I do, however, need to express one level of serious dismay with some of the posters being shown there. Some of the posters were fairly mild-mannered. Some ramped up the rhetoric, using Devil imagery to mock our government health agencies and employing the skull-and-crossbones to imply poison (although vaccines are not in any way poisonous). But the ones the evoked the most visceral response in me were the ones that exploited autistic children. Let me give you an example:
This post has been edited to remove two photos taken at the rally. For a discussion of why the photos were removed, please see the comments section.
The first photo depicted a mother holding a picture of her beautiful son, surrounded by a Skull and Crossbones and the words, "Stop Poisoning our future"
In this poster, Mommy's message to her son is quite clear - your future has been poisoned, you are a casualty. Where else but this rally can you find parents carrying photos of their *live* children accompanied by POISON and TOXIC WASTE symbolism and terminology? I have to wonder if the parents have stopped for a moment to consider the impact of this imagery on their child.
Now take a look at this one:
The second photo had two side-by-side frames. In the first was a smiling little boy with the heading "What God Made". In the second was the same boy in an awkward pose saying "What Man Made".
This is the one that elicited the most powerful response from me, but very likely not for the reason this Dad intended. First off, do you think Dad picked the best 'after' photo to prove his point, or the 'worst'? Am I the only one who gathers the intended message that if he were autistic in the 'before' picture, he couldn't possibly be smiling?
I am deeply bothered by the callous, insensitive nature of this poster. How is a child supposed to feel valued when their own father is going out of his way to cast his appearance/behavior in the worst possible light? This is really foul, really disturbing, and I think provides a chilling example of what happens when anti-vaccination zeal is a more powerful force in someone's life than simple respect for a person, a child.
I recently received a request from a friend to help them with some written assets for a project about how people view "behaviors". The simple request was to review some of my writing about my son and to pick out some examples where I had addressed problem behaviors. The goal of the project is to discuss various ways people refer to autistic behaviors in an effort to highlight some positive, respectful methods of doing so. So I went to work reviewing archived blogposts to find some. I knew I would have to do some digging, since I didn't specifically recall writing directly on this issue. The end result is that I found virtually nothing of benefit except some comments to my posts (not by me). The reason for this, as I discussed with my friend, is that I do not write negative things about my son. I can be frank and sometimes allude to difficult moments or times, but I feel a powerful parental duty to not cast aspersion on my son, the fact that he is autistic, the fact that raising him includes challenges that are directly related to his autism. My duty as a Dad to a 6-year old boy is to keep the world at bay, not to invite it in and hold him forth as a political tool or pawn in an anger and blame game.
Many contributors to the Autism Hub are accused of glossing over autism, of making light, of minimizing autism's disabling aspects, even of ignoring the existence of those who are most severely affected by autism. Perhaps the examples above can provide a good example of why I choose not to dwell on my son's most challenging issues for all the world to read and discuss. Perhaps I have too much respect for him as a person - a person who will someday read this blog and hopefully be proud of his Mom and his Dad and his brothers and who can feel really safe and secure knowing that he is valued as a person - not relegated to the scrapheap of collateral damage.
This philosophy is not new, not something I conveniently stumbled upon as a way to criticize the Green Our Vaccines attendees. My very first post to this blog, Taking Up The Pen, contains this line:
"It occurs to me that, years from now, these words will be accessible to all three of my sons."But that's just One Dad's Opinion. What's yours?