Kaci is the the Doctors Without Borders nurse who, upon returning home from fighting the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, was first detained by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for several days in a tent in a hospital parking lot even though she wasn't contagious, then quarantined in her home by Maine Governor Paul LePage even though she wasn't contagious. (See posts from 10/30/14 and 10/31/14).
A state judge struck down the quarantine against Kaci Hickox because she wasn't contagious. (See post from November 3).
And so even though after the judge's ruling that because Kaci wasn't contagious she was free to return to life among her fellow human beings, the townspeople of Fort Kent, who should have welcomed Kaci home with honor for her brave humanitarian service, instead set up a small-town wall of hostility and suspicion around her and her partner Ted Wilbur.
The chief of Police of Fort Kent received calls from citizens who wanted him to arrest Kaci.
Ted, who's never been in contact with the Ebola virus, received threats from the locals and was barred by officials at the University of Maine at Fort Kent from returning to his nursing school classes there for 21 days, the potential incubation period for the virus in infected persons.
But on top of the same fear and misunderstanding of the Ebola virus that's been plaguing communities all across the country, in the town of Fort Kent there seemed to be another mindset in play: the mindset that shuns the stranger, the new person, anyone who wasn't born and raised in the town along with their parents and their parents' parents.
It was this mindset that Governor Paul Lepage was appealing to when he made such statements as, "I can't trust her. I don't trust her," implying that she was an unknown person of dubious intentions, and "I'd like to buy her a ticket and escort her home," implying that though she may live in Maine, Maine isn't her home. And this "us against her" attitude was also implicit in Lepage's words when he said of his attempt to quarantine Kaci, "I have done everything I can to protect the health and safety of Mainers". Mainers, not to include Kaci Hickox and Ted Wilbur.
One citizen of Fort Kent, 58-year-old life-long resident Luicenne Herbert put it most bluntly when she said, "I don't appreciate outsiders coming in here and causing so much chaos."
And so Kaci Hickox, who has lived and worked among the poorest of the poor and Ted Wilbur, who was pursuing a career in caring for the sick, got the message from the town of Fort Kent: you're not welcome here.
Ted has withdrawn from his nursing classes and he and Kaci will be leaving soon.
I hope they a better place to live and pursue their lives' callings.
They're welcome to move next door to me.
1. "Judge in Maine Eases Restrictions on Nurse", New York Times, November 11, 2014, page A18.
2. "Maine nurse Kaci Hickox to leave state after Ebola quarantine ends", The Chicago Tribune, November 8, 2014.
3. "Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox, boyfriend plan to leave Maine town", CNN Health, November 10, 2014.