Reply To: “The Masque of the Red Death” and Introduction of “Contagious”

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I agree with your analysis that the two readings made great companion pieces. In our discussion of HIV today, I was reminded of the 4 H’s of HIV (those who were initially described as being more susceptible to the disease): heroin users, Haitians, hemophiliacs, and homosexuals. This classification served as a way to separate these “others” from the in-group and demonized those groups of people. It was disconcerting to read the introduction to Contagious and Poe’s piece, talk about the early stigmatization of people with HIV, and tie it to how certain people have called SARS-CoV-2 the “Chinese Virus.” It’s amazing and upsetting to consider how scapegoating of groups of people still occurs today. I saw a parallel between the elite in Poe’s story and the celebrities and politicians of today who have attempted to “escape” the virus in their multimillion dollar mansions, pretending that virus doesn’t exist or masquerading as icons of ideal health who aren’t susceptible. I saw the visitor in the “Masque of the Read Death” (the bacteria/virus/contagion) as a great ( or not so great) equalizer — one who kills irrespective of socioeconomic status or geopolitical power. I also compared the party revelers to our country; many believed that we could contain the spread, yet now we have potentially the highest incidence rate in the world. I was reminded of the biblical quote, “pride comes before the fall.”

– Kyle Lambert