In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread. And among those diseases could be COVID-19.
Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.
We are slowly but surely emerging from a deadly pandemic. It’s not that the disease has disappeared. Far from it. But the combination of mutations, vaccinations, and prior infections is making it far less deadly. Yet at every point in the pandemic, it was pro-life red America that loudly declared its bodily autonomy, disproportionately shunned even the slight inconvenience of a mask before the vaccine, and then disproportionately rejected the vaccine when it miraculously appeared mere months after the pandemic began.
Parts of pro-life red America moved from skepticism to outright defiance. “How dare you tell me what to do. This is my decision between me and my doctor.” They trafficked in pseudo-science and bizarre conspiracy theories. The cost was staggering. It was horrifying. Look at this chart, from the Brown School of Public Health:
When I bring this up, people get furious. The conventional wisdom on the right has hardened into adamantium. If you condemn the anti-vaxx movement, then you’re an elitist. You hate anti-vaxxers. How dare you question their decisions? Everyone knows the real cultural tragedy of the pandemic was the way the terrible blue states imposed extended lockdowns and kept schools closed too long.
To criticize the anti-vaxx movement isn’t to hate or look down on its members any more than criticizing the pro-choice movement means hating or looking down on its members. Strong disagreement isn’t hatred, even when you believe the contrary position contains grave moral flaws.
I also can agree that blue state restrictions went too far, but I cannot get that staggering death toll out of my head. And that’s not a random 319,000 people, it’s 319,000 of our most vulnerable citizens. The elderly. The infirm. People with immune disorders.
In the face of that wave of death, a wave of death created by a staggering amount of Christian fear, disinformation, and defiance—millions of the same people who created that culture now loudly demand that other people sacrifice for life.
It’s time for another caveat. When we talk about national movements, we invariably talk about generalities. Huge movements are made up of millions of people, and many of those millions have gone above and beyond the call of duty. They’ve spent their lives sacrificing for others, in ways large and small. They resist the hatred of the times, and even though I might disagree with some of their votes, they put me to shame in their service for others.
But the sad reality remains: When American culture burned with partisan hatred, all too many institutions of the American church fueled the fire. They fuel the fire to this day. There is a cost to this combat, and that cost is born in our ability to reach out to people outside our tribe and to have people believe us when we say that we care for them, that we want to see them flourish, and that we love their families—both red and blue.
Christian hate-preacher Greg Locke said this morning that children with autism actually suffer from demon possession.— Hemant Mehta (@hemantmehta) January 23, 2022
"Your kid could be demonized and attacked, but your doctor calls it autism."
He added: "Ain't no such diagnosis in the Bible." pic.twitter.com/Q44WmGKCd7