Posted Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, at 12:00 PM
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Another fight is erupting over public education and vaccination requirements, this time in Queens. Unlike with most anti-vaccination situations, the objections aren't coming from people whose faith in organic foods purchased at yuppie-tested enviroments are better disease prevention than vaccines, but from people returning to Old Faithful, the God card. The schools tolerate religous nuts who deprive their children of basic disease prevention most of the time, but if there are communicable diseases going around, unvaccinated kids have to go to keep the situation from getting worse. Now the parents are pitching a fit, unwilling to actually take responsibility for the faith they claim to hold so dear. Quoting Doug Barry's writing at Jezebel:
Mendoza-Vaca, who kicked off the litigation last week after his two children were sent home by the principal of P.S. 107, has said, "It is my opinion that resorting to vaccinations demonstrates a lack of faith in God, which would anger God and therefore be sacrilegious." Oh, well, that makes complete, empirical sense and, since God's will is like mysterious or whatever, there's really no arguing with Mendoza-Vaca's logic. Phillips added, "We don't want anything being into our bodies at all. We'd rather rely on our natural immune system and our faith in God. This is about my children's rights."
Obviously, this is not about children's rights. The children's rights are being violated by their parents, who believe their right to use their children as symbols to prove their piety trumps their children's right to health. Of course, we live in an environment where conservatives are claiming that it's a violation of "religious liberty" if you can't force your beliefs on others. The degradation of understanding of what a right is and who has it is one that historians of early 21st century America will find fascinating, I'm sure.
What's interesting here is how revealing this whole situation is of the psychological baggage that leads a person to become an anti-vaccination fanatic. Whether it's because you think God loves you best or because you think your dedication to organic produce confers magical health benefits, the underlying sentiment of anti-vaccination believers is that they and theirs are special, and shouldn't be subject to the unclean health practices of the common folk. Vaccination is just too democratic a practice. Rich and poor, black and white, Christian or not: we all have to sit in the same chair while the same nurse pokes us with the same batch of drugs. They don't even have special needles for the better class of person getting a vaccination. Getting vaccinated is to health care like taking the bus is to transportation. The very act of it insinuates that your special snowflake of a child could become infected with germs that come from someone else's totally-not-special kid. Of course anti-vaccination attitudes are percolating amongst yuppies and fundamentalist Christians, two groups whose social identity depends on feeling superior to the masses.