Disneyland is playing host to something that hasn't happened there since its early years: a full-blown measles epidemic. Of course, as a vacation destination for the entire world, it's hard to imagine a place where diseases can be spread more widely and more effectively to anyone who's vulnerable.
Nobody likes to see sick kids, and the obvious cause of the measles problem is the simple one: parents who chose not to have their kids vaccinated. If you have been vaccinated for measles, you very likely won't get it - that's the whole point of a vaccination. If you don't get vaccinated, you may or may not get it because you may not happen to ever be exposed, but you're much more likely to.
Hence the calls for even harsher measures against parents who make this illogical, irresponsible, anti-scientific choice.
These calls are perfectly understandable - but they are both morally wrong and profoundly dangerous.
As Americans, we treasure the whole panoply of rights laid down by our forefathers - to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and so on. As conservatives, we view these rights as absolutes, or nearly so.
Are we nauseated by 9-11 Truthers, by Holocaust deniers, by the KKK or neo-Nazis? Of course we are - but they have the right to spew their lies, so long as they do it peacefully and in the proper way. The way to deal with lies is not by making them illegal, it's by combating them with truth in the public square. That's why there are special "anti-semitism" sections in libraries. No matter what a book says, wey'd rather organize it and care for it than burn it.
The same goes, or ought to go, for behaviors that do not harm anyone else. If a parent chooses not to have their kids get the measles vaccine, it might very well harm that child - but it can't, by definition, cause any harm to anyone else who has been vaccinated. If some other child isn't vaccinated - well, again, that is the risk that the parents freely chose. What right have we to forbid this choice, as irrational as it might seem?
It is a fact of science that vaccines occasionally kill people. It is also a fact of history that vastly more people died from diseases, back when they were virulent, than ever died from any vaccine. Opposing vaccines is a sign of mathematical illiteracy and statistical ignorance.
So is smoking - yet, as filthy as that habit is, we staunchly defend the right of free adults to choose to abuse themselves in that way. Not everybody who smokes dies of lung cancer, and those who do don't collect pensions as long as they would if they didn't smoke.
Freedom stops where it harms others. There is no right to drive drunk because that often kills innocent bystanders. But you have every right to get stinking drunk in a bar or your own home, even if you die from alcohol poisoning. The right to be stupid or wrong is the very definition of freedom.
There are lots of people in America, and in the world, that say and do things we don't like. They may be offensive or rude. Maybe they stink. Maybe they cuss. Maybe they're drunk half the time. Maybe they abuse drugs.
Should we ban all of that? Of course we could - but then we wouldn't live in a free country, we'd be living in a police state. Is that what we want?
Most importantly of all, if we go down that road, it's not likely that your specific beliefs will be the ones on top. Much more probably, it will be someone else telling you what you must do or cannot do.
That's why freedoms are fundamental, non-negotiable, and not subject to decisions of what's true, false, or rational. There will always be someone in power who thinks that you're talking rot and who wants to shut you up just to demonstrate power over you.
The only way we can preserve any freedoms at all is to preserve everybody's freedom to the widest possible degree - even the loonies.
So - does that mean you have to just sit there when some racist nut is ranting about the Jews? No! You can walk away. If they're in your home or place of business you can ask them to leave. If they're on TV you can change the channel. You can't shut them up, but you don't have to listen to them.
By the same token, parents have an absolute right to make medical decisions for their children, including vaccinations. That does not mean they have an absolute right to make that choice and also be treated equally at school.
There is no right to attend school. There is a right to be treated according to the same rules as everyone else, but there are many children who are not allowed in public school for many different reasons. Maybe they committed violence against other kids or the staff. Maybe they are suffering from a contagious disease and need to stay home until they won't harm anyone else. This doesn't mean that they are less than human, it just means that, for the protection of everyone else, they can't be in school.
The same is true of unvaccinated children. Their parents have the right to teach them at home, or to put them in a private school which agrees with their decision.
If local health authorities are worried about epidemics, then for everyone's protection they can simply prohibit unvaccinated children from attending public school. Parents can weigh this in their decisions on vaccination or on where to live, just as they weigh many other pros and cons of every other choice in life.
That way, everybody has the maximum freedom. What we seem to have forgotten is, just because you have freedom to make a choice, does not mean that your choice will be without cost.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.