I have to confess to a fear of flying.

Well, actually it’s not the flying that bothers me, it’s what all but inevitably happens after I get off the plane.

There’s no way around it, the human creature has not naturally evolved to travel 600 miles an hour five miles above the earth.

The fact that we are generally able to so blithely exceed our physical design parameters is individually quite remarkable, but thus far we remain unable to evade the interactive impact of long hours crammed cheek to cheek to cheek in a sealed aluminum tube – 200 or so random travelers all using the same air for breathing in and breathing out, all sharing a half-dozen unisex, single-hole privies, none of us knowing where our seatmate may have gone before.

Half an hour off the ground the average airliner becomes nothing short of a high-speed, airborne microbial swap meet; a bacterial bazaar gone viral above the clouds; a duty-free disease distribution center.

Invariably, three days after passing customs, I have a cold. Or something like it.

Now I won’t say I don’t give it a thought, but I’ve come to accept the likely dosing of Benadryl and Sudafed as travel hazards unavoidable as airline food and interminable TSA lines. Fly somewhere, catch something. It happens. We get over it.

Unless it happens to be fatal, of course.

Yeah, I know, that’s not funny. Ebola is no joke. Neither is SARS or that new bug making the news.

It’s scary to think that a virus just discovered in the middle of China might be sitting next to you on your next flight.

Or in line with you at the supermarket hours after it gets on the ground.

We’ve all caught colds. We’ve all had the flu. We all know how these things spread, so when we hear of this Chinese coronavirus popping up here, there and somewhere else, all way, far away from Wuhan we get nervous. We don’t want to get it.

Understandable enough.

And it’s understandable enough that we take precautions. Reasonable precautions. The exact same precautions we took against catching the flu bug that was making the rounds last year at this time.

Last year, nobody was particularly worried about the presence of Chinese people. Or of people who look like they might be Chinese. That hasn’t changed.

It should go without saying that this virus doesn’t carry a passport, doesn’t have a nationality, ethnicity or race. It spreads without benefit of Affirmative Action quotas and is as much an equal opportunity practitioner as death itself.

Unfortunately, some folks haven’t thought that through.

Folks who haven’t come closer to Wuhan than Worthington are being looked at askance simply because their great-grandparents once lived somewhere in the vicinity of Beijing.

People worry about “catching something” from students who arrived here well before the virus began its travels and suggest that perhaps anyone with Asian features should be quarantined, “just in case.”

There’s a word for what’s behind that kind of thinking.


And fear is reasonable. Fear is legitimate. Plague. The pox. Spanish flu. Measles. Diphtheria. Ebola. Real things to cause real fear.

And a new virus, spreading rapidly, yeah, there’s reason to be afraid of that, too. And since a virus is something we can’t see, hear, touch or smell, a thing that announces its presence only after it’s too late to avoid it, we feel so helpless in the face of that fear.

Perhaps we might stop for a moment to remind ourselves that doubtless the people we are tempted to look upon with fear are afraid as well. Not different from us.

We’re all travelers on the same earth, breathing the same air, in and out. We’re all in it together. Let’s help each other.

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