When I wrote about vaccinations a while back, I had no idea that controversy on the topic would shortly ignite emotional paroxysm in America. I don’t care what your views are, there is something strange about a world in which ISIS torturing, brutalizing and murdering with clear intentions of spreading their violence around the globe (that means to you and me) provokes less attention and emotion than a measles outbreak in Disneyland.
Last week, I suggested in my Musing that if five pro-life women sat down with five pro-choice women, they might be surprised to find their counterparts to be kind, reasonable ladies who actually could agree on more than they think. Admittedly, I think the pro-choice group has more to learn than the other way around, yet my point was that our culture currently encourages us to picture those who think differently than us as crazy extremists.
Little did I know that vaccination was going to take center stage in the, “I can call names, spew hatred, avoid facts and attack my fellow citizen,” category. Some liberal reporters are attempting to use this issue to marginalize conservatives based on the ‘religious exemption’ clause many states have. Some conservative pundits are attempting to use this issue to marginalize liberals based on statistic that show anti-vaccine sentiment is highest in crunchy granola territory. People who objected to homosexual bathhouses being closed in the early days of the AIDS epidemic are talking of forcibly vaccinating children and people who urged the bathhouses to be closed are adamantly supporting individual parents’ rights. (I’m not equating the issues, just pointing out a paradox.) Guess what? This isn’t a conservative/liberal issue. How refreshing! People with Obama bumper stickers are on both sides as are Tea Party followers. Highly educated and smart people divide on this issue as do traditional believers and atheists.
Since my personal feelings on the issue are nuanced and conflicted, I am standing back and watching how neither side is listening to the other. I believe that vaccines have been a public health blessing and that they are more dangerous than acknowledged. I also think they are less effective and have greater potential for harm than necessary because of the politicization of medicine as well as the millions of dollars at stake. In short, I agree and disagree with both sides and if individuals could talk instead of shout, they might find areas to compromise.
Obviously, this topic hits home. Mothers and fathers on both sides feel that their children’s health is being threatened. Can we possibly move this discussion away from politics, away from name-calling and use this issue to learn how to revive the old-fashioned, pre-social media, ability to have conversation and debate? Maybe, just maybe, we’d end up with better health policy for all.
It may seem like we live in crazy times – but we’ve been there before.
Use yesterday’s wisdom to get through today.
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