Our “Bipolar Disorder”

I don’t generally write on this blog about social issues beyond those that have to do with science because the discussions can get very complicated. Like many other things, we all exist on a spectrum of social views. Lately, however, it appears that we are not in a spectrum. We, the people of the United States, seem to be completely polarized on a ton of issues that are important. We go at each other’s throats if we happen to disagree.

Just the other day, a friend of mine put a bumper sticker on his car which claimed that the Second Amendment was the most important amendment in the Bill of Rights because it kept a tyrannical government at bay. He asked for my opinion, and we haven’t talked since. We haven’t talked because I said that the First Amendment was the first for a reason. If the government tells me that I can have all the guns in the world but woe unto me if I speak ill of the government, I’d rather keep my free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. On the other hand, if the government says that I can say whatever I want, that journalists can uncover all the secrets they can and expose all the corruption they can, then, please, take my guns. Of course, that’s the polarized view; the view that you either have one or the other and not both, like we do in real life.

My friend, polarized as he is, decided that I was a “liberal” and not someone he wanted to associate with. I’m sure he’ll come around.

That little discussion is a microcosm of what is going on all over the country right now about any little (or big) issue that the media (mainstream and otherwise) puts in front of us. That became very clear last night when a jury in Florida found a man not guilty of second degree murder. Everyone thought that the jury was either right or wrong, leaving no room for compromise, leaving no room for maybe thinking that there was a reasonable doubt as to what happened. Our legal system will rather put a guilty person out on the street than an innocent one in jail. That’s just how the system works.

If we don’t like it, there are remedies we can take, like electing better lawmakers and petitioning the government in droves.

Last night, a commenter on this blog post told us the story of her child who, according to the commenter, had a preexisting condition that was missed and led to a vaccine injury. I had messages from some pro-vaccine folks quickly asking me to dismiss her claims. Instead, this is what I answered:

“JR, you are correct in some respects. No vaccine is 100% safe nor 100% effective. There have and always will be reactions to them, some minor, some very bad, as it seems to be the case with your child. Nowhere does any respectable scientist dismiss “all claims of vaccine injury.” No one “worth their salt,” anyway. As you have stated, your child had a condition which should have been a contraindication for the vaccine. I’m truly sorry it wasn’t caught, and I can only imagine how nightmarish all that could be.

The flip side to this is that measles itself could have done this to your child. The wild-type virus is even more virulent (severe in its presentation) than the vaccine. If we allow the MMR vaccine to be discontinued or spaced-out, and if we allow exaggerations of its “danger” to be put out to the public, many, many more children with conditions similar to your child’s will have to deal with true measles. Some of them may even die, a fate worse than autism or any other vaccine injury.

I could assure you that no one I know in public health “deems individual suffering acceptable collateral damage.” God, how I wish there wasn’t any collateral damage. Unfortunately, to keep thousands from dying, we need to take the chance of hundreds to get hurt. It’s cold. It’s maybe even callous. But it’s the world we live in.

Then again, if everyone who could get vaccinated did get vaccinated, we could eradicate measles, chickenpox, rubella (German measles), and even mumps in one or two generations, like we did with smallpox.

Thank you for you comment.”

I refuse to write or state the position that all vaccines are 100% safe and/or 100% effective, or even for everyone without regard to anything. This is an absolutist way of thinking that sounds more like the “pro-” or “anti-” extremists that opine about every social issue and less like the evidence-based scientist that I am. It would make me sound like the anti-vaccine activists who claim that they are not anti-vaccine but then fail to be able to tell you which vaccine they do support or would take. It’s not a productive way to have any discussion.

What scares me the most is that we keep supporting and electing people who outright tell us that they are not willing to compromise with “the other side.”  We keep allying ourselves with groups who are “pro-” or “anti-” in extremis, and we keep having idiotic arguments based on absolutes. “I’m against gay marriage! No compromise!” or “I’m against abortion, even when the mother will die if one is not done! No compromise!” And we stupidly, sheep-like cheer them on.

I’m not here, writing on this blog, to convince you that all vaccines are good, or that all vaccine refusers are evil. Many vaccine refusers, even some of the activist ones, have good intents and are simply misguided or ignorant about the concepts of vaccination in particular and science in general. Most vaccines are good and necessary, but we don’t need a vaccine against anything and everything infectious. I’m not here to be “bipolar” and “disordered” when it comes to things. Leave those accusations at the door.

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2 thoughts on “Our “Bipolar Disorder”

  1. Regrettably, the fanatic antivax crowd will now pounce upon one sentence you used in a way you did not intend it to sound like. “Some of them may even die, a fate worse than autism or any other vaccine injury.”
    They will trumpet how you admitted that vaccines causing autism.
    As you said, extremists think in rather predictable ways, always off of the deep end. :/

    As for the second amendment, I personally own a dozen firearms, half of which were inherited.
    I’m considering the addition of two competition models, as I’m considering going back into competition shooting again. Not the yahoo, rapid fire matches, but precision long range competition. Used to fire in competition in the military, now that I”m retired, I rather miss it.
    That said, I ask the “hold off a tyrannical government” type just precisely how he/she could hold off a B52, AC130 gunship, Apache gunship, 155mm and 105mm Howitzers, M1A1 tanks, smart bombs, dumb bombs, rockets, mortars, MLRS systems, guided missiles, whether drone launched or aircraft launched or even man carried guided missiles.
    I can engage a target at one mile easily with a good sniper system, but I’m not *that* good! So, what chance does that never military trained individual have? Even with a few hundred buddies? Even as a “militia”?
    Against modern military might, the small arms exclusive group stands precisely three chances: slim, fat and no chance.
    The firearms that I own are for target shooting, hunting or home defense. For the latter, I’ve yet to require the firearm, which is sitting happily in a small firearms safe. The chances of me ever needing that firearm are even lower than the adverse reaction risk to a tetanus vaccination. Of course, that pistol happens to be one that I use the most at the range for target practice, again, precision over volume of fire or some other “cool” nonsense.
    What my firearms are *not* for is to repel tyranny. For, even with my SF experience and nearly three decades of military experience, I’d not stand a chance.

    The problem with extremists, for those are what you are speaking of is, extremists think that they are supermen. Whether it is via some infinite knowledge on the topic at hand, far greater knowledge than professionals in the field under discussion or via some mythos where they can defeat the US Government should it ever “turn tyrannical”.
    One fights a wayward government on two fronts, political and legal. As an example, “They want to take my guns”, my answer is, fine, I will see you in court, as my property cannot be seized without compensation. I’d then also begin working toward unseating whatever politicians decided that my property should no longer be mine. My response would most certainly not be “repelling tyranny” with a dinky little rifle and pistol! To consider otherwise is to follow delusional thinking.

    • Meh, they can take from what I said whatever they want to take. Anyone who has read my body of work knows that I don’t consider autism a vaccine injury.

      I’ve been meaning to go to a shooting range and get to know how some guns work. If I ever go to Africa, I’d like to know how to use a Kalishnikov in case someone barters with it.

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