While not many of my friends are climate deniers or creationists, plenty of them are happy to throw science out the window and put children and vulnerable adults at risk by refusing to vaccinate their children. I’ve seen links to some really goofy pages recently in their defense. How about we read peer-reviewed journals instead, folks?
My theory is that smart people throw reason out the window when faced with a deep fear reaction. But decisions made from fear are not rational – we see this daily in the news. We become afraid of the wrong things. We become afraid of Muslims instead of the extreme poverty situations that breed terrorism. We become afraid of environmental regulations killing jobs instead of afraid of the destruction to our water systems caused by fracking or to entire eco-systems due to mountain-top removal of coal.
Parents don’t like to see their kids have big needles stuck in their adorable chubby little thighs. I know I didn’t. I hated it. Hated every damn vaccine my beautiful little boy had to get. Hated having to forcibly hold him down while he screamed bloody murder. Hated. It.
And parents don’t like the idea of toxins in their child. I get it.*
For the first year of his life, my child had nothing but my breast milk and organic local vegetables that I personally picked and pureed for him! I do not exaggerate. Well, maybe on the picking part. I was part of a Community Supported Agriculture farm coop at the time and we did take turns picking our weekly supply of fresh vegetables, but if I hadn’t picked them myself, one of my friends had picked my supply that day. I’m telling you, I was going to be in absolute control of every little thing my baby ate. Nothing but the best. I had given up sugar and alcohol and caffeine and gluten and a host of other foods before I got pregnant to make sure everything from my body that would nurture his would be as pure and healthy as possible. And if you’d seen how I ate before I gave up sugar and gluten, you would not have believed it. Donuts, mac and cheese, ice-cream, cookies – every single day. Honestly. So I get it. I really do.
We long to have a sense of control over this precious little soul that has been put into our care. Was I going to trust the organic baby food aisle at my local food coop? No sirree! I was going to personally know the farmer and be on a committee that helped plan the growing season and work the damn soil with my own damn hands. And I’m so glad I did. I’d do it again.
Plus – it’s the pharmaceutical companies! And, whoo boy, we all know that Big Pharma is just as bad as Big Oil and Wall Street and the Koch brothers, right? Again, let me state for the record that during the same years that I was digging organic potatoes I was struggling with my own chronic health issue. Did I turn to the pharmaceutical industry for help? Sometimes, in desperation. But I also poured more money than I care to remember (oh, the vacations I could be taking right now with that money …) into every imaginable alternative and complementary solution available. In addition to radically changing my diet and improving my exercise and time out in nature, I tried chiropractic and homeopathy and ayurvedic medicine and applied kinesiology and herbs and acupuncture and various forms of meditation and yoga and chakra clearing and osteopathy and visioning and hypnosis and reiki and faith healing retreats and Qigong and psychiatrists and psychologists (in case it was all in my mind) and supplements – oh, the supplements! Really, people, thousands of dollars.
Do I regret that time and money? Not really (except, wow, maybe I could have been able to retire one day …) because I am healthier and happier now as a result of those years when I kept notebooks full of charts to track which foods and supplements and methodologies seemed to help the most. I did become a believer in acupuncture and some other forms of body work (massages – the mini-vacations from heaven!) and certainly yoga and meditation. Each thing I tried gave me a better understanding of my body and the mind-body connection. I did develop a visceral, rather than abstract, understanding of the importance of organic greens and fresh air and exercise to my own personal health.
I did become a crusader for sleep. Sleep, people! Seriously. It matters.
And here’s what else: I became just as skeptical about every claim from the alternative health industry as I did from the pharmaceutical industry. In the end, after 15 long years, what saved me was a drug. A drug, I will add, supplemented by good food and exercise and bodywork and yoga … But still, a drug prescribed by my smart (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s handsome) family doctor. Who fully supports my various complementary approaches.
So, yes, I get the fear and the desire for control and the very healthy skepticism.
But you know what else I get? I get that my son will never have to worry about being crippled, emotionally and physically, by polio, as one of my closest friends is. A woman who contracted polio in the first months of her life and had to spend her early years in and out of hospitals for months at a time. She has never fully recovered emotionally from the lack of family bonding that resulted from her being far from her family in a health facility, while she should have been in her mother’s arms. Now, with post-polio syndrome, she is in constant and unrelenting pain, confined to a wheel-chair. (I know it isn’t PC to talk about being “confined” to a wheel chair – but I’m telling you, if she could get out of it, she sure as hell would.)
And I also get the terror that another friend of mine endured recently when her child, who has a rare and dangerous form of asthma, contracted whooping cough because of the low herd-immunity in her liberal upstate NY city. This friend has already watched one child die. Why in the world, in this day and age, should she have to sit at the hospital with another terribly sick child because you don’t want your child to get a shot that might, but probably won’t, have mild side effects? This sends me into a nearly unspeakable rage.
So, my friends, if you want to get upset about people who won’t pay attention to the science of climate change? Fine. But pay attention to the science of vaccines, as well.
And if you want to claim to be a compassionate soul who cares for the most vulnerable in our society, then stop and think about every vulnerable person you put at risk of contracting a preventable disease when you make the choice to not vaccinate your child.
Because you can’t have it both ways.
*I chose not to go into the thoroughly and repeatedly discredited claim about vaccines and autism in this post. I won’t even give that nonsense the time of day. And yes, I do have a child on the autism spectrum and no, it isn’t because he got his vaccines.