First off, let me state as clearly as possible that if you believe that you have a philosophical right to keep from vaccinating your kids against measles, you're an idiot. You're not a free thinker or a maverick or a concerned parent. You're an idiot. That "philosophical" exemption was granted by an Arizona State Legislature that has proven, time and again, that it doesn't give a flying crap about kids. And obviously, you don't either. Idiot.
Also, if your religion says that you somehow have the right to put your kids (and mine) at risk of death from a disease that still kills hundreds of thousands of people in the world every year but had been eradicated in the United States, then your religion sucks. And you suck, too. I hope that's clear enough.
Now, from time to time, I get criticized for being almost universally negative in my comments about, and feelings toward, Republicans, in general, and Republican politicians, in particular. Well, please pay attention, because I am going against the grain on this one. When the recent measles outbreak hit the United States, the vast majority of Republican politicians either did the right thing or the sorta-right thing. Some bucked the traditional party line of questioning science and came out in favor of universal vaccinations. The others at least had the common sense and decency to keep their mouths shut.
I sincerely believe that a majority of Republicans, almost all Democrats, and a fair number of Independents recognize that getting a kid vaccinated against a disease that can be completely eradicated is not a political issue. It's a public health issue, one on which we should all be on the same side.
There are exceptions, of course, and they came in three major categories. First was Michele Bachmann, who is certifiably bat-crap crazy. (That's a category unto itself and Bachmann isn't alone in the room.) Speaking on the "Today" show, Bachmann said, "I had a mother come up to me (and) she told me that her little daughter took that (HPV) vaccine, that injection. And she suffered from mental retardation thereafter."
Setting aside the rather-obvious unclear antecedent, if the woman of whom Bachmann spoke actually existed and if she actually said those words, the "mental retardation" of which she spoke was almost certainly hereditary.
Then there's New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is generally at least somewhat level-headed. Christie is running for president, but, more significantly, he's running for the Republican nomination for president, so he feels the need to tack toward the crackpot fringe. Christie initially bowed to the black-helicopter/governmental overreach crowd by saying that parents "must have a measure of choice" about vaccinating their kids for measles. After the groaning died down back at Headquarters, his office released a statement that "with a disease like measles, there is no question that kids should be vaccinated."
So there is the crazy and the politically inept. And then there is Rand Paul. Here's a guy who is so tied to his Libertarian Uber Alles view of life that he bring himself to defy his own rigid ideals, even when he absolutely must know that he should. He's a physician, for crying out loud.
His first statement was a rather vacuous nod to "freedom." Then, he tiptoed out onto Bachmann's ledge by claiming, "I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children, who would up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." (Again, he's a physician.)
After being taken behind the woodshed of (near-universal) popular opinion for a couple days, Paul backtracked and said, "I support vaccinations." Well, congratulations, Senator, you're now up to the 18th century.
A couple years ago, I had a parent of one of my ballplayers tell me that she had made an "informed choice" not to have her daughter vaccinated. (Coaches have to be careful when dealing with parents. It's a fragile relationship, even if the kid plays all the time and the team is winning.) For that reason, I was careful not to call her an idiot to her face. Instead, I just said that she had made an idiotic decision.
She said that she had read about the subject extensively on the Internet. I countered by telling her that I had read online that Tupac Shakur and Elvis Presley had opened a smoothie shop in St. George, Utah. Our relationship cooled somewhat after that.
That which she had read about extensively was undoubtedly the article written by a British surgeon named Andrew Wakefield in 1998. He claimed that there was a possible link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism. He based this on his observation of 12 (yes, 12!) children. His "study" was later completely debunked and he was kicked out of being a doctor over professional misconduct involving the study. His findings have never been duplicated in even one case, even with studies involving millions of kids.
Unfortunately, it gets on the Internet, gets passed around, re-tweeted, recycled, rehashed, and incorrectly cited millions of times. All of a sudden, you've got Jenny McCarthy, who may be good at one or two things, but scientific analysis isn't one of them.
Finally, there was a headline in the Washington Post that read, "Why Younger Americans Are Much More Likely to Say That Vaccination Should Be a Choice."
Because they're idiots.