The H1N1 flu outbreak has been challenging – to say the least – for all parties involved, especially for those who contracted it (although blessedly, it hasn’t yet resulted in many deaths).
The Mexican government has made some brave decisions, closing tourist spots and canceling events that were slated to bring in much-needed income. Fortunately, with a reported decline in the number of new cases, the country is getting back to normal.
Our own government has addressed the issue publicly and frequently, assuring us that medication exists to treat the illness and will be available where and when needed. In addition, the media have attempted to report about the flu without inciting the nation to panic.
Despite an extreme overreaction to the threat by some nations, most people continue to act rationally, educating themselves about the virus, its mode of transmission, and necessary precautions.
Bigots, however, have used the occasion to level vile accusations against the Mexican people for supposedly causing the outbreak. As a group that has been falsely accused of crimes ranging from treason to murder to attempts at world domination, we Jews must be alert to the racism lurking in these accusations.
Just think of the hateful and unfair accusation that surfaced within the past few years, charging that “the Jews” caused 9/1l; and the particularly vile charge, appearing on white nationalist and extreme Islamic sites, charging the Mossad with creating and spreading AIDS.
Sadly, while pro- and anti-immigration factions in the United States have plenty of solid reasons for their disparate positions, anti-immigrant activists are using the flu scare as further ammunition against Latino immigrants. And, according to the German daily SÃ¼ddeutscher Zeitung, soccer players from the Mexican team Chivas Guadalajara claimed they were treated “like lepers” at ViÃ±a del Mar, a beach resort in Chile.
In addition, Mexican exports are being spurned worldwide, and some countries are requiring entry visas for Mexican nationals.
It’s not surprising that President Felipe CalderÃ³n recently declared, “I find it unfair that some countries are acting out of ignorance and taking measures that are both discriminatory and repressive.” He’s right. Stigmatizing any group for circumstances beyond their control is abhorrent.