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Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Living Our Beliefs: Our Community and Vaccines

            America is polarized; dividing up into two groups, left and right, on almost every issue. We certainly are not living our beliefs when we act this way, although in many cases both sides think they are. However, there is one issue where people of all political views, ages, income levels, parents of children with special needs, parents of typical children, and both genders agree: Childhood vaccination. The reason I am writing about this now is to show how we flush our beliefs down the proverbial toilet when it comes to issues like this. Plus, I am frustrated that only one side is being told in the mainstream media.
            There is a meme being spread far and wide that vaccines are not harmful in any way, shape, or form and that it is irresponsible to refuse vaccination. Most of the people talking about it either do not know what they are talking about, or they are beholden to pharmaceutical companies in one way or another. Politicians, media companies, doctors, and researchers all rely on the fortune of the pharmaceutical companies and they all have a united message. Some of them may truly believe this message, but others know better. Very few people are challenging that message, so right now I am speaking for those whose voices are being drowned out in the media. Everyone has joined in to demonize parents who do not vaccinate their children. The entire burden of the current measles outbreak has been laid upon their shoulders, even though we still don’t know who started it. This is the most current information I could find. “The outbreak likely started from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles, then visited the amusement park while infectious. However, no source has been identified. Page updated 2/14/15.” Some are using this measles outbreak as a political tool to lay blame on immigrants and further their immigration agenda. "A traveler" could be an immunized American citizen, for all we know, but jumping to a conclusion is more politically motivating than the truth. 

"What is the truth? It is to make us know what is the gap between our aspirations and our current reality; to help us to see where we are not living up to our Christian and Democratic ideals." 
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

            We ignore facts when they don’t support our opinion and we blame other parents for the failures of a system we refuse to change. In this post and the next two, I will be writing about this issue, advocating for healthy children; specifically about integrity – on the part of individuals and the system – statistics, media and political bias on this issue, inconsistency in our beliefs and our actions, and I will explain the workings of the current system and compare its flaws with the rhetoric in the media. I have done my research, so get ready for a different view than the one you have been exposed to. But first, I want to take note of how the lives of people with disabilities have been transformed by people living their beliefs and begin to show you how the issue of vaccines can be transformed the same way.

Evolving Consciousness
            Throughout history, people with disabilities have had difficult lives. Many believed that people with intellectual disabilities were in that condition because they had sinned, or that they were in purgatory on earth as a punishment for sin. I recently read the life story of a black woman who died in 1955, named Henrietta Lacks. Her cancer cells are responsible for almost everything we know about cancer and for the better treatments we have today. They are called Hela cells and they are immortal. They live and multiply to this very day, decades after Henrietta’s passing. Henrietta and her family were never compensated for the contribution her cells made to cancer research, although others made fortunes from her cells. Compensation would have made a tremendous difference in their lives, but she died a poor black woman and was able to leave nothing to her children. You can read about Henrietta and her story in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. However, it is not Henrietta’s story I want to share now. It is her daughter’s story that shows how our collective consciousness once treated people with disabilities.  
            Elsa Lacks seemed to be intellectually disabled. Although never formally diagnosed, she never learned to speak or to use the toilet and she had seizures. When her mother, Henrietta, died of cervical cancer Elsa was sent away by the authorities. Her brothers and sisters never knew where she was taken after their mother’s death, but eventually, one of her sisters found out that Elsa had been sent to a notorious segregated mental hospital. She went to see if she could find Elsa’s records. She discovered that Elsa had been beaten and that her death was a result of repeatedly vomiting a material that resembled coffee grounds. The vomiting went on for six months prior to her death. The man reviewing the records with Elsa’s sister said that the coffee grounds like material was probably dried blood. Elsa was still a young girl when she died, in that segregated mental hospital, in 1955. There was a photo of Elsa in the file. She had horribly matted hair, her face was bruised, and she appeared to be screaming while a white hand aggressively held her tear-stained face towards the camera. Her sister also discovered that doctors in that hospital had performed illegal experiments on many seizure-prone patients, possibly including Elsa, in which the protective fluid around their brains was removed and replaced with air, in order to get better x-ray pictures of their brains. This experiment resulted in tremendous, on-going pain for those who endured it.
            This is the type of treatment people with disabilities faced in our not so distant past when there was no family willing or able to care for them.  Tragedies like this were once common because of judgment and ignorance, which always stems from fear of the unknown. Families used to hide people with intellectual disabilities out of site of the public, either because they were ashamed or for the protection of the individual. Little by little attitudes began to change and eventually Eunice Shriver came along and created Special Olympics so that people with intellectual disabilities could thrive out in the open. This brave and wonderful act by a compassionate woman made it possible for parents and siblings to embrace their family members with challenges and be proud of them. Slowly the stigma erodes.

           Look how far we have come, not only with people with disabilities but racially as well. Thankfully, we are waking up! We are facing our fears, realizing our false judgments, and taking the time to learn about things we don’t understand. All of our advancement is due to the evolution of human consciousness. At some point in time, someone had to realize what we were doing to people with disabilities. Someone began to see them as human beings with feelings. Not only that but they had to gain enough courage to stop going along with others who mistreated those with differences. Someone started to spread the word that it was not okay to treat people like that and others followed their lead. Whoever they were, I am immensely grateful and indebted to them for the seeds they planted in the collective mind. We are slowly reaping that harvest now. From these stories we see that divisions and ignorance can be healed, but we still have some distance to go. Attitudes and behaviors need to continue to change towards people with disabilities and towards the ways we protect all of our children.  

Protecting the Herd 
            The main message in the media regarding vaccines is that in order for the herd to be protected everyone has to be vaccinated. The more people that do not get vaccinated the higher the risk of disease for the herd. I find it funny that they actually use the word herd. It feels to me as if they are leading us like cattle to the vaccination corral and we refuse to see it. It feels like they want us to have a herd mentality. It is clear that they are spreading memes because they want the herd to believe certain things and to repeat those beliefs and get the rest of the herd to fall in line. Please excuse me if I feel that going along with the herd is not always such a good idea. The herd once believed all sorts of horrible things about people with disabilities. The herd went along with doctors who put people with intellectual disabilities in psychiatric hospitals and did horrible experiments on them. Various herds have murdered millions of people around the world in efforts of ethnic cleansing. The herd enslaved fellow human beings. I could go on and on, bringing up many other issues where the herd was dead wrong. We see it now, looking back. 
           The herd analogy plays into our lifelong insecurities of wanting to be part of a group. No one wants to be outside of the group. Outsiders are shunned, made fun of, bullied; much like what is happening to the anti-vaccine parents now. Watching this play out in the news and on talk shows, it reminds me of watching episodes of Mad Men. I am beginning to wonder if Big Pharma has actually hired an ad agency to strategically place their memes into the newscasts and talk shows. Every message is exactly the same. None of the interviews are any different from show to show. And none of them ever mention vaccine injury, at least not any that I have seen. They all ask if vaccines cause autism and the answer is always a resounding NO. We will see later how, while not dishonest, it is not exactly accurate, either. 
        Refusing to go along with the herd does not make someone anti-vaccine, or irresponsible, or crazy. As we have seen, going along with the herd can sometimes be the most irresponsible thing we can do. The main thing I want people to understand is that we need to get to the truth, in order to get safer vaccines and safer vaccine schedules for our children. That conversation cannot happen when the airwaves are flooded by one message to create hysteria among the masses. Pharmaceutical companies, along with the media companies that receive ad revenues from them, and doctors who give vaccinations to our children profit from the current system. If more and more people stop vaccinating, they all lose profits. Some would love to have the religious and philosophical exemptions repealed so that every child has to get the vaccines on their timeline to ensure the money flow never stops. They would love to have us believe that taking away each parent’s liberty is a good idea for the herd. What does that say about our beliefs about liberty for all? They would love for the conversation to remain exactly as it has for the past several weeks, months, and years so that nothing in the system will change. Without change, they won’t have to spend more money on the system than they already do, ensuring profits remain the same. Furthermore, without proof of vaccine injury they can avoid being sued for those injuries. This system is perfect for them, but not for us. Rather than change it, they want us to demonize the healthy children advocates by calling them anti-vaxxers. 
          There is a term the military uses: collateral damage. It refers to the unavoidable killing of civilians in war. There are people who would have you believe that collateral damage is an acceptable part of keeping most of our population free of disease. We have to decide for ourselves if we believe that, but first, we should explore whether we need to believe it. Healthy children advocates feel it is not necessary to believe it. They believe the system can be changed to protect all of our children; from disease and from vaccine injury. We all believe in right and wrong. We all believe that our actions have consequences. Are we willing to stand up for those beliefs? Are we willing to do everything in our power to protect our children from collateral damage? 
           In the next two posts, we will explore the claims of the healthy children advocates and ways to bring integrity to our communications, to the media, and to the system, raising the collective consciousness once again.
A link to my next post: Vaccines Part 2
More informative links:   
Parents Voice 
Vaccine Fact Summary
Dissolving Illusions (Disease elimination chart)
Thinking Moms Revolution
MIT Scientist Exposes Monsanto and Aluminum Cocktail

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