NaBloPoMo 2018: What I’m Learning
When you buy a red car suddenly you notice so many red cars on the road. I write two posts on vaccines, and now I see all these vaccine posts on my Facebook feed. One made me sad for multiple reasons.
Dr. Jennifer Chuang , a pediatrician who ran for the state legislature in New Jersey, posted this:
In 2017, I was moved to run for office in the NJ State legislature because of bills being introduced that were harmful to public health. Among the areas that I stood firm on were the importance and safety of vaccinations, and I was harshly attacked for that, even threatened.
However, NJ should not be proud of introducing the most pieces of legislation that would have made our children at risk for vaccine preventable illnesses. The current measles outbreak in New Jersey has now grown to 18 cases. Legislative decisions have consequences, especially to public health.
“From 2011 to 2017, New Jersey lawmakers introduced the most pieces of legislation that would make it easier for children to skip vaccines, according to a new study by Drexel University researchers.”
She linked to this article, detailing the anti-vaccine legislative history in New Jersey and lawmakers’ rationale, compared to the scientific literature.
I’m sad that there is such a fight against proven public health initiatives, and I’m sad that legislative bodies, who write our health and medical policies, include remarkably few clinicians. But I’m most sad at the meanness in the fights.
A woman immediately commented, “Shut up already” on Dr. Chuang’s page. When challenged benignly by others, she replied telling them to fuck off and calling them assholes. Her page is apparently public, so I visited. The posts that I could see were vehemently opposed to vaccines of all kinds, at least in 2016 and 2017. She apparently lost a son this year, in his 24th year of life. She has posted about eating healthy, self-care, and seeing intelligence as ‘not because you think you know everything without questioning, but rather because you question everything you think you know.” So while I feel acutely put off and dismissive of her vile reaction to Dr. Chuang’s post, I also imagine that she and I may have things in common and might even be friends, if circumstances facilitated.
Somehow I came across another woman’s page tonight, similarly militantly anti-vaccine. She and the first woman both posted a lot of memes and sayings implying that people who advocate for vaccines are brainwashed and ignorant, and not worthy of engagement. Huh. Sounds to me just like many of the ad hominems hurled by vaccine advocates against women like them. It’s exhausting. Who does it help, this mutual shit-flinging? In Rising Strong, Brené Brown points out the pitfalls of false dichotomies and binary decision trees. If you hear people shouting that you have to choose one side or another, that it’s all or nothing, be suspicious. Look for the beneficiaries of that feud. Often it’s the politicians who leverage our warring tendencies to stay in office. Or maybe it’s physicians who, when they refuse to care for patients who decline vaccines, can feel decisively self-righteous rather than uncomfortably ambivalent. Or maybe it’s the anti-vaccine parent, who feels embarrassed to express fear and uncertainty (because she has been shamed too many times for questioning a sanctimonious medical community), and so finds her voice in combative rage instead. And could it be that anytime one of us shows up in attack mode, we incite our counterpart to take a mirroring stance, even if that was not their original intent (this is a rhetorical question)?
Regardless, I’m tired. Social media and loud, mean, public debate are not venues that yield any meaningful interactions (I see the irony of my writing this on a blog). It feels too slow, but experience teaches me that we win hearts and minds face to face, quietly, intimately. Nothing good ever comes from a collision of two oncoming bullet trains. It’s wildly destructive more than anything else.
Thankfully, my good friend posted Max Ehrmann’s poem “Desiderata” tonight. I first read, transcribed, and posted this poem on my wall in high school, and have not seen it in a couple decades. It really captures the essence of inner peace and right relationship, with self, humanity, and the earth, and it soothes me. It’s a late Thursday night of another long week. I leave you with Mr. Ehrmann’s master work below. Good night.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.
Thank you for stopping by!
This was a really thoughtful and thought-provoking series of posts on vaccines, Cathy. If only we could communicate on this issue (and so many others) without name-calling, judgement, and polarization. While I feel strongly about the value of vaccinations, I can’t imagine any instance where someone who is anti-vax would be changed or “enlightened” by abuse and insult.
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Thank you, Donna! My friend and I talked about flu vaccine over breakfast today. She and her family have not gotten it for a couple of years, and we had basically the conversation I described in my post from 2 days ago. She told me she had never seen me more animated than when I spoke about why to vaccinate, and, thankfully, she did not feel shamed or pressured. And she said now she plans to get her family vaccinated. I also noticed that I felt more self-conscious talking to her about it than when I talk to patients. Because she is my friend, I feel sad that she is not already ‘on my side,’ that we have this difference on something that I am apparently very passionate about… Fascinating! 😀
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