Wednesday, February 18, 2015

vaccinations and peanuts

As the debate on vaccinations and the tensions over the measles outbreak continues to concern us all, I have noticed a really troubling (and annoying) little meme or phrase that keeps popping up.  It haunts my facebook feed with a nagging and insidious hidden barb that bugs the crap out of me.

Or this one:

And if it isn't a meme or a cute little graphic, it is an attempt at a witty tweet.

No, Kristen-I-adore-you-otherwise-Bell, it is not a "good point" made by @MotherJones.  I respectfully disagree with you there, though, again, I freaking adore you otherwise.

It is a random, unrelated, unfair point.  

It is an apples and oranges argument, one having very very little to do with the other. It is something within allergy circles that I have seen come up recently, parents really upset by this sentiment who sometimes have a hard time articulating WHY it bothers them so badly.  I wasn't sure what about it bugged me so much first, but I knew I hated it immediately.  The first time I saw it, a meme shared by a friend on facebook much like the Wonka one, I groaned out loud.  

I posted this on my personal facebook page when I was still having a hard time articulating my distaste for the "joke" or "vent" and was met with a lot of well meaning and kind responses.

Most people assured me that those memes were not meant to insult allergy families.  Most of my very pro-vaxxing friends wanted to address the importance of inoculations and how children need protection from these illnesses.  When I discussed it verbally with a friend she assured me that as an allergy mom I am just used to being the butt of a joke and so I am taking it personally when it isn't about me, or my kid, or even peanuts.  

But is it?  And if it is not, WTF is the point of bringing it up?

That ^ cartoon paints me and the anti-vaxxing mom with the same brush, literally and figuratively.  That cartoon illustrated precisely what my underlying nagging little fear was when I saw the meme start to regurgitate itself across the internet with increasing frequency. The implication is that we are both irrational and selfishly overseeing our children's perceived (insert finger quotes and eye rolls here) needs with no regard for anyone else. 

I still find it difficult to articulate though, because I know that the people sharing it when I do try to say why I hate the sentiment will reply with "but that isn't the point."

Well it may not be your point, but as in all arguments, if the ONLY way you can dispute something is by bringing up an unrelated something else then are you really proving anything?

This idea is meant to be witty, biting, and direct.  But it is really none of those things at all.  

Does it bother me that they are aligning me with anti-vax parents?  Yes.  Not only because I personally chose to vaccinate my children to the fullest extent I can (more on that in a moment) but also because not vaccinating is a choice.  A CHOICE.  We never got a say in whether or not a peanut, or milk, or parsley could KILL our child.  No one asked me.  No long-debunked research studies, no famous former Playboys turned parental activist ... I never got to sign a waver for this life.  Choosing to not have your child receive the MMR shot or any other shot is a choice, a decision purposely made.  Food allergies are a life sentence handed to you by fate.

Does it bother me that I am put in, let's be blunt here, the same category as fanatical, uber crunchy, kinda "out there" parents because of this argument?  Yes. Not because of the level of granola in my life, but because that category isn't meant to be a flattering one.  Those parents are instantly dismissed on the grounds of being, I hate the pun, nuts.

Does it bother me that in order to make your point you have to drag my kids into this argument, where they have no real place?  Yes.

Many children, mine included, with food allergies cannot receive certain vaccinations because of the way they are produced.  Some involve egg, some actually involve milk contamination, some children with food allergies carry other diagnoses that leave them immuno-compromised and they are not supposed to get those shots because the vaccination could actually kill them.  My kids get every shot they can have, and I hold my breath in fear for each one just in case because the threat of those shots is not an imaginary one.   

As a food allergy parent we get used to having to field certain questions and sometimes certain annoyances from other people.  It is really hard sometimes to not get really defensive when people are POed about not sending a PB&J to school because it is inconvenient for them while it could make my child suffer tremendously within seconds just to be in the same room.  When I start to think about how defensive, and admittedly, angry it can make me to hear parents complain about "inconvenience" and "annoyance" when these precautions can prevent my kid from dying ... I do begin to see the point the authors of these memes, status messages, tweets and what not are trying to make.  This could kill innocent children.  How can you not get behind something that prevents that?

While I do get it, I really wish people would stop bringing peanuts into the vaccination argument.  Mainly because if you chose to not vaccinate, that is your choice and this is a battle you chose.  It ain't my battle, I have enough of them and want no part in this one. Your on your own here.

The bottom line, either way at the core of any of these points are innocent children.  They are not meant to be banners in your war -- stop using them as such.  Whether your point is "if I can be forced to not send peanuts you should be forced to vaccinate" or "you are just as big of a pain in my ass as those kids are" ... please, stop using MY innocent children to further your point in this debate.  

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