England has generated a lot of pig headlines lately. The first round involved Britons actually removing, just thinking about removing, pigs from public sight for fear of offending Muslims. Those stories were scary in an attenuated fashion, because they symbolized England’s loss of will and her willing submission to a dominant minority.
This current round of pig headlines, though, is frightening in a much more imminent fashion. Swine flu is progressing rapidly through England and the country just suffered its first “healthy” death. In other words, the person who died wasn’t someone suffering from a pre-existing condition that made him (or her) vulnerable to the virus. This last reported death means that the average person’s psychological defenses — “Oh, it could never happen to me because I’m healthy” — just vanished. Yes, it can happen to you.
It’s unclear to me why England is shaping up as Ground Zero in a potential swine flu pandemic. Certainly, though, we should be watching it closely, and learning whatever lessons we can.