Not too long ago, measles was declared eradicated in the United States. It was a public health victory of huge import. And now, that victory is threatened.
It all began less than twenty years ago with the publication of a now discredited study linking vaccinations with autism. The facts are clear. There is no link between vaccinations and autism. But, as has been said countless times before, yet continues to be forgotten, facts do not matter when they conflict with belief.
A small number of people believe, deep down, in places inaccessible to evidence, that some vaccines cause autism. Therefore, these people have chosen not to immunize their children against one of the most virulent diseases mankind has ever seen, weakening herd immunity and leading to the outbreak now taking place in the southwestern United States.
The outbreak has become a news story of import beyond its actual effects. This means that it has entered into a bizarro realm where overinflated pronouncements and arguments become further amplified. It has passed beyond the scope of public health and become a political issue. This became clear in the last week when not one, but two, prospective candidates for the 2016 presidential election framed childhood vaccinations as a personal choice.
There is no longer any chance of sensible discourse on the subject of vaccines. Now that the media is in frenzy and politicians are hedging their bets, we might as well just give up. The very second anything, at all, becomes attached to politics, it becomes part of the polarization that has cleaved America, and thus becomes an unassailable problem.
Our politics is a cancer because it has lost the ability to fix problems. The economy is enriching the elite while eroding the middle class, yet we do nothing to address the issue. Our crumbling infrastructure is killing people and hurting commerce, yet no funds can be found. The environment is becoming more hostile to life with every passing year, yet we do little to mitigate global warming. These grand problems require grand solutions, lest the damage they wreak be devastating. If we cannot muster the will to fix these things, which threaten the survival of our way of life, what hope do we have for something like measles vaccinations, once it becomes added to the echo chamber?
Perhaps it has always been a facet of American life, but our sense of rugged individualism has become absurd. Responsibility and inquiry ceases the moment we are confronted with realities that conflict with the messy jumble of our thoughts. We have so elevated the importance of self that stupid, even if embraced by a small percentage of the populace, is given equal weight to right. We even have to be careful when calling out foolishness, because nothing angers a fool and makes them resistant to change more than being called a fool.
Like much else that captures the public’s attention, the kerfuffle over vaccinations will fade as the media searches for other outrages to attach itself to. Politicians will follow suit. But, the damage will be lasting. Vaccinations are now, against all sense and reason, a matter of debate. A matter of debate!
With each passing year, I become more and more bitter, convinced that we deserve every bad thing that happens to us.