Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hey, I got it...let's force everyone to vaccinate and we'll make [x] go away forever!

UPDATED, the morning after.  See below for what may does appear to be plenty of egg on ol' Kevin's face.


More "I just threw up a little in my mouth" from Facebook.

I got irritated--you can see it in my response--and would not at all be surprised if either my comment or the whole thread gets "Yezhov-ed" out of [A]'s feed.  After all, once you're past the pesky moral problem of using the guns of the state to force a solution on everyone, you've already accepted the legitimacy of boxcars, so what's a little literary redaction among superior beings?

The original post, from [A]:

Here's why we (in Northern CA) are at the epicenter of a pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic: 79% of the children at one of the [private] schools here in [xxx] are not vaccinated. Mamma mia.

Comment stream:

R:  SMH. I guess these parents -- who, I'm sure, got all of THEIR shots when they were kids -- have never known anyone who died from a "childhood" disease.

J:  Oh Good Gravy! Tagging on [R] -- or scarred from chicken pox, infertile from mumps, developmentally delayed from measles or rubella; or heck, had to miss their own birthday party from any of those illnesses (I'm not bitter) (not to make light of a very serious subject). We've lost the understanding of public health and the common good. There are children who cannot receive vaccines for good cause, but it many ways it just seems like a fad, like gluten-free, etc. (Yes, I know gluten can be an issue -- my sneaky Auntie who taught me to cheat at cards was diagnosed with Celiac's in the late 60's -- should have tried eating gluten-free back then before Whole Foods, etc came to San Antonio. Changed the whole family's meals.)

A:  We take for granted the public health programs and policies that keep us ALL healthier. I actually did a customized vaccination schedule for [As kid], but we got all the vaccinations, and we decided in close conversation with his doctor. Given where we lived (high density, highly transient and well-traveled population in [xxx], lots of travelers with direct and active contact with Asia and Africa and other developing parts of the world....) and our lifestyle (public transportation, frequent flights to [xx] and Europe), we NEEDED to get polio and pertussis and several others early on. In my experience, most parents aren't thoughtful or scientific about the decision -- either they just vaccinate when the CDC/pediatrician recommends without thinking, or they reject the medical establishment without thinking.

R:  I'm betting a lot of this comes from the vaccination-autism scare, but I think that's been pretty well debunked. (There are more cases of autism spectrum disorders now because, like ADD/ADHD, they are better-diagnosed. I taught kids early in my career who, I now realize, were Aspies, but back then, we just thought they were hard to deal with.) This pertussis outbreak, for example, is no joke. While a teenager might survive it (like my student who missed a month of classes), an infant or an elderly person might not. And don't get me started on meningitis. One of my favorite students was perfectly fine on Friday afternoon and dead on Sunday night. If we have the ability to prevent these things, I can't understand not taking advantage.

A:   The vaccination-autism myth is still alive and well, though.

Me:  Because forcing everyone into a common "solution" is just fine when your intentions are noble, right?  The fact that many of the to-be-forced may have harmed no one and WILL harm no one seems to matter nothing to superior beings who can see the glorious, eugenic future with such greater clarity than their lessers. 

When it comes to forcing everyone to be straight, using "law" and the power of the state to accomplish the goal, I hear these great and noble tirades about the inviolability of "choice".  Ditto the right of a woman to the sovereign sancity of her own body.  But simply change the parameters of the sentence to something "noble", like forcing children and their families into medical decisions that may or may not be in their best interests, "for their own good and that of others", and suddenly the exact same fascism is just bloody FINE?

I've yet to get an intelligible, much less persuasive, defense of the pluperfectly absurd concept that there is any sort of moral authority in attempting to force onto everyone a single solution for anything. 

And Jesus Freakin' Christ:  even for those who are persuaded by pragmatism--that ridiculous notion that once a certain statistical "tipping point" is reached, that it suddenly justifies doing something that would be considered unconscionably immoral if done in isolation--does anybody actually believe that a population of literally hundreds of millions can be in any way effectively brought to 100% compliance on ANYTHING?  It doesn't matter how draconian the enforcement is--hell, consult a host of 20th century eugenics atrocities for some recent "field data" on that concept--it isn't going to work because it can't possibly work.  (And even if by some cosmic fluke it did work, worldwide:  people do understand, right, that Mother Nature can effortlessly toss in a spontaneous mutation or other variation that could render the whole effort meaningless?  Or what if "settled science" has one of those little "oopsie" moments that happen so regularly throughout the history of mankind, wherein years later we find out that what we thought was iron-clad, really isn't?)

The biggest "myth" here is the myth of CONTROL.  

We'll see what happens.  Maybe I should just shut down Facebook, because this shit just starts to get to ya after a while, Nock or no Nock.


FIRST UPDATEIn which I may have made multiple critical errors of assumption.  Wouldn't that figure. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't, but if I'm to have a chance at respectability, I've gotta report it all.

The comment stream most certainly does continue:

R: Any given person's sexuality has no bearing on my life. Any given woman's deciding to have an abortion has no bearing on my life. Refusing to vaccinate yourself or your child CAN have a bearing on my life and my children's lives and my grandchildren's and my students' lives. My kids and students don't have smallpox scars on their arms because the disease was eradicated by vaccination in the US before they were born. My son doesn't have the chickenpox scars that my daughter has because the vaccine was available for him, and he is not sterile because the mumps vaccine was available for him. I didn't have to worry about either of them being blinded by measles, nor did I have to worry about them being crippled by polio and spending the rest of their lives in an iron lung, as a friend's father did. They have not died within 48 hours of contracting meningitis (a horrible, torturous death, BTW, while your body dies limb by limb -- I saw this firsthand). Knowing that I had been vaccinated against rubella gave me some hope that they wouldn't be born with birth defects.

Vaccination against deadly diseases and eugenics are totally different subjects. I don't understand what you find "unconscionably immoral" about protecting children from diseases that can maim or kill them. Life is a crapshoot, for sure, but if there is something to do to improve the odds, then I'm in. There are enough things that come out of the blue to make me willing to prevent those that I can.

There is no vaccine against stillbirth, or I wouldn't have had to bury a baby. There is no vaccine against pediatric cancer, or I wouldn't have attended too many funerals for little kids or have spent the past six years supporting my grandson through every available treatment for neuroblastoma. But when a vaccine exists, you can be damned sure that any child I know will get it.

This is 2012, not 1312.

Me: You have either managed to miss my point entirely, or you are willfully ignoring it in the service of your personal willingness to force a choice you happen to believe in upon everyone else, whether they do or not. Yes, you make it quite clear that "any child I know will get it," whether or not that child or the kid's parents may in fact want it. Roger that.

You speak in sophistries that paint an idyllic picture of an opt-in utopia in which everyone sees the glorious wisdom of the Establishment's choice, and makes the superior decision to follow it as you would, while glossing over or ignoring the patent absurdity of a "solution"* which, to have any hope of "succeeding", "requires" that every child (family) make the same "choice", in that you do not accept the notion of someone simply opting OUT for a reason that you or your political designate(s) find unacceptable. Like: maybe they just disagree with you.

     "...if there is something to do to improve the odds, then I'm in."

Good on you. But it's not the relative health value of a vaccine in a voluntary system that is offensive here, it's the force: that unsaid part of your statement after "I'm in" that continues with "...and I'll do whatever I can to use the political system to make sure that you're in too, even if you'd rather be out". You probably would not find it hard to conjure up a different topic in which the above words, quoted to you by someone else, would infuriate you, and it should not surprise you that others may react the same way here. Removing the peaceable choices of others does seem to have that effect on people, who have responded through all human history (even before 1312) by finding workable ways around the problem.

Look: I argued above both that the force is both immoral on its face, and that as a strategy it is inevitably incapable of accomplishing the stated goal through both sheer mathematical probability and the marvelously contrarian human tendency to push back when ordered around. You simply responded with anecdotes about risk, and tried to minimize the common thread between fascistic sexual regulation and fascistic health regulation by offering the "pre-crime" argument of "CAN have a bearing on my life" as though that is a valid discriminant that can legitimize one flavor of fascism while denying another. Do advocates of fascistic sexual regulation not themselves argue that them queers CAN have a bearing on their lives?

Can't have it both ways. Either forcing people is wrong, or "we" recognize the legal legitimacy of every atrocity committed in the name of The Common Good.

* One might observe that the very concept we're talking about here, universal vaccination, does not even have as its primary objective the health of children at all, but rather the "eradication" of a disease, and those are not even remotely the same goals. Any given vaccination, itself, may have benefits that outweigh its costs, and most of the folks I know evaluate each one on its own merits, with a "default position" in the case of a tie that suits their individual sense of risk.

A: I'm on my phone so I can't type fluently, but I will add some thoughts anyway. 19 states currently have opt-out provisions. Personally, I think that that's appropriate; if I lived in a state where not vaccinating was a crime, I'd probably be advocating for an opt-out provision. That said, a lot (too many) parents opt out without making an informed choice and without weighing scientific evidence about risks and benefits. I say this because every year i show parents how to sign the personal beliefs waiver and I ask them "how did you decide?". I'm genuinely curious. And the answers I get ought to be embarrassing.

In my case, I'm not trained to evaluate the statistical data that we have. (I can usually spot an UNreliable study with poor controls and few data points.). But I know this about myself. Fortunately, my son's dad has two degrees (from high achieving, real universities) in just that (quantitative science and statistics) - seriously, the conversations he and Dr. Stafford had were lively -and- way beyond me. But i am good at getting to the central issue and asking good questions. So together, I know that we made a sound decision for us.

I believe that while we cannot force people to be smart, informed, intentional - that's the ideal. And every time someone tried to quote 25 year old soundly discredited "research" (opinion, hypothesis) to me - vaccines cause autism - I want to pull my hair out. Because I can't force them to make a different choice, but I do believe that their decision is selfish and short-sighted. I do judge that. I do believe that we are stronger together and we have a shared, mutual responsibility to a common experience. If I felt otherwise, I'd go homestead off the grid in the boonies somewhere. I respect their right to make different choices than I do, AND I don't respect it when people don't get real facts and inform themselves. Period.

(Also, I believe that there are scientific facts.)

Ok. Next: I disagree that the reason vaccines exist is to eradicate disease. I believe that vaccines were and are developed to help individual people. I have friends who are pharmaceutical abd genetics research scientists, and I know for a fact they are motivated by helping individual people. I'm glad that smallpox isn't a threat any more. My mother had polio and I worry that she'll have the weird relapse thing that happens to so many survivors when they get older. I am glad that I can give my son a better chance at NOT getting measles and whopping cough and mumps. I'm glad that -even if it's not perfect - he is less likely to spread one of those diseases to a child whose parents didn't vaccinate. I sleep better at night because I really do feel interconnected and I don't believe my son is actually more precious that your daughters or the children I work with. So I do what I can to keep all of them safer.

R:  What??? Way to read your own agenda into what I said! Sophistry? Doing what I can to keep a child from dying from a preventable disease hardly involves fallacious reasoning. And at no point did I say or intimate that ". . . I'll do whatever I can to use the political system to make sure that you're in too, even if you'd rather be out". That's YOUR bias speaking. I was referring to my own children, my students, and my family. Please feel free to go drink a bubonic plague mai-tai if you want. I couldn't care less. Just do me a favor and stay away from anyone I know. Thanks.

[A]. I'm sorry. I was just trying to respond to your OP about pertussis and the importance of doing what we can to prevent disease.

A: It's ok, [R]. Kevin's a big boy, tho I think a little more out of sorts today - eh, Kev? Vaccinating really riles people up - and I confront it every year at this time because of the health department statistics we have to keep. At my best, I find it fascinating to consider why people vax or don't vax. At other times, I'm just so disappointed by the lack of basic analysis and decision-making effort. If someone really gets good info, in my experience, they generally decide to do a partial and/or delayed vax schedule. Most people really don't want their kids to be vulnerable. And I have met one or two families who acknowledged the real risks/benefits and still chose not to vax. I believe both were strongly (!) anarchist minded and reflexively rejected any rules. I can say I respected them more than the parents who read bad scare stories on the Internet and say things like, "I don't want to talk to my pediatrician about this because I know what he'll say."

A:  My fingers hurt!!!!! Wah!!!!!

R:  And that's all fine, [A]. But watching a strapping 18-year-old die, as gangrene set in limb by limb, because of a meningitis infection that could have been prevented by a vacciine is something I will never forget. I'm not making a political statement. I'm simply saying that any children on whom I have an influence will get the best that modern medicine has to offer.

A:  I understand. I advocate for whooping cough vaccines here in NorCal. Neither of us can actually force anyone to vaccinate. But we can put all our persuasive efforts out and hope to sway some.

Me:  On one hand: yeah, I'm overwrought over a slew of completely unrelated items. If any of that crept into my responses despite my effort to suppress it, I do apologize, categorically. As I've said before, my failings are many and well-understood, and I do not expect others to pay for them.

It's also true that the chorus of those who would use the power of the state to foist all kinds of social engineering upon others, across the spectrum, with no sort of opt-out provisions and increasingly...enthusiastic enforcement strategies, has lately been DEAFENING, with this oncoming farce that we call an election. After enough years of being polite in the face of an endless stream of busybodies who all know *just* how I should be running my life (and you yours, which actually bothers me more), the tendency to react in a "Secondhand Lions" fashion might be considered more a valuable survival skill than mere prurient lashback.

[R], I cannot know what you were thinking, but if you really would resist the temptation to vote to legitimize compulsory vaccination and even education, then I do owe you a personal apology, and will deliver it. If that's true, then your reaction to my initial posting seems a very strange way to articulate it; even on re-reading I see little difference between your fervor for personal persuasion (hinging heavily on the "your refusal can hurt my kids" comment) and the approach, semantics and implicit condescension of people who I have seen make calls to "child services" for just such disagreements--calls which can ruin and even take lives. Yours would be the very first such example of that style I have ever seen that was NOT an unabashed endorsement for enforced universal vaccination...but hell, if that is the case, the last thing I'd want to do is chase away someone who is willing to forego the violence of the vote in favor of actual interpersonal persuasion.

It's been a while since I've thoroughly put my foot in my mouth over an inaccurate assumption, and maybe that's what's happened here. I stand by everything I said, regarding those who would support enforced universal vaccination--but if it turns out I was really speaking to nobody actually participating in this conversation, well, I've just once again proven how I can alienate everyone at the party with just a few words.

Me: "I'm simply saying that any children on whom I have an influence will get the best that modern medicine has to offer."

No doubts as to your sincerity there. In my case, it seems that the more I learn about 'modern medicine', the less I trust it. And so that tends to be my option of last resort, despite the fact that we may share the same goal of a healthy kid.

Me: [A]: of course there are "scientific facts". At one point, one of them was that the earth is flat. All any of us can do is make our choices after becoming as fully informed as possible, with the best information available at the time.

I don't believe, either, that the original purpose of vaccinations was for eradication. But the concept of enforced universal vaccination (inherently and thoroughly a state concept) does seem to be precisely for the purpose of "eradicating" one or more diseases, and I distinctly remember being taught in school, and lectured by officials ever since, that the only way eradication works is if everyone is forced to vaccinate.

A (to me, privately):  Hey there - based on your other post today (earlier) it Kinda sounds like you're having a tough time this week. Thanks for the denouement.

I didn't think [R] was advocating for mandatory vax but honestly I was making the assumption that nobody would expect it to be mandatory mandatory. I'm surprised CPS would consider not vaccinating an actionable call - but stranger things have happened I'm sure.

Living in CA, I didn't immediately think about the possibility of parents being truly forced to vax. My main deal w it is that it should be informed and intentional - and it's often just ignorant. And my 2ndary deal is that which vax are important for each family depends largely on where and how you live. Again, for me all about accurate information and thoughtful decision making.

Me (back to [A], privately):  Entirely agreed. One of the things that I really do like about Alaska is that most medical professionals share that view, and essentially expect it in their patients. The state employees, however, have a distinctly different view, and most of the people I know simply don't speak honestly to the "public health" people because of it.

Both our kids thus far have been spared several vaccinations that are officially required for public school, but which every medical professional we've asked about it agrees make no sense in Alaska.

A few others, we've weighed the pros and cons and did the vax with confidence. And hell, there's clearly a lot of wiggle room in there: I certainly got a full set, just as I got fed foods that we deliberately try to keep away from S and C, and of course we both grew up in a time when the way-back of a station wagon was simply a play-yard on wheels...

A (back to whole audience): It does stand to reason that eradicating a disease happens if you get enough vaccination. I wonder if it really has to be 100% or if there's a recognition that perfect is impossible but with very high % you can eliminate the disease?

I do think that eradicating smallpox is a good thing. (but technically they kept some of it in labs). And I really do think it would be good to eliminate polio if we could.

But -in my way less impassioned than you way- I wouldn't put that goal (eradicating polio) over individual choice in the matter. I'd put more effort into persuasion.

Me (back to whole audience):  Well, I'm sure that the official definition of "eradication" manages to shift in direct proportion to the actual performance of official efforts to achieve it with law and policy, but...I'd argue that Mother Nature is forever only one mutation away from nullifying all the efforts, even at a purely theoretical 100% performance rate. (When the day finally comes that "the world's corn supply" is wiped out by just such a variation, maybe more people will remember why diversity is not only healthy but essential to our continued survival. On the positive side, that event will illustrate the wisdom of the emerging segment of individual growers not dependent upon the Master Strain, and maybe more folks will start to look locally for what they need.)

And there we are at the end of the night.  A reminder to me that despite all the banal and otherwise infuriating things I see from [A] on Facebook (the worst of which has been the cult-of-personality hero-worship of the whole "First Family"), there is a real human being in there and I can still get caught by rushes to judgment, especially in the details.

It's what I get, for speaking up during what should be a silent period.


SECOND UPDATE:  Well, by appearances at least as justifiable as that which prompted my initial assumption, yep, I seem to have mounted a rollicking attack against the wrong target.

Further comments:

R:  Kevin, no harm, no foul. But consider yourself to have met someone who would not vote to require universal vaccination. I'm a teacher, not a storm trooper, and I try to lead by example, not oppression. :)

Me[R], thank you for your graciousness here. Given the nature of my faulty assumption and the ferocity with which I pursued it, that graciousness is a choice you did not have to make, and it says something about you that you chose to anyway.

So that everyone here can hear: I am sorry for rushing to judgment regarding your intentions. No matter how valid my frustration may be with the audience I was actually trying to speak to, it is still wrong of me to throw peaceable others into the mix by nothing more than, effectively, apparent association. I'd have a healthy dose of self-hypocrisy to contend with, if I tried to justify that. I won't.

I hope you appreciate the irony as much as I do, of actually being happy to be wrong in this way. Such a revelation is ultimately a help to me, even if I now have to wrestle with another potential risk of becoming what I behold. ("Eternal vigilance" is not just an empty platitude, is it?) Metaphysically, I probably needed this lesson, and I'll be damned if I'll let it go by without learning something from it.

My sincere apologies. If I re-look at everything that you've said in a different light, it seems we may be pretty close in our approach, even if the details may be vastly different. There is something comforting in there, about how different paths can wind up in the same place, and the more I fully embrace the non-aggression principle, the more there seems to be to celebrate about those different paths.

Now: cogitation and reflection, apparently even more needed than I thought. Again, thank you for your grace.

And now, to STFU for a while. Yes, I realize that I may yet have some significant differences with [R] in adjacent realms, but for the nonce at least I've "priced myself right out of the ethical market", and I'll just let it go.