Steven, Ebola, and Texas. Thoughts of a Mystic Man.

Today is one of those days where I feel like talking for a little while about several things, rather than talking for great long while on one thing.

So, let’s start off where we left off, or rather, with what we left off. You see, the topic of last week’s blog, Zaire ebolavirus, has managed to find its way into a new country. Specifically, Texas. Yes, the good ol’ Lone Star Republic is the proud home of yet one more thing the rest of the country doesn’t have (or want). If I seem to be striking a lighthearted tone, you’re on to something. I’m sure that by the time this post goes up, the Internets will be ablaze with more formless conjecture, ill-informed terror, and honestly stupid solutions than you could pan out of a Texas Board of Education meeting (Ok, I’ll stop messing with Texas; next week I’m coming after Iowa).

And this is scary, if only really terrifying for a very sick man and the family he came to visit. But, as I said last week, this disease has been a daily horror for thousands of people long before it passed through our golden doors. And, in typical American fashion, we have pretty much ignored it. The one exception to that noble redirection of attention came, of course, when we brought our own infected doctors home for treatment, which elicited thoughtful suggestions that they be returned immediately to Sierra Leone. So if I appear to be treating the suffering and likely death of a fellow human being as something of little consequence, something to be made light of, I would counter that we as a nation have treated the largest and deadliest outbreak of one of the deadliest diseases on the planet pretty darn lightly until now. And I would further argue that we have done this because we are, or we have been, above all, safe. We have considered ourselves, our concerns I can trust in the medical officials in charge of this case to keep me and the rest of this country safe from the spread of this virus.

And maybe I do take a little perverse pleasure in the fact that this disease has arrived within the borders of a state that is exceptionally proud of its supposed independence from the rest of the country. Coming from a state that used to make similar “all-we-need-we have” noises, I understand the desire to brag about what we don’t need to take rather than examine what we can give. Of course the US, and to a lesser extent Texas, doesn’t need other nations or states to care for this man. We are pretty much safe; I can afford to make light. But there are about 22 million people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone -and now a dozen or so more in Dallas- who cannot.

Speaking of Texas, I’d like to take a moment to discuss some ball. Last week’s Texas A&M/Hogs game had the predictable outcome, but a much more complex road to Aggie victory than most foresaw. The Hog’s were actually winning for a shining moment; hell, we were 14 up at the end of the third! That is, until the fresh Aggie defence came in during the fourth quarter with a near-perfect counter to our running game. Now I am no expert, but I know people who are, and they and my eyeballs were in agreement over the pitiful shortfalls of said running game. Needing to make significant yardage in each play, with little or no effective alternatives, the Hogs were finally stopped by a defense that simply refused to allow them to run down the freakin’ middle. Again. If that’s all in takes to shut down our offense late-game, maybe we should encourage the good coach Beiliemia to reconsider his focus on a power running team. This is the SEC; we know how to break short runs.

My secondary point is that this is yet another opportunity to reexamine our priorities when comes to finances and football. Yes, the Hogs are getting better. Yes, the program brings in millions to UA every year. Yes, the athletes work long and hard for their scholarships. And, still yes, the name of the game is Higher Education. The Hogs brought nearly 100 million big ones home in 2013, shattering budget expectations. They took out 92 million in expenses, but that still left a heathy 8 million lying about. That’s enough to double the current scholarships provided by the program. Can we, perhaps, consider reinvesting it in direct financial support for the 20,000+ non-athletes at the U of A? You know, the ones who are there for pure academic attainment. Or even as scholarships for the sports teams who had average GPA’s higher than 3.0. All fourteen of them. All I’m trying to say is that that the football team casts a long shadow for a struggling program. Maybe we should think about moving the rank-and-file, or their co-athletes, out from under it.

And, finally, lets talk about the truth, boys and girls. We are getting philosophic today, because I need more space filled. If you ask the average person (laypeople, priests, your state Representative, members of ISIS), what the truth is, they are likely to point to a set of old writings or an objective, concrete fact. Now, here’s your weekly food for thought:
A woman and a man go into a river. The water is deep and wide, but they find a comfortable place to stand and feel it rushing by them. The man takes a spoon, dips it into the water, and lifts it up again crying “See! I have found the river!” He goes back to village to educate his brothers on the particular properties of his spoonful of water, and to analyze it down to the molecular level. The woman stays in the stream, taking the realities of each spoonful as they come, and letting each slip back through her fingers. What is the truth?

Well, see you folks next week.


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