It’s a scary world we live in sometimes.
Over the last several years, I’ve observed something interesting. There’s been a much greater “fear-panic-appeal to authority” cycle happening than in the past. It’s by no means the first time it has occurred (polio in the 1950s comes to mind), but it’s happening more frequently and more rapidly, thanks to social media.
It’s all in-your-face, all the time. There’s a 24/7 news cycle happening, and huge numbers of people can hear about something within minutes of it first occurring. Things that wouldn’t have been stories even ten years ago get national attention. (How many times have we been “treated” to hearing that Kylie Jenner has an irrelevant opinion on some topic? And that’s actually trending?)
But it’s not merely an occasional annoyance. It’s very, very serious.
The rise of in-your-face vaccine propaganda
From around 2010 through 2015, there was a gradual uptick in the vaccine propaganda we were seeing every day. It started out with one major story each month or so — whenever anything came out that might question the safety or efficacy of vaccines, there was a propaganda piece hot on its heels. But by mid to late 2014, it was taking place multiple times per week!
This led into the great “Disney measles” scare of January 2015, which led to serious hysteria and the subsequent passage of SB277 in California.
That’s only one example, but it is so frequently. People are told they should be very, very afraid of something that affects the minority and will supposedly be the undoing of the majority. They become hysterically and irrationally afraid of something that will likely never happen (and may not even be possible). They push back against this “out of control” minority and demand legislation to protect the majority.
The myth of the soaring unvaccinated
With this media-fueled vaccine hysteria, most people believe that fewer and fewer are vaccinating, and that our kids are more and more at risk of “running into” a virulent unvaccinated or undervaccinated child now than ever before.
Actual data, however, don’t bear this out.
- 68.8% of 2-year-olds had 3+ doses of DTaP
- 53.2% had 3 or more doses of polio
- 82% had one MMR
- Other vaccines, like rotavirus, varicella, and HiB had yet to be invented or on the childhood schedule, and the flu shot was recommended only for high-risk groups.
Comparatively, in 2014:
- 94.7% of toddlers had 3+ doses of DTaP
- 93.3% had 3 doses of polio
- 91.5% had 1 MMR
- Fewer than 1% of children had no vaccines at all
- Plus, 9.3.% had had Hib, 91.6% had had Hep B, 91% had had varicella, 92.6% had had PCV, and 85% had had Hep A.
Today’s children have far higher rates of vaccination than their early-90s counterparts (i.e., many of us parents),
Further, unvaccinated and undervaccinated children do not harbor special germs that endanger people any more than anyone else, and this includes fully vaccinated children, and unvaccinated and under-vaccinated adults. It’s a misunderstanding that has — thanks to the media — become societal ignorance.
We don’t let facts get in the way of fear!
There’s a tiny, tiny minority of children who are not vaccinated. Plain and simple. The so-called “golden age” of children who were always fully vaccinated, prior to a certain controversial study, never existed.
Were we safer in the 80s and 90s? It feels like it, so we believe that we were. And now? We believe children today are seriously vulnerable due to “all those uneducated parents who won’t vaccinate.” (Unlike in the early 90s, the parents of most unvaccinated kids have a higher socioeconomic status and are typically more highly educated.)
Because of our fear, we must legislate. We must force people to vaccinate or remove the privilege of a free, public education. And, we must ostracize them from play groups and daycare centers, and even terminate long-standing relationships… all out of fear. We’re on high alert, actively forcing down an “uprising-cum-contagion” that isn’t happening. These “uneducated” parents aren’t mobilizing against vaccination. They’re only fighting for the right to make their own decisions.
The transgender analogue
Does this kind of non-debate sound familiar? Yes, the transgender bathroom situation. Some people want to legislate which bathroom some people must use because of a misplaced fear of “pedophiles.” (Target Corporation, expressing a voice of sanity, just announced that customers and employees may use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.) Crazy!
Can we say it more clearly? Transgender people are not pedophiles any more than any other group of people would be. And, by the way, pedophilia is still very much illegal and North Carolina’s divisive new LGBT law doesn’t change that. And we haven’t even discussed its implementation, which is impractical at best. It’s a prejudiced, unenforceable law that will lead to embarrassing some people (who may or may not be transgendered) because of a tiny minority – the pedophiles – who may or may not take advantage of such a law to commit a crime. A crime that is still illegal.
Save us from the insane minority!
Fear of child abuse and abduction is another example. Parents are afraid to let children play outside alone because a pedophile or run-of-the-mill kidnapper might snatch them up. This fear runs contrary to the latest statistics. Murder has fallen by 100% — in 2010, it was at its lowest rate since 1990. Rape is down 59%. And there are about 115 cases of “stereotypical” kidnapping each year.
In other words, the world is actually far safer now than it was in the 80s and 90s. We simply perceive it to be more dangerous because of the 24/7 news cycle hypes every single story. As a result, we have new legislation that forbids “unsupervised” children — as old as 12 to 14 years old — playing outside or being left alone in a car for any length of time. More parents are worried about the prospect of a busybody neighbor calling CPS or the police on them than they are of “stranger danger” — with good reason.
The majority continues to demand protection from this supposed “insane” minority who is going to come after them and…what? Infect their children with diseases they don’t have?
Ben Franklin’s famous quote has deep resonance:
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Save us… save us! We feel safer by legislating behavior, reducing choices, and forcing people to toe a specific line, to be like the majority. If we pass laws to stop these things we’re afraid of from happening, we’ll be okay. So we think.
What’s truly at stake?
Of course, we’re trading rights for safety — our rights, and more importantly, others’ rights — for a mere illusion of safety. When did we become so afraid? Do we think that running to government to make it better is a good idea? Why do we allow the media to manipulate us? Why are we okay with stripping others’ rights just to “feel” safe? Do we understand what we’re giving up and what’s truly at stake?
We need to turn this on its head. Protecting peoples’ rights must be our first job. When we have our rights, we have options. We can address wrong if and when it occurs. As parents and as citizens we must know that it’s not possible, nor desirable, to legislate for every possible scenario.
Let’s say no to further intrusions on our rights. No to a ridiculous illusion of safety. No to all of the people in the majority who think that trampling on the minority is a solution to their misguided fears. We’ll keep sharing information, we’ll keep advocating, and we’ll fight for our rights, too. It’s the only way.
Kate Tietje is the creator of Modern Alternative Mama and sister blogs, where she teaches parents how to raise naturally healthy children. She is also the author of Natural Remedies for Kids, a guide to using natural and herbal remedies. Kate is mother to 5, an herbal enthusiast, and a champion of parents’ rights.
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