Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself
My grandmother set up my father’s deathbed in 1955. It was in the corner of their living room. A quarantine of sorts. It’s where he spent his 5th year, rather than attend kindergarten with his friends.
My grandmother had gone through a lot of heartache in her life: escaping her country, leaving a life behind on the run.
There are so many theories that have floated around our family. Theories of what made her such a resentful and unsympathetic mother. She was particularly unkind to my father. She was much older when she had my dad. His siblings were 18 and 10 when he was born. He was clearly her mistake. Was it the unspoken traumas that she faced as a young girl, when she was separated from her family in the woods of Kiev? Alone in the woods for two days, she escaped death, but possibly faced something that broke her and arrested her emotional development?
I have another theory. When the doctors told her, my father’s painful and slow death would play out in front of her, in the corner of the living room, while she sat and watched, she went into survival mode and disconnected.
My dad didn’t die in his deathbed in Boston. We know that he went on to marry (at 19), have two kids, complete a fulfilling career. As I type, he is with my mom,
and their fearless travel companions, The Nixons, somewhere in Australia, living life to its fullest.
In 1953 there were over 58,000 cases of polio in the US, mostly children, many dead, many crippled. The polio vaccine became a reality soon after my dad’s long illness. In 1960, there were just over 2000 new cases and by 1965, only 61 people contracted polio.
These stats are the miracle of science.
In 1955 Americans feared Russians, Joe McCarthy (if you were Jewish or worked in hollywood) and Polio. Today, we fear vaccinations, doctors and gluten.
I am frustrated with the parents who have chosen to “delay” vaccinating their children. They talk about freedom and choice. As a modern society, we are not Truely free. I must wear my seatbelt. I cannot throw a bottle at the woman who didn’t hold the door for me yesterday. I can not drive my neighbor’s car, without his permission, just because it looks fun to drive. There are consequences.
The consequences of “delaying” vaccinations are serious. We are bringing back diseases that crippled and blinded children. We are reacting to fear that has zero scientific evidence.
The optimist in me sees the positive outcome of this anti-vax movement. We finally have a cause that brings the far left and far right together. Fear, in this case is a uniter.
I am empathetic to the fear of the parent who chooses to delay vaccinations. But, I believe it is selfish to put other people’s children at risk, in the off chance your child may avoid an illness.
My generation has not lived through a true epidemic, in this country. We have the occasional SARS, Avian, Ebola scare. Thanks to modern medicine, all of these things have been contained…so far.
I am ok with you not vaccinating your child. But please, do not go to the mall, Disney World, school, the movies, the supermarket or my home.
My children are vaccinated, but my friends with babies, should be able to walk freely without worrying about measles or polio.
They already have to worry about gluten. Oh,and the Russians, they are making the rounds again too. Like fashion, music and fear…wait long enough and it will come back in vogue.