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MEXICAN INFLUENZA OR ISRAELI STUPIDITY?

Malcom Lagauche

porky.jpg

April 30, 2009

Every day, we read about the escalation of a new strain of swine flu. Citizens of various countries have been diagnosed with it. But, this is not the first time the swine flu has struck. After World War I, cases broke out. In 1976, a U.S. soldier was diagnosed as having swine flu. Forty million U.S. citizens took precautionary measures and were inoculated. In 2007, areas of The Philippines saw the flu come to fruition.

With a history of outbreaks, one would think that the halting of its current spread would be the most important item on the agenda for the health of human beings. However, not all people consider these actions to be as important as the name of the malady. According to an Associated Press article of April 27, 2009, called "Israeli Official: Swine Flu Name Offensive:"

The outbreak of swine flu should be renamed "Mexican" influenza in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork, said an Israeli health official Monday.

Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and "we should call this Mexican flu," he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel.

Both Judaism and Islam consider pigs unclean and forbid the eating of pork products.

This short statement is untrue, illogical, non-scientifically-based and outright racist. First, the swine flu is contracted by humans who handle afflicted pigs, not Mexicans. Then it is spread by germs emitted from the person who handled the pig. The meat of the pig is safe to eat and has nothing to do with the spread of swine flu. In some areas of the U.S., those who have the flu, as well as those who have been in contact with them, are in quarantine.

I find it quite troubling that an Israeli official would consider himself qualified to speak for the religion of Islam. Many Israeli officials have contributed to the extinction of Muslims. However, Litzman included Muslims as victims of this alleged misnomer.

Before I wrote this article, I called four Muslim colleagues and asked if the word "pig" or "swine" was offensive. They laughed and said, "of course not." Just because they don’t eat pork does not mean the use of the name of a mammal is offensive. One even told me that he has heard Muslims state they are happy that the name of the flu is "swine" because it enforces their beliefs against eating pork. My colleague did not agree with this denigration, but he thought it quite ridiculous that an Israeli would comment on behalf of Muslims.

The story doesn’t end there. A day after the Israeli objection, U.S. officials pondered changing the name of virus. According to an Associated Press article of April 28, 2009 (What’s in a Name? Government Says "Swine Flu Misrepresents Nature of Virus, Wants to Change Name):

American agriculture officials want to change the name for the virus that's broken out in Mexico and the U.S. from "swine flu" to something else.

The problem, they say, is that the name "swine flu" suggests a problem with pork products.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack points out that the virus is not food-borne and has nothing to do with consuming pork products.

Vilsack says he's concerned that misunderstandings could have a negative impact on farmers who provide pork products to consumers around the world.

Swine flu has been called swine flu since it was discovered. A few years ago, we had the bird flu. No one complained of naming the flu after the creatures who spread it. Now, Israel officials are offended.

The official reason behind the U.S. desire to change the name is that it may harm the pork industry. But, coming about 24 hours after the Israelis’ complaint, and with no one ever suggesting a change of nomenclature before, one can question whether the Israelis pressured the U.S. government. It may be just coincidence, but the time-frame of events leads to legitimate questioning of the U.S. desire to rename the swine flu.

Porky Pig has been a cartoon character for many decades. He appeared in filmed cartoons as well as print versions. The friendly and helpful pig was not a trickster like some of this colleagues, such as Daffy Duck. He was the universal "good guy."

He did have one quirk, however, that made him famous: he stuttered, but he always recovered and ended his talking with coherence. At the end of a Porky Pig cartoon, he would appear and say, "Th … Th … That’s All Folks." This statement, usually without a stutter, has become commonplace in the U.S. version of the English language. When a TV show ends, or a sports event, or a social meeting, someone always says, "That’s All Folks."

If one looks online, you will see various books for sale in Hebrew in which Porky Pig is the star. He is a well-known and liked character in Israel. But, if Litzman has his way, we may soon see Porky Pig on Israeli TV for his retirement program telling the Israeli citizens, "That’s All Folks" for the last time.

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:: Article nr. 53850 sent on 01-may-2009 03:04 ECT

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