Ebola should not be a punchline

The struggles of those facing the Ebola virus are being undermined by the existence of Ebola jokes


Clayton Kistner, JagWire reporter and photographer

“St. James has AIDS!”

“St. James has cancer!”

“St. James has ALS!”

None of these are acceptable things to say at a football game, so why is “St. James has Ebola!” accepted and even encouraged among students? Why is wearing surgical masks to “protect” yourself from Ebola spawning from St. James considered a joke?

Ebola has become especially prevalent in the media lately due to its recent outbreak in West Africa, and its transportation into the United States even more recently. With this move came the trivialization of the virus, resulting in jokes about the illness. However, just because a serious virus may just be happening “over there” and “isn’t really affecting us,” does not give us permission to make jokes about something that has killed almost 5,000 people in West Africa, and is spreading at an alarming rate.

The World Health Organization has predicted that by December 2014 there could be 10,000 new cases of Ebola every week. This is not an issue to be joked about. The Ebola virus is killing real people, with families and friends, and the absolute trivialization of their struggle undermines and diminishes the purpose of their lives. Any joke that uses Ebola as the punchline is not only offensive, but further separates us from the outside world because we are not willing to deal with issues that do not directly affect us, so instead, we joke about them.

Mill Valley’s annual “Pink Out” night is a night dedicated to remembering and supporting those who have fought or are fighting breast cancer, which will affect one-eighth of all women in the United States at some point in their life. Many survivors most likely attended the football game, and most students probably know a family member or friend who has been affected by the ravaging disease. These people have suffered a great deal, and it would be nothing less than insulting to use their illness as a punchline to scoff at another school. So, why is it alright to use Ebola instead? Breast cancer is a serious disease that destroys people’s lives, and although it currently has a larger scope than Ebola, the two should never be joked about, because making these illnesses into a joke ignores the fact that people affected by them suffer horrible symptoms, and many will lose their lives. In no way am I attempting to trivialize the struggles of those affected by breast cancer, but the reality is that people are suffering from Ebola, even if we can’t see it.

The next time that you may find yourself making a joke about Ebola, think about replacing the world Ebola with cancer or AIDS, then telling that joke to a cancer or AIDS patient. Ebola is real, and it is affecting real human beings even if it is not a part of our daily lives. Ebola jokes should hold no place in any social setting, as they are discriminatory and result in the trivialization of struggles faced by people who want nothing more than to survive another day.

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