By Irene F. Starkehaus -
For those who have not read last week's article "The next liberal frontier is America's children," I very recently advocated for parental rights in opposing the proliferation of State-mandated vaccines - those that American children must undergo if they want to attend public schools. That discussion has produced enough of a kerfuffle about alleged conservative ignorance that I'm inclined to respond where I would have otherwise moved forward to a new topic.
Disproportionate agitation on the part of the Borg's auxiliary "vaccinate or you will be vaccinated" group began because I relayed a story that I read in my youth about a young woman who was imprisoned at Dachau during the Second World War…now quoting myself with obedient irony:
The woman was housed at Dachau. One day, she was told that she was going to be taking a shower. Her group was very happy because it had been a while since they had last showered. They were looking forward to feeling clean. The humanity in that expression of joy over that basic need to feel clean, which had been denied them by an authoritarian regime – it's simply about self-preservation and the joy of survival. Filth equals disease. Disease equals death.
The anticipation of showering meant that very few people were paying attention to the situation's details. The woman of this story happened to be standing near the end of the line. Her bunkmates were being taken away in small groups and she observed women going into the shower area, but no one was coming out. She became concerned. She looked over to a nearby corner and noticed that there was a bucket and a floor brush there, so she quietly grabbed it when no one was paying attention and pretended that she was part of the cleanup crew. She then backed out of the building and escaped. Her bunkmates were gassed.
For making this reference, I have been accused of trivializing the Holocaust by supposedly comparing its devastation to the plight of parents who don't want to vaccinate their children. For making this reference, I have been called a vaccine denier. For making this reference, the editors of Illinois Review have been pilloried for allowing an ostensibly disgusting comparison to be published on their site.
It has become clear to me through this entire exercise that seeing the words vaccine and Holocaust in the same article may be more than some people can handle without permanent loss in reading comprehension skills. For those predisposed to seeing insult where none exists, premature assumptions are likely to occur. Inaccurate assumptions lasting for more than four hours can be a sign of a serious medical condition. When intellectual priapism occurs, four out of five writers recommend you reread the article and pay attention this time...although, based on such visceral attempts to shut down debate about parental rights, we may want to reconsider the comparisons between vaccines and Nazi Germany for future posts.
The allusion to the young woman at Dachau was NOT done to draw a comparison between Josef Goebbels and today's vaccine-happy bureaucrats. That a reader's mind would immediately jump to such a conclusion speaks more to the reader's predisposition for dog-whistle politics than to a meaningful understanding of the article.
To clarify, there was neither indifference to the Holocaust nor flippancy about vaccines on display in referencing this young woman's situation. Rather, I highlighted the most fundamental of human rights illustrated through her decision to not follow orders. I then asked readers to understand that when we cheer for her survival, we unconsciously pay homage to the universal right to self-determination as being God-given rather than a product of benevolent legislatures.
The discussion was philosophical in nature and in no way denies the contributions of modern medicine. I have not advocated for or against vaccination. The editors of Illinois Review haven't advocated for or against vaccination. As noted in my original post, I vaccinated my own children understanding the risks and weighing them against the risks associated with contracting infectious diseases. With this truth in mind, the accusation that I am a vaccine denier is counterintuitive.
In remembering her escape from the cruelest of murders, I spoke about a young woman's inherent right to own herself and to determine what is best for her in the face of uncertainty. At hand was an immutable natural right to survive. If the shower in this example had been an actual shower rather than a gas chamber, it would have in no way altered her God-given right to refuse compliance.
Please. By all means, continue to perpetuate intellectual arrogance by shutting down debates through fierce insistence that the science is settled. Be smug in the knowledge that negative reactions to vaccines are within acceptable limits, and discount the suffering of those parents whose children weren't so lucky as to escape the acceptable limits.
Do so, however, knowing well that when the State mandates a vaccine, the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the antivirals are no longer liable for the ill-effects that befall a child. The responsibility falls on the State.
As for me, ninety-nine out of a hundred times, I will take a mother's intuition over "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." As to my right to advocate for parental rights with regard to vaccinations and the right of Illinois Review to publish that post, I offer this non sequitur from Wikipedia:
After the outbreak of World War II, which started with the invasion of his country by Nazi Germany, Maximillian Kolbe was one of the few brothers who remained at his monastery, where he organized a temporary hospital. After the town was captured by the Germans, he was briefly arrested by them but released on 8 December. Upon his release he continued work at his monastery, where he and other monks provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 1,000–2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in their friary in Niepokalanów. The monastery acted as a publishing house, issuing a number of anti-Nazi publications. On 17 February 1941, Kolbe and four others were arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On 28 May, he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.
Continuing to act as a priest, Kolbe was subjected to violent harassment, including beatings and lashings. At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting the deputy camp commander to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, "My wife! My children!" Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
Kolbe led the fellow prisoners in daily prayer to our Lady. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied, so they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Kolbe is said to have raised his left arm and calmly waited for the deadly injection. His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.
I know that I'm running a risk here because I've used the words Auschwitz and vaccination in the same blog post and that is not to be born. It may again cause an irreversible decay in reading comprehension skills for purveyors of dog-whistle politics, but I will do my best to make myself clear.
Research St. Maximillian Kolbe on your own and you will discover that he was given every opportunity to recant his position, accept German supremacy and save himself. St. Maximillian refused. He held fast to what he believed is the truth. He died expressing that truth.
German authorities at the time of his execution didn't recognize that St. Maximillian was endowed by his Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The stony disbelief exhibited by German authorities, however, did not negate Kolbe's rights. Their actions poignantly accentuated immutable truth as they disavowed his moral obligation to disobey.
Maximillian Kolbe, through his willful refusal to obey, acts as a witness to our fundamental right to free will in defiance of popular opinion. Through his example, we recognize the purpose of his martyrdom and, by extension, our own God-given rights.
In referencing the suffering and sacrifice of St. Maximillian Kolbe, I am not trivializing the Holocaust by comparing it to vaccines, and I am not signaling a membership in the Vaccine Deniers Association of America. I'm saying that when we perceive that our government is abusing the powers that were bestowed upon it by the governed, we have an obligation to speak up against the tyranny.
And yes. I absolutely am suggesting that a government that would put itself between parents and children has overreached. We may not agree with a parent who doesn't vaccinate, but we must defend her right to sincerely advocate for her child. Her right to advocate is not predicated on someone else's ability to fight disease…social justice notwithstanding, there is no moral imperative in requiring her to overtax her child's immune system in order to make herself equal to you…Dude. That's a total redistribution of health.
Political expression is a shambolic business, you know. It was recognized by our Founders that our natural, God-given rights such as the right to life could only be secured if we had the ability to protest acts of tyranny. Thus the Bill of Rights was born and through that document, we have all been guaranteed the right to express our political opinions.
Secure in that right, I do not have to make sure that I meet any arbitrary standard for political equability or inoffensiveness. To that end, I place discussions of the Holocaust and vaccinations back on the table for at-will use by all writers coming from all political perspectives everywhere.
Additionally, Illinois Review is under no obligation to publish anything that I write. I would suggest to you that they don't always agree with my point of view, but the editors generously publish my posts regardless of their own political perspectives. The critique that they don't promote the liberal perspective is extraneous. Illinois Review has a mission statement. They advance the conservative dialog, which they prove time and again is diverse rather than monolithic. They are well within their rights to do this.