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Vaccinations

I refuse to participate in the current flurry of condemnation against vaccination opponents. It’s ugly, it’s stupid, it’s wrong – not because vaccination is a bad move, but because the condemnation itself is ugly, stupid, and wrong.

Worse than being ugly, stupid, and wrong – it’s not effective. It’s cruel, in the end. If you’re one of the people throwing mud at anti-vaxxers, please stop – if only on behalf of someone who’s on your side.

I have a son with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s a great kid, and I’m very proud of him, but he struggles and he knows it. Having Asperger’s is difficult for him, and I’m especially proud that he doesn’t see it as something to use as an excuse, but he sees it as a challenge to overcome, instead.

When the original anti-vaccination wave came out (thanks to Orpah and Jenny McCarthy), I felt horribly guilty – had our vaccination of our son given him a challenge he’d have to face for the rest of his life? Why do they use mercury in vaccines, anyway? This sounds horrible – mercury’s a poison, we protest mercury poisoning in the sea, why are we using it for something we inject into every young child?

The truth is, of course, removed from that. It’s not mercury in poisonous form – it was denatured and served as a preservative, not as a poison, and the theory that it was causing autism was not, as it turns out, based on actual studies.

We know that now. Back then, we didn’t – we had Orpah Winfrey giving a platform to the idea that vaccines may not be entirely safe, with no metric by which to judge (all you had to have was a child), and a potential result that could be massively damaging to our childrens’ futures.

That’s the position most anti-vaccination parents have. A threat to their children, with voice given to where such a threat might originate.

Who can blame them for reacting?

I can’t. I don’t think they are reacting properly, mind you – the science behind the original anti-vaccination movement has been debunked (and retracted) – but I can’t blame them for reacting. When something threatens your child, you should react.

The problem comes to the way that vaccination proponents are popularizing their own point of view. What I see very often now is offensive and insulting: “What a dope you are for not vaccinating! How dare you! What are you, stupid? You’re endangering my children now, you freak!

It’s gotten now to the point where people are advocating removing any choice in the matter; the online magazine Slate posted How to Deal With Anti-Vaxxers, with the subheading of “If they refuse, we have to force them to vaccinate.” I’ve had numerous people endorse that view.

How sad! We reject the idea that ideas have to be accepted, except when it comes to certain topics – whether it’s Creationism, or vaccination, or Islam, or Common Core.

How ineffective, too. Forcing people to vaccinate will only force those people to work harder against vaccination – and the practice they gain in being anti-vaccination will only make their resolve stronger.

We can only convince people to vaccinate through reason and empathy. Anything else will work against our long-term goals.

Can this have a cost? Yes, it can. The war against mercury has a cost, in higher costs for vaccines.. but it’s a war that can be won. (We could always pay the higher costs, after all.) The war against anti-vaccinations has a cost, too, in that there’s a chance of more people catching these nearly-eradicated diseases. That’s… really not good.

But at the same time, do we descend to advocating state control of something that is, in the end, a very personal decision?

What happens when the state decides to enforce something that we are against, and passionately so? Should we too go meekly over the cliff’s edge?

I say no. I reject the idea of state control here. We are humans. We need to make sane and right choices – through our own faculties, and if our ideas are not strong enough to propagate themselves through reason and logic and empathy, then they’re not strong enough and we need to do better.

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