Managing Editor's Note: We're proud to welcome Dan Burns as our newest Age of Autism Contributing Editor. Dan has an adult son with autism named Ben, and his perspective and writing style are a great addition to our content. Welcome, Dan.
By Dan E. Burns
Project Draft 13
I will show you fear in a handful of dust
(T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land).
We stared at it, my Public Relations colleagues and I, perhaps a little too long. Projected on the wall of the Situation Room stood the Agent Orange distillation column, a 50-foot tall steel vessel reigning over a graveyard of oil drums labeled “Diamond Shamrock Corporation” and “Hazardous Waste.”
Agent Orange is not an ingredient in vaccines. But what happened – or didn’t happen – in the Situation Room has a lesson for us, the parents of vaccine-injured children.
In 1983, Vietnam vets from Operation Ranch Hand were suffering from neural and blood disorders, miscarriages, leukemia, and cancers of the prostate, lung, and liver. They were marching, waving signs, and pointing fingers. At us. Allegedly, the damage came not from Agent Orange per se, but from 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, a contaminant produced during the “cooking” or fractionation process when the temperature in the tower rose a little too high for a little too long. As it did in the Diamond Shamrock Ironbound plant. If the EPA is right – the claim is disputed HERE – dioxin is one of the most potent carcinogens known to human kind.
Diamond Shamrock mounted a vigorous defense. “We can’t cure anyone’s cancer,” said the General Counsel. “What’s done is done. If we move one shovelful of dirt more than required, we open ourselves up to additional liability. That would just spread the mess.”
My colleagues in the Situation Room were decent, caring people. “Chipper,” to my right, recruited and went to bat for minorities. “Lou,” to my left, our one-man brain trust, played the blues guitar and wrote protest songs light with whimsy and humor. I was Executive Speechwriter, raising two college-bound children. After an underpaid career in academia, I needed this job.
Lou had researched the issue for years. “In jungle warfare,” he said, “G.I.s were exposed to a host of tropical pathogens, fungi, protozoa, unknown viruses, and biological agents coming at them through novel vectors on all sides. We don’t know what caused their chronic fatigue, birth defects, and cancers. Diamond Shamrock operated under mandate from the government, and our actions were safe, proper, and legal.”
‘That’s right,” chimed in the General Counsel. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders. That’s why we’re here today.”
Chipper opened her briefcase. “Here’s how Monsanto handled it,” she said. She passed out a press release, which read, "We are sympathetic with people who believe they have been injured and understand their concern to find the cause, but reliable scientific evidence indicates that Agent Orange is not the cause of serious long-term health effects."
Of course Agent Orange wasn’t the cause. The issue was the contaminant. Management had acknowledged that the fractionation tower on the wall in front of us had been defective. But Monsanto, through verbal sleight-of-hand, had made the dioxin issue disappear. Though the discussion went around the table, our strategy was a foregone conclusion: the PR team recommended that Diamond Shamrock simply second the Monsanto press release.
Can there be any doubt that recent similar conversations occurred in the Situation Rooms of Merck and GlaxoSmithKline? Not in my mind. As an experiment, substitute “vaccines” for Agent Orange. There you have Pharma’s denial in a nutshell: “Reliable scientific evidence indicates that vaccines are not the cause of autism."
The lesson is this. We should not expect our colleagues in pharmaceuticals, media, and government to repent or fall on their swords. Some believe their denials. Others silently doubt. In the case of Agent Orange, I wasn’t buying their denials. To my eyes, the defective tower in front of us radiated death. Why didn’t I raise my hand? Group think. Fear of losing the esteem of my colleagues, risking my job.
Late last year, in Dallas, Texas, a vet named Jim rolled up his sleeve. I traced, with the tip of my finger, the tattooed outline of his dead 6-year-old son’s face. Brain cancer. Jim didn’t hold Agent Orange responsible. But my mind flashed back three decades to the tower. And I thought, as it was for the Operation Ranch Hand vets, so for parent of vaccine-injured children: the evidence of harm is in plain sight, tattooed on our children’s anguished faces and on our hearts.
It’s time to end the silence. Children’s lives will continue to be blighted by industrial and biological toxins, including an inadequately tested, unsafe, government-mandated vaccine schedule, until we raise our hands. As father of a 24-year-old son with ASD, I have my truth to tell. So, perhaps, do you. I’m raising my hand today, for Jim’s son and for mine.
Dan E. Burns, Ph.D., is the father of a 24-year-old son on the autism spectrum and the author of Saving Ben: A Father’s Story of Autism. Dr. Burns is Adult Issues Liaison for AutismOne and is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism. He chairs The Autism Trust USA, (www.theautismtrustusa.org), a 501(c)3 charity focused on empowering parents to organize communities where their ASD children and others can live and work, enjoy life, continue to heal, and give back to society.