then I read this . Written by Eiynah (a Pakistani-Canadian blogger/illustrator) in response to a heated debate between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck over radical Islam and Islamophobia on HBO’s Real Time last Friday.
In the program Ben Affleck told Maher that conflating Islam as one entity was “gross” and “racist.” Affleck went on, “Or how about the more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, and don’t do any of the things you say all Muslims do?” Eiynah answered:
I am writing to you today as a woman who was born and raised in Islam. I saw your discussion with Bill Maher and Sam Harris, and I must say you did me a great disservice that day. Your heart was in the right place, of course, and it was lovely of you to step up and defend ‘my people’.
What you really did though, perhaps inadvertently, was silence a conversation that never gets started. Two people attempted to begin a dialogue and you wouldn’t even listen. Why should any set of ideas be above criticism, Ben?
Why are Muslims being ‘preserved’ in some time capsule of centuries gone by? Why is it okay that we continue to live in a world where our women are compared to candy waiting to be consumed? Why is it okay for women of the rest of the world to fight for freedom and equality while we are told to cover our shameful bodies? Can’t you see that we are being held back from joining this elite club known as the 21st century?
Noble liberals like yourself always stand up for the misrepresented Muslims and stand against the Islamophobes, which is great but who stands in my corner and for the others who feel oppressed by the religion? Every time we raise our voices, one of us is killed or threatened. I am a blogger and illustrator, no threat to anyone, Ben, except for those afraid of words and drawings. I want the freedom to express myself without the very real fear that I might be killed for it. Is that too much to ask?
She goes on:
In your culture you have the luxury of calling such literalists “crazies”, like the Westboro Baptist Church, for example. In my culture, such values are upheld by more people than we realise. Many will try to deny it, but please hear me when I say that these are not fringe values. It is apparent in the lacking numbers of Muslims willing to speak out against the archaic Shariah law. The punishment for blasphemy and apostasy, etc, are tools of oppression. Why are they not addressed even by the peaceful folk who “aren’t fanatical, who just want to have some sandwiches and pray five times a day? Where are the Muslim protestors against blasphemy laws/apostasy? Where are the Muslims who take a stand against harsh interpretation of Shariah? These sandwich-eating peaceful folk do not defend those suffering in the name of Islam, Ben, and therein lies our problem.
And then finally …. the Loathing: I took Jack for a walk and (as is his won’t right now) he led me into the garden centre around the corner from the house. Well-behaved dogs are welcome and he likes to wander around sniffing everything and greeting the staff. We go there pretty much every day. As we rounded a corner, succulents to one side, lemon trees to the other: a middle-aged woman screamed and swerved my dog like he was a rottweiler in attack mode. He stood there bemused, watching as she gave me a piece of her mind. I apparently “had no right” to bring my dog “around people”, especially “in the afternoon” because …. “anything could happen.” It is apparently people like me “who ruin it for everyone”.
Really? As I led my sweet dog away I wondered, is it just me or does the world seem to be gearing itself up for a full fledged temper tantrum?