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Darrell Huckaby - 05/01/09

I shall fear no swine before my time!

Now I don't mean to make light of a serious situation, y'all - or maybe I do - but really now; aren't we getting a little hysterical over this whole swine flu thing? Remember the story of Chicken Little? He got hit on the head with an acorn and soon convinced the whole barnyard that the sky was falling. Are we absolutely certain that isn't what's happening here?

As of Thursday morning there were 91 documented cases of the swine flu in this country. 91. That's out of 306 million, which is such a low percentage that my calculator won't give me a percentage for it - just a number with negative exponents. (A Tech guy told me what those were.)

And yet the president of the United States opened his primetime press conference Wednesday night by reading a message from his teleprompter reminding all Americans to wash their hands and cover their mouths when they sneeze.

I ain't making this up. He really did. Of course, my Tech friend had to tell me that, too, because I was watching the show on Fox called "Don't Lie to Me," which was different than the other networks which were apparently showing "lie all you want."

Can you imagine Teddy Roosevelt preempting primetime programming to tell the American people to wash their hands and cover their mouth? Me, neither.

Thursday morning I heard Diane Sawyer complain to Vice President Joe Biden that "78 percent of Americans are not concerned about getting swine flu."

"What should we do," she asked, "to make Americans take this pandemic seriously?"

What should we do, indeed!

Goodness gracious sakes alive! The fact that the swine flu has crept across the borders from Mexico is well documented. It is the lead story on every newscast - and we are talking radio and television. It is on the front page of every newspaper. Late night comics are making jokes about it. The people who sell those little paper masks that the Japanese love to buy are selling tons of little paper masks.

They don't do any good, by the way. The virus that causes swine flu is small enough to travel right through the pores in the paper masks. And soap companies are gearing up their advertising to make hay while the sun shines by convincing us all that washing our hands will deliver us from evil - and the insidious virus.

The CDC Web site has received millions of hits this week from people trying to figure out how worried they need to be. Many foreign nations have stopped importing pork, even though the swine flu can't be contracted from eating the south end of a north-bound hog, and barbecue joints all over the nation are seeing their sales dip.

Joe Biden has advised his family to stay off airplanes and subways. Now I ask you, when's the last time you think a member of Joe Biden's family rode the subway? And how will he affect the economy. If the subway isn't safe for Joe's family it isn't safe for any family. Let's all stay home. Close the schools. Cancel the Major League baseball schedule. Let's all lock ourselves inside our houses and watch "24" reruns until Al Gore or the real Jack Bauer comes to the rescue and finds a cure. Biotech stock is going out the roof. Wish I had some. Home Depot isn't doing diddly.

My word! Schools are closing all over the nation, even in areas that have not seen one single case of the disease and the Alabama High School Athletic Association has suspended spring sports activity as a precaution against spreading the stuff. Alabama. They aren't usually on the cutting edge of progressive decision-making and some Alabama high schools are having spring football right now. Don't tell me folks aren't taking this thing seriously.

But I think we need to step back and take a deep breath. Inhale, y'all.

The sky really isn't falling. You may catch something but a plane may fall out of the sky and land on your head, too. Some of the people in the media are acting like they are auditioning for one of those fake-special-effects disaster movies where whole populations drop dead instantly when a swarm of bacteria is blown in on a cloud. I haven't seen such hysteria since "The Blob" played at the Strand Theater in Covington.

But, hey. All the fuss over swine flu has given us something to talk about other than the economy. If the 100 confirmed cases do grow exponentially and we are faced with an epidemic akin to the 1918 outbreak I guess I will feel bad about taking the whole thing so lightly - but I'm betting that won't happen. And if we hear of someone in our neck of the woods getting sick, I may wash my hands a little more often. (I already cover my mouth when I cough.)

In the meantime - all this talk about pigs has made me hungry. I usually eat catfish over the weekend but I think I might have to run down to Pippins tonight for the pork plate special.

Darrell Huckaby