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A sampling of reader reax to my story about how fatherhood is changing my politics

By on February 14, 2013
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Write about Rick Scott and Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio and nary a peep. But write about Baby Ella and being a father and the feedback is almost overwhelming — enough at least to warrant this separate blog post.

To refresh, I wrote yesterday about how fatherhood is changing my politics

It’s not that I am more Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative. It’s just that every decision I make is now framed by how it may impact my daughter, now and in the future.

As it relates to politics, my worldview is completely changing. They say everyone is a Democrat until they are mugged. Well, imagine how significant the change is when you have a daughter. There are even times when I find myself embracing fascism, or at least the part about curfews. 

I closed the op-ed by talking about Rick Santorum’s family’s situation and how the meaning of life has changed for me.  I believe that Ella has been with us for almost as long as she was in her mother’s womb. I saw her in 3-D moving and waving months before she was “born.” Certainly she was impacting our lives from almost the moment she was conceived.

It’s just that, since having a baby, I find myself agreeing more with Rick Santorum and less with Beyoncé (a reference to the singer’s provocative clothing worn during her Super Bowl halftime peformacne).

Like I said, this post generated a lot of reaction from readers.

One of the best notes I received is from my blogging colleague Ben Kirby, who is also a new father.

“I don’t necessarily agree with you about sympathizing with the Santorum’s and their decision, but like you, being a father — and experience the pregnancy process through the eyes of a father-to-be and a father — has allowed me to at least understand it.  
 
“There is so much to think about with respect to the impact of media on our kids — way different than when we were kids — and especially the images projected and sold to girls.  It’s a lot to deal with.  And there is no getting around the fact that it is directly related to politics.”
A commenter on Facebook REALLY did not like my reference to Santorum:
Well, it’s obvious that this parent is fear driven whereas Beyonce isn’t. But under pressure, I can’t understand anyone making Sick Santorum their go-to guy.
This prompted my wife, Michelle, to respond:
“By no means fear driven. We just prefer our daughter to be judged by her skills rather than her appearance. Society likes to sexualize women. Do you know how many outfits I have to veto for my infant because I don’t want to sexualize my daughter? Beyonce is most definitely a part of the problem. Also, nowhere does it say that Santorum is his go to guy. It merely says he understands him more.”
Like Michelle, former Senator Paula Dockery is a fiercely independent-minded political woman. She also weighed in:
“You mean you actually judge each issue on independent thought and not strictly partisan political expectation? Wow, independent thought based on your personal experiences and situation! How refreshing! Hope it catches on.”
Another pol who weighed in was Representative Larry Ahern, who sent this thoughtful email:
“Your evolution as a father and your ability to put it into words is a great gift.  Please keep sharing them with your readers.”
Perhaps the most thoughtful response I received to this op-ed was from a regular reader, Julie Delegal, who offered some context on the issue of immunizing our children:

One of our children has an autism spectrum disorder—one which, thank God, we were able to mitigate tremendously with early intervention. Many of my friends’ children’s conditions have not been as amenable to treatment, though. Autism devastates the lives of affected individuals and their families. 

All three of my children are completely vaccinated now. However, when the American Academy of Pediatrics called for mercury to be removed from all childhood vaccine products in 1999, I was sent into a panic. At that same time, various scientists were theorizing that Thimerasol, the mercury-containing preservative in those vaccines, might be linked to autism. One high-ranking government official even concluded as much in a New York Times Magazine interview. One of our children was set to enter kindergarten in 2000 and would have to be vaccinated. We demanded the Thimerosal-free, newer vaccines.

Immediately, the medical industry swooped into action to defend vaccines. Immediately, parents who asked questions were condescended to and called nuts by medical professionals, despite the fact that not one piece of research had, at that time, been conducted on the subject. As a parent, I was vocal about the possibility of a link, and I don’t apologize one bit for airing my concerns. It was vocal parents like me who demanded that more research be conducted on this issue. I’m sure you’ll agree that given what is/was at stake, we needed studies. (We still do.) 

A 2008 (I think) epidemiological study ruled out, for all intents and purposes, a purported link between Thimerosal and childhood autism. The stuff was removed in 1999 from childhood vaccines, so the logic is that if there had been a link, removing it would result in a downturn in the number of new cases of autism. Instead, the numbers went up. (Prior to that time, I had my son medically exempted from Thimerasol-containing booster shots. He opted for a Thimerasol-containing booster shot before an overseas mission trip, with my blessing, while he was in high school, after 2008.)

Thimerasol remains to this day in flu shots which are marketed heavily to pregnant women and young children. The preservative also remained on pediatricians’ shelves in other childhood vaccines until the last batches expired, in 2006.  As a parent following this issue, I expected that if Thimerasol was a factor, then the numbers of new autism cases would decrease after about 2011, after the old batches had expired, leaving four or five years for diagnostic identification of young children with autism. That hasn’t happened; I am satisfied there is not a link. I do believe there is some yet-to-be identified environmental “trigger,” however, maybe even a virus, that gets pulled on a genetically predisposed “gun”—possibly even in utero.

Still, given the choice between a mercury-containing flu shot and one that doesn’t contain mercury, i.e., the nasal spray, I’d choose the latter. (We generally don’t get flu shots, or the flu, in our family.) Remember, it was not parents who called for the removal of Thimerasol from childhood vaccines, it was the American Academy of Pediatrics. To my knowledge, no one has called for it to be put back in.

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