Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Government Injections

Back in the early part of the last decade, there was a bit of a kerfuffle in West Africa.  It had to do with vaccinations against polio, that terrible waster of bodies that was almost completely eradicated as a human disease.


In a few pockets of deep poverty and ignorance, polio remained.  Polio fell back to its last redoubt, a province in Northern Nigeria.  There, vaccination had never been complete, and the disease still claimed the bodies...if not the lives...of hundreds annually.  Repeated efforts to get to that magic 95% vaccination rate of a population that can eliminate a disease just couldn't find purchase, and in 2004, things suddenly got a whole bunch worse.

Rumors began to spread, passed along by the fundamentalist clerics who served as the primary source of information for many of the people, that the vaccines were being used to spread AIDS.  And that they were laced with birth control substances, put there by foreigners to keep Muslim Africans from adding to their number.  "I was vaccinated...and then I got AIDS!"   "I know this guy who was vaccinated...and he can't have children!"

Fear of outside authorities spread, which tightened the political hold of radical Islamist factions over the people of Kano.

And so vaccination stopped in Kano province.  Freed from the siege, polio began to spread, first in Kano, then out into other areas of Nigeria, and then out into other African nations.  At its far spread, cases linked to Kano got as far as Indonesia.  It almost broke free, back out into the world.

After a year in which the spread of the disease could not be missed, popular sentiment began to turn.  The pleas of NGOs were heard.  Vaccinations resumed.  But hundreds upon hundreds of lives had been shattered.

Listening to Rep. Michelle Bachmann talk about "government injections," I can't help but hear echoes of Kano.

"Government injections?"  What in the Sam Hill are "government injections?"  Yes, I know the Tea Party claims government is the source of all things evil, but I wasn't aware you could be injected with it.  Does such a shot suddenly imbue our children with the desire to educate themselves about the political process, and to vote?  Does it give them immunity against the disease that lets us think we're consumers before we're citizens?

This isn't a "government injection."  It's a vaccine that protects your daughters from cervical cancer by killing a virus that causes it.

The purpose of this "controversy" is remarkably clear.  Bachmann is trying to attack Perry...with whom she agrees on just about everything, but whose full-head-of-hair-white-angry-maleness makes him automatically more appealing to conservative taking the same tack the Kano Islamists took back in 2004.   Evoke tyranny, cry "what about our poor little children," and let the chips fall where they may.  Slander, fear and scientifically baseless rumor goes a long way to shoring up support with the angry and the easily manipulated.

I'm no friend of Perry, whose bullying style concerns me.  But Bachmann's attack is a transparently ignorant and morally questionable display, and takes the GOP nominations process to a level of crazy that has no place in an industrialized nation.

A pity there's no vaccine for that.