Illegal Immigration and the Risk to Public Health: Panic in the Streets (1950)

Panic in the StreetsIn Elia Kazan’s Panic in the Streets (1950), Kochak (Lewis Charles), an illegal immigrant, is patient zero in a potential outbreak of pneumonic plague, a deadly disease that can kill a person “within four days.” An important issue in the film is illegal immigration and the risk to public health. Because illegal immigrants do not have the same access to health care as American citizens, if they are carrying a communicable disease, the disease can spread more quickly throughout the general population. The film also shows how American citizens without health insurance are equally at risk for contracting and spreading a communicable disease.

One difficulty in stopping the outbreak of a communicable disease is finding everyone who is already infected. The individual who is sick may not go to a doctor or a hospital, believing they will get better without treatment. After Kochak’s body is cremated, Dr. Clint Reed (Richard Widmark) and the police try to find Vince Poldi (Tommy Cook), the second person to be infected with the plague. The longer Poldi moves freely among the general population, the more likely the plague will spread. Whether American citizen or illegal immigrant, an individual who has a communicable disease needs to be treated and/or isolated.

In 2016, there were an estimated 11.3 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.1 Illegal immigrants face a greater risk of contracting and spreading a communicable disease because they don’t have the same access to health care as American citizens. In the U.S., under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), illegal immigrants “are either explicitly barred from accessing federal benefits or face significant restrictions on Medicaid and other programs for the poor.”2 Health care options are limited, and vary widely from state to state.3 Even when health care options are available, illegal immigrants may not access services because of “fear of deportation.”4

When access to health care is a privilege, and not a right, it is not only illegal immigrants who are at risk for carrying a communicable disease. In 1950, the year Panic in the Streets was released, the United States did not have Medicaid for low-income earners.5 It is almost certain that Poldi, who is poor and unemployed, doesn’t have health insurance. His only likely option is “charity care”6, which is why a nurse is “sent for” when he is sick in bed. Blackie (Jack Palance) later pays for a doctor to examine him, but there is nothing the doctor can do. Poldi needs to go to a hospital.

In Panic in the Streets an illegal immigrant is infected with pneumonic plague, and, tragically, two more people contract the disease and die. If there were a possible pandemic in the U.S., it is likely measures would be taken to inoculate illegal immigrants, if the disease were treatable. However, this does not change the reality that illegal immigrants are in a precarious position when it comes to accessing health care. Add to this the fact that over 28 million Americans do not have health insurance,7 and the entire population is at risk if there is an outbreak of a deadly disease.

Notes

  1. Jens Manuel Krogstad, Jeffrey S. Passel, and D’Vera Cohn, “5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S.,” Pew Research Center, April 27, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/
  2. Keegan Hamilston, “Obamacare Bars Illegal Immigrants—and Sticks Hospitals With the Bill,” The Atlantic, December 18, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/12/obamacare-bars-illegal-immigrants-and-sticks-hospitals-with-the-bill/282444/
  3. Lisa Zamosky, “Healthcare options for undocumented immigrants,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2014, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-healthcare-watch-20140420-story.html
  4. Ibid.
  5. Josh Hicks, “Ron Paul’s claims about life without Medicare and Medicaid,” Washington Post, February 1, 2012, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/ron-pauls-claims-about-life-without-medicare-and-medicaid/2012/01/31/gIQAedy5hQ_blog.html
  6. Virgil Dickson, “Medicaid a lifeline for the poor and disabled,” Modern Healthcare, May 23, 2015, http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150523/MAGAZINE/305239941
  7. Dan Mangan, “The rate of uninsured Americans hits a record low as Obamacare’s future remains a question mark,” CNBC, February 14, 2017, http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/14/the-rate-of-uninsured-americans-hits-a-record-low-as-obamacares-future-remains-a-question-mark.html

Three Traits of a Naive Person: The Brides of Dracula (1960)

the_brides_of_dracula_12A naive person is “deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment”1, “too willing to believe that someone is telling the truth,” and “that people’s intentions in general are good.”2 In Leo McCarey’s The Brides of Dracula (1960), Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) is naive. She lacks knowledge of threats to her safety, trusts everyone she meets, and presumes that people are good until she is convinced otherwise.

Marianne’s lack of knowledge is ironic given that she is a French teacher who has an education. She has moved to Transylvania, yet has never heard of the “cult of the undead”. Her lack of knowledge of vampires puts her in grave danger when Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) offers her a place to stay. The Baroness brings young women to her home so her vampire son can feed on them.

Marianne is quick to trust and believe strangers. No one has to earn her trust; they are given it freely. Upon meeting the Baroness, she immediately accepts her offer of hospitality. She tells Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) that the Baroness “seemed so kind.” However, when Marianne meets her son the Baron (David Peel), who is bound by a chain, she believes he has been mistreated by his mother. Believing him to be good, she helps the Baron escape.

Marianne believes people are good based on mere appearances. She believes the Baron is a good person because he is handsome and soft spoken, but she is deceived. He is a vampire, and after releasing him from his chains, he turns his mother into a vampire. However, when Greta (Freda Jackson) shows Marianne the dead body of the Baroness, Marianne does not believe the Baron killed her. Marianne is in denial because she loves the Baron. She believes that the way he acts outwardly is a reflection of who he is inwardly. She does not realize that appearances can be deceiving.

Marianne presumes that people are good until she has evidence they are bad. When Van Helsing tells her that the Baron has turned three women into vampires, she says, “No; I won’t listen to you.” It is not until she sees the Baron’s fangs that she accepts he is a vampire. Marianne’s error in reasoning is presumption, believing something is true until it is proven false. We shouldn’t judge anyone as evil without evidence, but neither should we presume that everyone is good.

A naive person fails to recognize bad people who will take advantage of them. Marianne’s lack of knowledge and experience makes her naive, and because of that, she misjudges people, believing both the Baron and the Baroness to be good. Before moving to Transylvania, she never faced any real threat or danger. If she had, she would have exercised greater caution when meeting strangers.

Notes

  1. Merriam Webster, s.v. “Naive,” accessed April 26, 2017, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/naive
  2. Cambridge Dictionaries, s.v. “Naive,” accessed April 26, 2017, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/naive

The Doctrine of Proportionality: Star Trek “Balance of Terror”

balance of terrorIn Star Trek “Balance of Terror” a Romulan ship destroys four “Earth Outpost Stations” that border the Neutral Zone, a demilitarized region of space. The Captain of the Enterprise, James T. Kirk (William Shatner), must decide what to do after this “unprovoked attack.” Kirk’s response to the Romulan attack is based on the doctrine of proportionality: “a state is legally allowed to unilaterally defend itself and right a wrong provided the response is proportional to the injury suffered. “1 An important theme in the episode is a proportional response to an unprovoked attack can prevent a full-scale war.

Following the Romulan attack, Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is the voice of pacifism. He is against attacking the Romulans, suggesting that it will violate the peace treaty and lead to war. However, a non-response would only increase the likelihood of war. By refusing to use military force in response to an unprovoked attack, a lasting peace is rarely achieved. Having paid no price for their act of aggression, the aggressor is emboldened to attack again.

In contrast to McCoy’s pacifism, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Mr. Stiles (Paul Comi) both want to attack the Romulans. Stiles tells Kirk: “We have to attack. If we don’t … they’ll report we saw their weapons and ran.” If the Enterprise does not respond, the Romulans will send more ships and destroy more Earth Outpost Stations. Spock says, “Weakness is something we dare not show.” After considering the viewpoints of Spock and McCoy, Kirk attacks the Romulan Bird of Prey and destroys it. The Romulans pay a high price for their act of aggression—the loss of their flagship—which dissuades them from attacking again. Kirk’s proportional response does not lead to war. On the contrary, it restores the balance of power between Earth and the Romulans and ends the conflict.

Taking military action after an unprovoked attack is a deterrent against future attacks, and the stronger the response, the greater the deterrent. “Balance of Terror” reminds us that to stop an aggressor from attacking again, there will often be a cost. In the battle between the Enterprise and the Romulans, Robert Tomlinson (Stephen Mines) is killed. Kirk comforts the grieving widow by telling her, “There was a reason.” Tomlinson died in the line of duty for a noble reason: to prevent future attacks by the Romulans. This is the goal of any just military action: to save the lives of innocent civilians, not only in the present, but also in the future. If Kirk hadn’t destroyed the Romulan ship, the Romulans would have sent more ships and started a war.

Notes

  1. Lionel Beehner, “Israel and the Doctrine of Proportionality,” Council on Foreign Relations, July 13, 2006, http://www.cfr.org/israel/israel-doctrine-proportionality/p11115#p0

The Culture of a Vampire: A Fairy Tale

english castleWhen Princess Margaret was a young girl, her mother taught her: “Always respect and honour other cultures. If you do this, you will be a Queen who is loved around the world.”

Margaret followed her mother’s teaching, and whenever she travelled to other lands, or received visitors at her castle, she tried new types of food, wore new styles of clothing, and learned about other traditions, values, and beliefs.

As Margaret grew older, she wanted one thing more than anything else: to marry a Prince from another land whose culture was different than her own.

When Margaret became a young woman, a Prince from a kingdom across the sea came to visit her castle. He was tall and thin with pale skin, and Margaret was mesmerized by him. She did not know that the Prince, whose name was Renaldo, was a vampire.

The Prince visited her each evening, and they talked until late into the night. Rumours spread throughout the castle that the Princess was in love.

On his third visit, Renaldo brought Margaret a bouquet of black roses.

“Thank you, Renaldo,” Margaret said. “But no one has died.”

“Where I come from,” Renaldo explained, “black roses signify a new beginning.”

“Oh,” Margaret replied. “How fascinating!”

The Queen had her doubts about Renaldo. “He seems kind of odd, and sickly looking,” she told Margaret. “Are you sure he is the right man for you?”

“As soon as I saw him, Mother, I fell in love. If he proposes to me, I want to marry him.”

“If you love him,” the Queen said, “then you have my blessing. Love is all that matters.”

The next day, Margaret’s wish came true. Renaldo asked her: “Will you marry me, Margaret?”

“Yes!” Margaret cried, and she hugged and kissed him, and ran her fingers through his long black hair.

“You make me happier than any man alive!” Renaldo said, and a drop of blood fell from his right eye, which he quickly wiped away.

“We’ll have the largest wedding ever,” Margaret said. And she began to twirl and dance about the room.

“Whatever you wish,” Renaldo said. “But I do ask that you honour one of my cultural traditions.”

“What is it?” Margaret asked eagerly.

“The wedding ceremony must be held after the sun goes down.”

“Okay,” Margaret said. “Are there any other traditions you want to observe?”

“No,” Renaldo replied. “Everything else can be according to your desire.”

Margaret planned the wedding. She invited hundreds of guests, and a month later, the ceremony was held in a church. Margaret wore a white wedding dress, and Renaldo wore a black suit with a dark red carnation.

After the ceremony, there was a feast in a great hall.

When Margaret and Renaldo sat down at the head table, they were each brought a plate of food: Roast beef, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and gravy.

“Where I come from,” Renaldo said, “the bride and groom do not eat on the night they are married. Their love for each other sustains them.”

Margaret frowned. “I don’t think I can follow that tradition. I’m starving.”

“Don’t deny yourself on my account,” Renaldo said. “It’s part of my culture, not yours.”

Margaret ate two full plates of food, and after everyone was fed, a band of musicians entered the hall. The bride and groom danced, and the wedding party went on until midnight.

When the clock struck twelve, Renaldo and Margaret said farewell to the remaining guests.

As Margaret hugged her mother goodbye, she started to cry. “I will miss you, Mother.”

“The next time I see you,” the Queen said, with tears streaming down her face, “I hope you will have a new life within you.”

After wiping away her tears, the Queen turned to Renaldo and said, “Take good care of my daughter.”

“I will make her happy forever,” Renaldo promised.

Renaldo picked up Margaret and carried her to his coach. When they were both inside, the driver closed the door, and they drove all night until they reached a port where Renaldo’s ship was docked.

Renaldo and Margaret boarded the ship, and the ship set sail.

“My dear,” Renaldo said. “Among my people, it is tradition that the bride and groom separate for one week after the wedding ceremony.”

“What? No,” Margaret said sadly. “Where I come from, the bride and groom make love on their wedding night. Sometimes even twice!”

“We will make love as soon as we arrive at my castle,” Renaldo promised.

Renaldo escorted Margaret to her room on the ship, and then he kissed her. “If you need anything, just call for the Captain.”

“Okay,” Margaret sighed.

A week later, the ship reached its destination. The ship landed at night, and Renaldo and Margaret took a coach to Renaldo’s castle. Renaldo carried his bride through the castle doors, and then up the stairs to his bedroom.

But when Renaldo opened the bedroom door, Margaret could not believe her eyes. In place of a bed, there was a coffin.

“Where are we going to sleep?” Margaret asked.

“Among my people,” Renaldo explained, “it is tradition that the bride and groom sleep in a coffin. Today is the beginning of our new life together, and by sleeping in a coffin, we are reminded of our mortality.”

“Okay,” Margaret said. “But that’s really weird.”

Margaret took off her wedding dress. Renaldo took off his suit, and they snuggled together in the coffin.

“My dear,” Renaldo whispered, “would you mind if I nibbled your neck?”

“Nibble away!” Margaret said excitedly. “Where I come from, a girl loves to get a hickey.”

Renaldo gently bit Margaret’s neck, and she cried with delight. Then he bit deeper and he struck a vein.

“Renaldo!” Margaret yelled. “That hurts!” Then she touched her neck. “Oh, my God! I’m bleeding.”

“Do not be alarmed,” Renaldo said. “Among my people, it is tradition that the bride and groom taste each other’s blood before they make love.”

“What?!” Margaret yelled. “That’s sick!”

Renaldo bit again into Margaret’s neck and sucked more of her blood.

“Stop it!” Margaret cried.

But Renaldo did not stop. He bit deeper into her neck and sucked more and more of her blood.

Margaret struck Renaldo with her fists, but his bite was so strong, she could not break free.

When Renaldo had his fill of Margaret’s blood, he said, “Now, Margaret, you must taste of my blood, and we will both become one.”

Renaldo opened his mouth, and Margaret stared at his fangs and screamed. “Are you going to kill me?”

“No,” Renaldo said. “I love you. I’m a vampire, and you will be my vampire bride.”

Renaldo bit into his wrist and said, “Now drink my blood, and we will be one.”

Margaret felt so weak from the loss of her blood, she knew she could not resist him. “I will honour your tradition,” she promised. “I will become a vampire like you.”

“Nothing would make me happier,” Renaldo said with a smile, his teeth dripping with blood.

“But first, it is a tradition with my people,” Margaret explained, “that the bride gives the groom a lock of her hair before they become one.”

“I will get a knife,” Renaldo said, and he left the room. A few minutes later, he came back with a knife. Margaret cut a lock of her long red hair and gave it to Renaldo.

“When I was a little girl,” Margaret said, “my mother taught me to honour and respect all cultural practices.”

“Your mother is a wise woman.”

“No,” Margaret sighed. “My mother was wrong.”

Then Margaret drove the knife into Renaldo’s heart.

“Your culture is evil!” she yelled. “You’re a monster, Renaldo!”

Margaret twisted the knife, drove it deeper into his chest, and the vampire fell dead on the floor. Then, all of a sudden, his body decayed and became ashes and dust.

Soon after, a servant came and carried Margaret out of the room. He laid her in a bed and bandaged the wound on her neck.

“Thank you for destroying him,” the servant said, and he explained to Margaret how Renaldo had sucked the blood of all his servants, and many had died.

When Margaret recovered from her loss of blood, she was crowned Queen of the castle. She ruled her kingdom with justice and mercy and was loved by all the people.

Image Credit: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/conisbrough-castle/