Respect Needed in Vaccine Debate
Vaccinations are probably the most controversial topic that parents of young children face. In “Help the Herd” (Wellness, January 2, 2014), Ronald Baily accuses parents who choose not to vaccinate of being irresponsible free riders. This kind of tone does nothing to promote actual dialogue; instead it creates defensiveness and further division. There is no such thing as a medical intervention that does not carry potential risks and complications. No one can deny that some children exhibit reactions to vaccines that can be as mild as a fever or as severe as seizures. Thankfully, the more severe reactions are very rare, but they do need to be considered. As parents, we are forced to either take our chances with the vaccine or take our chances with the disease. Neither option is without risk, but we all want to do what is best for our children.
The tone of this debate needs to change. Instead of name-calling and accusations, we need informed dialogue. The topic is not as simple as whether to vaccinate or not; it is also about how and when we go about doing it. There are ways to minimize risks to infants without refusing vaccinations altogether. I recommend parents read books such as The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears and Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide by Aviva Romm in order to initiate well-informed discussions with their child’s pediatrician. The only thing that is going to move this issue forward is to speak to each other with respect, and that is something Ronald Baily’s article seriously fails to do.
Gingrich Still Glib and Grandiose
I just read with conflicting bouts of delighted surprise and gnawing dismay the synopsis of Newt Gingrich’s recent speech at Amherst College (“Newt Gingrich Live at Amherst College,” December 26, 2013). On the one hand, I found myself thinking, “Wow, Newt Gingrich is on board with the left in proclaiming a broken system,” and on the other hand thinking, “Wait a minute…isn’t he the guy that helped to break it?” It may go without saying with most of your readers, but I find it pretty rich that Gingrich (pun intended just a little), a constitutionalist from way back, would come down from on high and tell us plain folk that the system is broken and we need something better to “go forward.” His definition of “going forward” remains as vague as ever unless you buy into his scholarly vocabulary as having any more meaning than sweeping generalizations and grandiose ideas. This is the man who singlehandedly shut government down and corralled his party members into ideological allegiance rather than allowing them to be independently thinking individuals who are members of the Republican Party (if this latter idea seems quaint, blame Gingrich). I find it far too easy and glib for anyone, right or left, to call the system broken when it seems to me that the system has been distorted for ideological if not self-serving purposes. I think my own senator, Patrick Leahy, had it right when he said, “It is time for the grownups in the room to take over.” But maybe that’s too grand an idea for Gingrich.
When I was a teenager and there was a snowfall, every kid in the neighborhood grabbed a shovel! We went in a group, and it took about 15 minutes per driveway. Every so often parents would give us hot chocolate or grilled cheese sandwiches, and it was fun! When all the driveways were clear, we went up and down again, making snowmen and snow forts. Now? My snowblower is broken; my driveway is big and on an incline. I had to shovel it by hand the last two storms, and I am a woman pushing 60. My large, fit male neighbors with large, powerful snowblowers watch, sometimes laugh at me, and do nothing to help. One fellow, who knows I recently had a hip relacement, came over, filling me with hope, and then declared, “Help? No, I didn’t come over to help you, I just came to chat.”
I have a roof rake. Before I rake my roof, I rake the neighbors’ front porches where the roofs look a little fragile. Out comes the neighbor: “No! No, you don’t have to do that, that’s okay!” And why? Not because the roof doesn’t need raking, but because if I do something to help him, he might feel like he has some duty to help me, too. A half hour later, he’s out there raking it himself. This culture is sick, sick, sick. If you Hampton squires can’t get together and work cooperatively when you get a little snow, what are you going to do with the really big stuff waiting down the climate change road?