My son has Asperger’s. He was diagnosed in 1999, at age five. The word ‘autism’ was still a mysterious thing to me, something that I recalled from a segment on 60 Minutes, decades earlier. But that was real autism, not the variety that my son seemed to have. He was a happy, affectionate child, though one who could endlessly scream like a banshee when you told him to do something (which continued into his teens). He was expelled from a church preschool for standing on his desk and yelling, which is a lot funnier in retrospect. We had nightly, pitched arguments over brushing his teeth and ..don’t get me started.
Around 2004 was when I first caught wind of a supposed connection between vaccines and autism. Don and/or Deidre Imus had an interest in the subject, and were pushing a book. Bought the book, read part of the book, long-since ditched the book. All I remember is that it was red. Name doesn’t really matter – since it’s BS – and there are dozens of similar books. However, I did believe it, at least for awhile. It’s a terrible feeling to think that there was something you did that caused this to happen.
Before catching the all-too-evident whiff of hysteria, I had to find a way to make peace with it. The way wasn’t even all that difficult: Per Wikipedia, there were an estimated 100-200,000 cases/year of diphtheria in the US during the 1920’s, causing 13-15,000 deaths. We have a photo of a one-year-old boy. It’s in an oval frame. with rounded glass of a type rarely seen, other than antique. The boy was my father-in-law’s brother, and he died from diphtheria, around 1927. He was two. He had a headache one night, he was dead the next morning. He was buried almost immediately, due to concerns about infection. No time to adjust, no time to think, no time to let go. Just..gone.
I realize that an order of magnitude separates diphtheria from measles, but the children who do die from measles are no less treasured than our little Jimmy. This “concern” about vaccines has long-since gone from passing hysteria to full-on conspiracy-theory. It’s unnecessary, it’s selfish, and it’s not a little bit narcissistic. I don’t care what religion you practice, what God you worship, or what philosopher gives you life, as long as it brings you to something greater than your own life and your own short-term concerns. When I thought that the shot might have caused my son’s autism, I also considered that he might be dead. That others of his age might be dead, and many before him.
That’s the importance of religion and spiritual life, or just basic humanity. We’re all God’s children, we’re all someone’s child, not just yours.
- Measles outbreak raises fury over California’s vaccine exemptions – San Jose Mercury News
- One story of a child who died – RoaldDahlFans.com – Articles/Interviews – “MEASLES: A Dangerous Illness”
- Naughty Language Alert – Penn and Teller on Vaccinations – YouTube