Time's annual Person of the Year for 2014 is a pretty decent (and non-controversial) choice, the "Ebola Fighters" who risked their safety to battle the disease in Africa and the US.
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.”
And while these medical professionals definitely deserve accolades for their selfless work, it's Time's list of far more controversial also-rans that are the most intriguing: the brave Ferguson protesters who told the world that even in the most powerful country on earth, black people are still second class citizens in many ways, the ruthless Vladimir Putin, who upended Europe's entire geopolitical structure only to get sandbagged by good old fashioned oil speculation capitalism, Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma, whose Alibaba IPO became the largest offering ever made to the Wall Street gods, and Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, who may be the US's only real ally in the ISIS mess we're now stuck in until further notice.
Personally, I wanted to see the Ferguson protesters win, especially now with Eric Garner's now notorious case gaining nationwide attention to police brutality against people of color in the US.
What say the assembled?