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The Cure for the Plague Is Decency

For Times of Extremity, Albert Camus Prescribed Modest Virtues

Photograph of Albert Camus Wikimedia Commons

As the linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson once observed, we live by metaphors. They govern how we think, experience, and act. Not only are there metaphors that we live by but there are metaphors that we die by. At times, quite literally: in Rwanda in 1994, Hutu Power radio stations described Tutsis as snakes. To remove their heads with machetes, then, made sense. Germany’s Third Reich portrayed Jews as vermin, then murdered them at Auschwitz. That the camps used Zyklon-B, a commercial pesticide, was not a coincidence.

There are other metaphors we risk dying by, if only metaphorically. Take the case of plague, a metaphor that has spread like, well, the plague since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. Whether it is a Washington Post op-ed delineating “The Ten Plagues of Trump,” The American Prospect diagnosing the plague festering in the White House, or an op-ed in

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