Thursday, October 28, 2010

Verbal inflation rears its ugly head yet again...on a different issue

Like abortion, autism is a subject that is liable to raise its own tension-filled debates.

Some parents of autistic children, and autism activists, have very strong opinions about its causes and treatment.

(And I'm not one of them.)

The debates about causes and treatments can become very heated and lead to the kind of sentiment expressed in a column at Big Hollywood about Jenny McCarthy, who believes that childhood vaccines cause autism:

When she became one of the most vocal opponents of the CDC, she became party to what amounts to biological terrorism. [Oh brother!]


In a Time Magazine article last year, she announced that she would rather her son contract a potentially life-threatening disease than be autistic (I apologize now to any autistic adults that may be reading this for I can imagine how offensive that is).

Is Jenny McCarthy threatening anyone with harm if they vaccinate their kids?

Calling her lobbying "biological terrorism" is ridiculous.

Now, the idea that a life-threatening disease is better than autism is ridiculous in my mind. But I can see how a parent might say that. Not that I would condone such a statement. When your kid is on his fourth hour tantruming, you might wish his autism were something else, too, in the heat of the moment.

And as the parent of two autistic daughters, I don't feel offended. I think it's dumb statement, but it doesn't wound me in my soul. I think we're a little hypersensitive and too attached to identity politics.

What bothers me more than Jenny McCarthy's opinion on vaccines is the characterization of someone with a different opinion as a terrorist.

A terrorist is a person who uses violence to attain political goals.

People try to stretch the definition of "terrorist" to bank on the emotional animus against violence, even when they admit to using that word in a metaphorical sense.

But it's not a true depiction of the vast majority of political activity.

And I think it dilutes the true meaning of the word "terrorism", which is a bad thing.

But Suzanne, don't you think that not vaccinating babies and letting them die of diseases is a form of terrorism?

Gee whatever happened to Trust Women?

Oh right, that only applies to abortion.

People who don't want to vaccinate their kids aren't look to kill anyone.

They have an opinion about what's good for their children. It may be misguided, but it's not an immediate threat to the children's lives.

Some of the diseases that are targeted by vaccines are treatable and mostly non-life threatening. Measles. Mumps. Whooping Cough.

Whooping cough. Interesting that the columnist brought up this case:

Thanks to the anti-vaccine movement that heralded Ms. McCarthy as one of their most vocal leaders, whooping cough is back with a vengeance. In California alone, the number of cases has risen to its highest point since 1955. Los Angeles Unified School District sent out a recorded message to all families this month warning of an epidemic. 10 babies have already died of whooping cough in California this year alone. The saddest part is that all of these deaths were preventable.

Well not really. I googled the story and pulled this up from CNN:

All of the deaths occurred in infants under the age of 3 months, says Michael Sicilia, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health. Nine were younger than 8 weeks old, which means they were too young to have been vaccinated against this highly contagious bacterial disease.

"This is a preventable disease," says Sicilia, because there is a vaccine for whooping cough to protect those coming in contact with infants, and thereby protect the infants.

However, some parents are choosing to not vaccinate their children. In other cases, previously vaccinated children and adults may have lost their immunity because the vaccine has worn off.

Is Jenny McCarthy responsible for those children's deaths? Hardly.

Can her position be refuted? Sure it can. But it doesn't have to include verbal inflation.

I think it does more harm than good.

And by the way, I have never been vaccinated, save for a booster shot in high school and a one-time flu shot. I got measles and chicken pox and I lived. For the vast majority of children, this will be the case. Perhaps I'm living off the immunity of the herd. But it's also true that in this day age, many of these diseases are just not as deadly once were. I don't mean to say that children should not be vaccinated, but I do want to put things in perspective. People who don't vaccinate their kids aren't exactly giving them a death sentence.