Writing presents challenges, but I’m pretty sure they’re not the ones you think they are. No, I don’t have a problem finding time to write, really. I rarely find myself with writer’s block, the inability to commit words, sentences, and paragraphs to a Word file. And I don’t want for things to write about.
So what is my challenge? Candidly, I find it tough, too often, to contain my rage! I’m sitting here, along with all of you and the rest of our fellow Americans, watching a society decline. Sure as I’m pounding these keys, “there’s a bad moon on the rise.” Are things as bad as John C. Fogerty suggested? No and yes. No, hurricanes and overflowing rivers won’t likely do us in right now. (And in Tucson, at least, our hurricanes tend toward the dry side.) On the other hand, I think we’ve lost the communal purpose that kept us going forward, together, decade after decade. And without a “we’re all in this together” ethos, forces of nature will be the least of our worries.
Today, at least, I’m not focused on the wealth gap, climate change, the broken Congress, or any of the usual suspects. What has me in such a state is Wealthy L.A. Schools’ Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan’s by Olga Khazan for The Atlantic. The story is short, and definitely worth the click and the minute or two.
So how did we get to this place? Well, let’s start with where we were. I’m 57, and when I was young, some of the vaccines were new. Polio ended in the United States only years earlier, so there were plenty of living polio victims, and lots of people who knew about the disease. The polio vaccines were a miracle, celebrated by all.
In similar ways, the population accepted the benefits of vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, pertussis, etc. There simple was no thought given to not “getting your shots” and, by doing so, assuming your share of the responsibility for having a healthy community. (I’m sure people in the 1950s and early 1960s were not focused on “my responsibility for a healthy community”; nevertheless by jumping on board without making shots an issue, that was the result.)
Skip ahead to 1998. Dr. Andrew Wakefield is a researcher who publishes a paper reporting on a study that links vaccinations to autism. Dr. Andrew Wakefield does not, unfortunately, report the fact that he received 435,000 £ (about $674,000) from a law firm preparing to sue vaccine manufacturers. The study has been debunked, the co-authors have melted away, and the aftereffects remain. (For details, read Retracted Autism Study an “Elaborate Fraud,” British Journal Finds by the CNN Wire Staff, from going on four years ago.)
Obviously, plenty has happened between the late 1950s and the last few years. Rick Perlstein, biographer of the Conservative movement in the United States wrote Watergate’s Most Lasting Sin: Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and the Pardon that Made Us All Cynics for Salon several days ago. To the causes of cynicism I’d add the Vietnam War, the 1960s assassinations, Watergate and a thieving Vice President Spiro Agnew, the CIA failures in the mid-1970s, the wealth gap that got a head of steam with the election of Ronald Reagan, and the rise of “individual rights.” (Others surely have their own lists.) And the common theme? A willingness to assume the worst about public institutions.
Facts are facts, and most people still have their children vaccinated. But the numbers from the west side of the Los Angeles basin should alarm everyone. Vaccinations work because lots of people get vaccinated. That’s not liberal, socialism, pink-Commie thinking. It’s medicine and science! Unfortunately, we have some charlatans—Dr. Wakefield, looking for money, Jenny McCarthy, looking for attention, and many others—to whom too many pay too much attention. These people are aiding in the destruction of our society. And that torks me off, just a wee little bit!!!
P.S. Polio has been eradicated from the planet, almost. (Rotary International deserves a major shout out here.) Unfortunately, a few pockets remain, and they threaten much wider areas. And the problem? Crazy people in leadership roles who claim the vaccine is a CAI operation, that it will kill people, etc. Sound familiar?