For every Donald Trump and Ann Coulter – whose acid social commentary represents a strain of slash-and-burn narcissism not often discovered in a Petri dish – thank God there is a Kent Brantly.
Just a month ago, Dr. Kent Brantly, behind his white surgical mask, was a largely anonymous missionary quietly offering his Christian compassion and palliative care while treating victims of the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia.
Although Brantly wore gloves and took precautions, the Ebola virus found a tiny opening – that’s all it needed – and transmitted a possible death sentence.
The virus causes massive internal bleeding and has a mortality rate of 60 to 90 percent. In a horrific outbreak this year alone, Ebola has claimed more than 900 lives in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.
As a medical missionary at a Liberian hospital, Brantly did not go to Liberia to fight Ebola. But Ebola found him.
“When Ebola spread into Liberia, my usual hospital work turned more and more toward treating the increasing number of Ebola patients,” Brantly said after being flown home to the United States Aug. 5 for treatment on a private jet with an advanced isolation unit. “I held the hands of countless individuals as this terrible disease took their lives away from them. I witnessed the horror firsthand, and I can still remember every face and name.”
To any person with a beating heart – and especially to any Ebola victim from a dusty, medically underserved country facing the prospect of a gruesome death – Brantly has been an icon of Christ’s unconditional love.
But not to Trump and Coulter.
The New York Post, whose subtlety is meted out with a sledgehammer, took a mean-spirited tweet from Trump and trumpeted: “Ebola fear is going viral.”
Tweeted Trump: “Ebola patient will be brought to the U.S. in a few days – Now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent. KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!”
Coulter needed an entire column to turn compassion into a dastardly act, saying a First World nation would now have to pay for Brantly’s “Christian narcissism.”
“Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?” Coulter asked.
Coulter added, well, actually, sneered: “If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia. … If he had provided health care for the uninsured editors, writers, videographers and pundits in Gotham and managed to open one set of eyes, he would have done more good than marinating himself in medieval diseases of the Third World. … But serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been ‘heroic.’”
Coulter’s not so thinly veiled racism is repugnant, especially to those who know Brantly. Jeremy Jackson, the son of Times-Picayune photographer Ted Jackson, went to Abilene Christian University with Brantly from 1999-2003, and they became friends. They took cross-country trips together and participated in Bible studies. The Jackson family hosted Brantly and 14 other Abilene Christian students in New Orleans for one Mardi Gras. Kent and Jeremy sky-dived together.
“You don’t end up doing medical missions in Liberia without a penchant for adventure and a great sense of purpose,” Jeremy Jackson said. “Kent truly cares for all those he comes into contact with, because you don’t just jump into treating one of the world’s most deadly diseases unless you have an extraordinary amount of compassion and a greater calling to your purpose on this Earth.”
When Jackson heard the news that his friend had contracted the Ebola virus, his first thought was: “That was just Kent being Kent.”
Unfortunately, in a free society, where people can mostly say what they want unless it’s “fire!” in a movie theater, it was a viral case of Trump being Trump and Coulter being Coulter.
One day, it is to be hoped, there will be a cure for what ails them.
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.