By Kim Stagliano
Remember Ebola? A year ago it was the lead story in every newscast from coast to coast. Check out the NBC News search for "ebola."
Remember measles earlier this year?
And don't forget our old seasonal stalker, influenza, the flu.
How about Syrian refugees?
I live in Connecticut. We are slated to accept some 1600 Syrian refugees. But last week's horrific attacks in Paris have changed the national (and therefore state, including the Nutmeg state where I live) perception of the refugees for many Americans. As a staunch "anti-vax injury" advocate (that's my nom du jour for much of what I do) I began thinking about risk - what's acceptable, palatable, agreeable, realistic? Who controls the public perception of risk?
I often post on our Age of Autism Facebook page, although Cathy Jameson and Adriana Gamondes do most of the heavy lifting on our page. The other day I ran what I thought was a pretty simple statement.
Your child has a much greater risk of developing a chronic debilitating condition that is life threatening here in America than being killed by a Syrian refugee. Nut allergies. Autism. Diabetes. Seizures. The real threat. Come on, America......
I wasn't trying to be political. For the record, I'm a New England moderate liberal with conservative undertones and a libertarian streak. That's me. But we aren't particularly political at AofA - we've taken both sides of the aisle to task on a regular basis.
What I was asking was, "Who decides what risk is real? How do we decide for ourselves?"
Fear sells. It's the oldest trick in the Mad Men book. I read Subliminal Seduction and The Hidden Persuaders back in high school. Fear is a sales tool. We've seen what fear of disease, even a survivable disease like chicken pox or measles or flu can do within legislature and how it can turn American against American. Remember this waiting room in California?
We have a nation of sick kids. There's precious little alarm about the state of pediatric health. Why?
Back to the FB page - a comment took umbrage with my post. She told me (paraphrasing) "Keep this page to AUTISM!" Well, yes, we do that. But we are also thinkers. I answered her politely,
Barbara, hear me out. The refugees are a human issue and no more political than vaccine injury. Just like "death by disease is a plane ride away". Also a human issue. Fear is used on both sides. And my analogy is simply a comparison of risk. People use the topics based on politics. Both sides. Equally. Thanks for commenting. Kim
I got a "Whatever," response, and I wasn't in the mood for it, so I replied:
You may disagree - you don't need to blow me off so rudely with "whatever." I answered you politely and with respect.
I was then told to "clam" [sic] down.
So I responded again: In fact, American children are more at risk from a white, American male in his teens or 20s if you look at school shootings. A sad reality. ( I was making a reference to school shootings. I live 15 miles from Sandy Hook, CT.
STFU , this is supposed to be about age of AUTISM autism, not the Huffington Post political editorial page, so insulting to our kids suffering from autism to use this fb page as a platform for your personal political views.
I was surprised at the exchange. And I stand by my thought - why are we afraid of Syrian refugees - even here in liberal New England, the response has been "NO! THEY ARE DANGEROUS!" but not terrorized well and truly by the plight of our kids' health? Why are we who question vaccine safety and efficacy and necessity deemed crazy people not worthy of a drop of mainstream ink except to mock or shame us, and other fears are given top priority?
I think it's an honest question. I know I posed it on FB not to bring up the refugee crisis as my point, but to generate conversation. STFU is conversation, but not quite what I had in mind!
What do you think? Why are some fears greater, more valid, more newsworthy than others?