Time's Person of the Year: Ebola fighters

The batting average at Time Magazine seems to be improving, at least when it comes to their year-end retrospectives. A year ago, Time recognized Pope Francis as its Person of the Year after nine months of reminding the world that the Catholic Church still has a global impact. This year they drafted a rather questionable set of finalists — Jack Ma? — but made a defensible choice in the end, and perhaps the best:


For decades, Ebola haunted rural African villages like some mythic monster that every few years rose to demand a human sacrifice and then returned to its cave. It reached the West only in nightmare form, a Hollywood horror that makes eyes bleed and organs dissolve and doctors despair because they have no cure.

But 2014 is the year an outbreak turned into an epidemic, powered by the very progress that has paved roads and raised cities and lifted millions out of poverty. This time it reached crowded slums in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone; it traveled to Nigeria and Mali, to Spain, Germany and the U.S. It struck doctors and nurses in unprecedented numbers, wiping out a public-health infrastructure that was weak in the first place. One August day in Liberia, six pregnant women lost their babies when hospitals couldn’t admit them for complications. Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims ran the risk of becoming one.

Which brings us to the hero’s heart. There was little to stop the disease from spreading further. Governments weren’t equipped to respond; the World Health Organization was in denial and snarled in red tape. First responders were accused of crying wolf, even as the danger grew. But the people in the field, the special forces of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Christian medical-relief workers of Samaritan’s Purse and many others from all over the world fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams.

Ask what drove them and some talk about God; some about country; some about the instinct to run into the fire, not away. “If someone from America comes to help my people, and someone from Uganda,” says Iris Martor, a Liberian nurse, “then why can’t I?” Foday Gallah, an ambulance driver who survived infection, calls his immunity a holy gift. “I want to give my blood so a lot of people can be saved,” he says. “I am going to fight Ebola with all of my might.”

MSF nurse’s assistant Salome Karwah stayed at the bedsides of patients, bathing and feeding them, even after losing both her parents—who ran a medical clinic—in a single week and surviving Ebola herself. “It looked like God gave me a second chance to help others,” she says. Tiny children watched their families die, and no one could so much as hug them, because hugs could kill. “You see people facing death without their loved ones, only with people in space suits,” says MSF president Dr. Joanne Liu. “You should not die alone with space-suit men.”


Time editor Nancy Gibbs explains the choice:

Well, this certainly beats the “You” selection a few years back that affirmed the silliness of the exercise for many. It also demonstrates the value of these retrospectives, in one sense. The selection allows Time and its readers to reset their view of certain stories and events and see what had been a string of acute episodes in a broader arc. Thanks to the irresponsibility of a few, the media focused on the threat that returning health-care workers posed to the country rather than the heroic work all of them did in going to western Africa in the first place.

Hot Air readers (in our very unscientific poll) selected Vladimir Putin narrowly over the Ebola caregivers. That choice would have been defensible too, and perhaps in its way a more clear acknowledgment of actual global impact. Putin’s aggression against Ukraine is arguably a harbinger for what is to come in the Baltics and perhaps Finland, too. He wants to resurrect Russian imperialism without the nutty ideology of communism, seeking power for its own sake, and the West will have to find some way to unite in opposition. We are already seeing an economic war, helped by the Saudis and OPEC (intentional or not) and their decision to glut the oil market, that’s crashing the ruble and threatening Putin’s power base with Russian oligarchs.


With that in mind, let’s keep the idea of a Hot Air Person on the Year selection going. We are looking for the most influential person of the past year, preferably on a global basis, and that’s not limited to politics. I’ll take both the Ebola fighters and Vladimir Putin as confirmed candidates, while commenters offered a few more suggestions in the earlier post, although some were tongue in cheek:

  • Taylor Swift
  • Mid-term voters
  • Pearl Harbor survivors
  • Benjamin Netanyahu

If you have any more suggestions — serious suggestions, please — put them in the comment thread here or send us an e-mail at the tips-at-hotair-dot-com address with the subject line “HAPOTY”. I’ll collect them for a few days, narrow down the list to a few finalists, and then confer with my confrères to select the winner.

Update: Thanks to Bmore for this nomination:


I should have mentioned that no member of Hot Air/Townhall or their families qualify for this contest. Love the moustache, too, and I wish I could grow one like this …

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