the rant is building

It’s in my brain now, a spicy mix of frustration at a series of events, public and private. The Sarah Palin phenomenon, where insta-fans love her, simply for saying some sassy things in a speech, and then continue to love her even as they find out that many of the things she said were not true, that she doesn’t know basic things about politics, etc. This has been sticking in all of our craws, of course, but you can shout at the top of your lungs that she is an earmarking, book-burning, creationist liar, and you won’t convince anyone who likes her to change their minds.

Add to that the impending tragedy of Hurricane Ike. Coverage indicates that many people are “hunkering down” and refusing to comply with mandatory evacuation orders. I just watched a CNN story in which a small-town police chief is currently wading through chest-deep water (as camera zooms in on a dumpster floating around in the floodwaters), looking for a boat to commandeer to rescue four people who didn’t evacuate and now want to be rescued before the hurricane arrives in a few hours. What makes people stay, when the warnings say that they will be faced with certain death if they do?

On top of this powderkeg of lies and bad choices, the spark that set me off today is that I just found out that one of Kid’s friends hasn’t been immunized, because his mom “doesn’t believe in vaccinations.” Doesn’t believe in them, as if they are a fairy tale. What she probably meant is that she thinks they are linked to autism. They are not. There is evidence; it is abundant and clear. Plus, this is our community’s health this is my Kid’s health you are messing with! How dare you expose him to preventable disease?

I’m certainly not the first person to express frustration at people who believe things that are clearly not true, but the consequences of these false beliefs make such a major impact on the world we live in that it makes me want to roll up my sleeves and do something about it. The problem is, what can I do? I’ve been searching around for years, and I still haven’t figured it out what to do. It’s a good thing hockey season is starting, so I can get some of this pent-up aggression out on the ice. Otherwise, who knows what I’ll do to the next undergrad who tells me that we never landed on the moon?

9 thoughts on “the rant is building”

  1. Admittedly, there are are loonies out there. That being said, if your kid is immunized, what does it matter if his friend is not (if your concerns truly rest with your child and not the community)?

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  2. trey1: The problem, partly, is that immunizations are not 100% effective. Tina has immunized her child but is that immunization sufficient to actually protect against contagion in this specific case? Probably, but not absolutely. And that ignores the risks if her child was sick with something else or on medication that impaired Kid’s immune system. Immunizations are, on an individual level, a little like a bullet proof vest: it’ll probably stop the bullet, but it’s really much better not to get shot in the first place.

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  3. @1 Actually (public health people tell me if I am wrong), over 80% of the population needs to be immunized to stop an epidemic. Just because you are immunized doesn’t mean the immunization worked, or can’t be overcome by a slight variation in the disease. So yes, actually, those who don’t immunize are both putting others at risk, and if there are risks to getting the shots, they are essentially freeloaders.

    For me, lately, the major irritation has been that some of my conservative (and a few liberal) friends absolutely believe everything they read about the other candidate, but say it is smear campaign when they hear anything negative about their own person. Luckily, my outlet is soccer, but maybe I should switch to hockey for the upcoming winter! Hockey seems a bit more able to allow for more efficient and complete release of the frustration–soccer is more reduction of stress due to exhaustion.

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  4. Tina, I feel your pain…. decided to take the day off of my most pressing professional stuff and instead spent the morning reading your book (it’s great, at least so far), and am now working on an op-ed about lying in the presidential race. False beliefs are fascinating as psychological phenomena—and terrifying as motivators.

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  5. I want to rant and clarify and squeal with delight all in the same comment…what to do first? I’ll spare the additional rant, so…

    Squeee! Andy, I’m glad you like the book, and I can’t wait to read your op-ed. Also, there’s some interesting work going on at Cornell around the issue of belief and evidence and science and rhetoric, too. They’ve kindly let me poke my nose into some of their seminars, and I’m both fascinated and terrified as well.

    Also, what Drek and bandeiras said about immunizations. If everyone takes them, the diseases go away. If pockets of kids aren’t immunized, that creates openings for the disease to enter the population, and immunized kids are at risk–less risk than non-immunized kids, to be sure, but greater risk than if these diseases went away. We’ve seen this recently with mumps outbreaks. I would be more understanding if there were risks associated with vaccines, but the real risks are miniscule–far less than the risks associated with any of the diseases they prevent.

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  6. It probably depends on the specific disease. Contagions get fueled by the unvaccinated, which then more easily spread to the less aptly vaccinated….Some vaccines aren’t tremendously effective. The chicken pox vaccine has a fairly large failure rate, but there isn’t much mortality or permanent morbidity from that. What is worse about failure to vaccinate is if you are in a vector of potential infection. If you live in an area with a high concentration of immigrants from nations where the disease is endemic, unvaccinated kids are in trouble and could also infect others.

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  7. What makes people stay, when the warnings say that they will be faced with certain death if they do?

    In Hurricane Rita (the one shortly after Katrina in ’05), 100 people from Galveson died evacuating, while only 7 died in the storm itself. In Hurricane Katrina, some (poor, usually Black) people who left their homes were not allowed to return to them and lost everything they had — not because of the storm, but because the government saw the storm as a way to remake New Orleans as a playground for the rich. Those who did leave Galveson are now barred from reentry at the moment; how many do you think have no place to stay?

    Personally, I think that it is hard for me, as someone who has the resources to make these kinds of decisions in relative comfort, to even imagine the choices faced by poor residents of Galveson. I certainly don’t feel I’m in much position to pass judgment on them.

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  8. @8: My reasoned, thoughtful self often takes just this tone with my frustrated, ranting self: don’t be so judgmental! but what about the rescue workers put at risk? it takes resources to evacuate. but certain death is certain death! And then I realize I need to eat something before I start talking out loud.

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