But as Camus knew, evil and crises do not make all men rise above themselves. Crises only make them discover themselves. And some discover a less inspiring humanity.
As the crest of the wave that broke over Philadelphia began its sweep across the rest of the country, it was accompanied by the same terror that had silenced the streets there. Most men and women sacrificed and risked their lives only for those they loved most deeply: a child, a wife, a husband. Others, loving chiefly themselves, fled in terror even from them.
Still others fomented terror, believing that blaming the enemy—Germany—could help the war effort, or perhaps actually believing that Germany was responsible. Doane himself charged that "German agents . . . from submarines" brought influenza to the United States. "The Germans have started epidemics in Europe, and there is no reason why they should be particularly gentle to America."
Others around the country echoed him. Starkville, Mississippi, a town of three thousand in the Mississippi hill country, was built around a sawmill, cotton farms—not the rich, lush plantations of the Delta but harsh land—and Mississippi A&M College (now Mississippi State University). It served as headquarters for Dr. M. G. Persons, the U. S. Public Health Service officer for northeastern Mississippi, who proudly informed Blue that he had succeeded in getting local newspapers to run stories he made up that "aid in forming the proper frame of mind" in the public. That frame of mind was fear. Person wanted to create fear, believing it "prepared the public mind to recieve and act on our suggestions."