A good cry on the Senate floor

So David Zuckerman gave an emotional speech today.

Two days after the Vermont Senate voted to end the philosophical exemption for parents who don’t want their kids vaccinated, a senator opposed to the change delivered a tearful address about being attacked online, his father’s death and how scientific uncertainty led him to his decision.

… “I have been attacked as being anti-science, not caring for those who are less able to protect themselves and mocked for my profession as being unqualified to make informed comments,” he said.

His reference to “being attacked online” almost certainly included me. After the Senate vote, I criticized Zuckerman’s tactics in trying to derail the bill in question. I said “scientists must be laughing their asses off” at his notion of genetic testing for potential vaccine allergies. I belittled his argument that schools would lose large numbers of students, and said that Zuckerman and his allies were “grabbing at any pretext, no matter how absurd, to preserve the philosophical exemption.”

And you know what? I’m not sorry.

My language regarding the Senator doesn’t hold a candle to the rhetoric used by anti-vaxxers, who’ve accused me and other vaccine supporters of being fascists and tools of Big Pharma, among many other things. They’ve accused doctors who support vaccination — the vast majority of doctors — of being either fools or sellouts. My posts on vaccines have been written in an environment inflamed, in large measure, by those on the other side.

Also, while I’m very sorry for Zuckerman’s loss and respect how it informs his beliefs, (a) I didn’t know any of that at the time, and (b) he’s not the only one who’s suffered devastating personal losses. It happens to a lot of us. My brother would have turned 55 today if he’d lived that long. The circumstances of his death have informed my views on some current issues, but I haven’t played that card in a political debate. (Not that I blame Zuckerman for doing so; there’s a time and place for everything, and he hit his time this afternoon.)

All I could see was Zuckerman’s political effort to preserve the philosophical exemption. I thought his tactics on Wednesday were transparent and not terribly coherent. I still do.

7 thoughts on “A good cry on the Senate floor

  1. Bud Haas

    I disagree with you and your remarks about Zuckerman, because I think that the whole issue is a huge Republican smoke screen, similar to the wind on the ridges bit. But that aside, aren’t you willing to take on the “religious” exemption?
    What are your thoughts on it, and why aren’t you campaigning for it’s removal?

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Could you clarify how this is a “Republican smoke screen”? I haven’t seen any sign of partisanship on this issue. Republicans and Democrats were split on the bill.

      As for my campaigning… I’m not campaigning for anything. I’m commenting on the rhetoric of the anti-vax crowd, and how I believe it poses a threat to public health.

  2. kestrel9000 (@kestrel9000)

    So, John, if you want to make fun of people for “having a good cry” or using personal, emotionally-laden anecdotes to advance their legislative goals, I’ll eagerly await your criticism of Sam Young for using the exact same tactic to advance S.141.
    Or would that be too fair for you?

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Sorry, I’m not responsible for meeting your expectations. I wrote about Zuckerman because I’d been covering the issue already and because his comments were, at least in part, directed at me. I’ve got nothing to say about Sam Young.

  3. Kevinellus

    A worthwhile discussion. But is it really only the so-called anti-vaxers who attack people personally. People get upset when their government tries to take something from them. And can we at least discuss the notion of establishment medicine and what it tells us, including over the years – breast feeding is bad, gotta have baby in a hospital etc, etc. The conventional establishment is not always right. Let’s at least talk about it.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      “establishment medicne” has been right far often than not. Vaccination in particular is not some new experimental procedure; it’s got decades of successful practice behind it. In fact, its very success is why you feel free to attack it. If our kids were still getting measles, whooping cough and polio, we’d be begging for new vaccines.


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