Curtain Raiser

The Rise of Backward Thinking, Colltalers

There are many positive things the world identifies with America currently under attack within this country. Voting rights, citizens surveillance, separation of church and state are but a few hard-fought principles whose status as the law of the land is at risk of being demoted.
And just as a lot of ground has been covered towards civil and gay rights – enduring sources of inspiration around the globe – other fronts of backward thinking, such as opposition to public vaccination, have been opened lately, conspiring to undermine America’s beneficial influence.
For anyone who can look beyond today’s news cycle, and with a healthy ability of holding two or more thoughts at the same time, the concerns are clear: just as the brutal backlash against gay rights in Africa has been credited to a defeated minority of American religious zealots, dwindling here but influential in there, any threats to civil rights in the U.S. sends a message of intolerance and radicalism to the rest of the world.
It’s long been established that Americans’ perception of themselves is at serious odds with reality for at least a few decades, and one wonders if we are finally catching up with the fact that this nation has gone way far from the old ideals of land of opportunities and peaceful intent.
To be fair, much of this reactionary pull has been triggered by new geopolitical realities of the 21st century beyond the realm of control and reach of the U.S. But that does not exempt it from responsibility, and one could argue that recent foreign policy decisions have indeed added to it.
As glaring economic inequalities continue to breed an emergent dominant class, with deep pockets and influence in high places, even a bastion of America’s balance of power, the Supreme Court, has been hijacked by special interests and became biased towards the wealthy and the powerful.
In fact, many credit what’s now derisively referred to as ‘the Roberts Court’ as being instrumental in rewriting the rules and ridding them of any semblance of equanimity, at times, displaying a grotesque sense of justice, as when it eliminated protections of abortion clinics, for instance.
By ostensibly engaging in an one-side religious and ideological drive, the court has lost almost all credibility as the interpreter of the constitution, at a time when Congress fails to legislate anything for the common good, and the Executive acts as if it’s been locked out of the house.
Speaking of the White House, there’s indeed a widening gap between President Obama’s civil rights rhetoric and his own administration’s actions. Nowhere such contradiction has been clearer, and what side is really coming on top, than what concerns the defense of NSA’s spurious practices.
Despite new revelations, predating even Edward Snowden’s leaks, about indiscriminate surveillance of Americans and unlawful spying on foreign officials, aside the wholesale witch hunt of whistleblowers and investigative journalists, the agency continues to enjoy the president’s confidence.
But what is the most troubling about the political struggle for the hearts and minds of this nation, is that much of the debate is not about ideas but ideology, not about what’s scientifically proven, such as man-made climate change, but how it’s been sold and accepted by the American public.
Thus, for every serious study about the nefarious effects of global warming, glacier melting, extreme weather, and their impact on food supplies and Earth resources, there’s a biased, energy industry-sponsored fake counterargument, receiving equal media time, as if they were equivalent.
It seems obvious that the debate about gay rights in the U.S. is now over: the people – everyone, really – won. The right for anyone to live their lives according to their own sexual orientation has been approved by the immense majority of states and it’s on its way to cover the whole nation.
So why losers of this battle are finding new fertile grounds abroad, disseminating an ideology of hatred that’s at the roots of the violent repression of gays in several African countries? Wouldn’t it be for the fact that religion, as a political force, is still playing an oversize role in this country?
For if a company can deny health coverage based on the beliefs of its owners, not on the right of employees to receive coverage, and that decision is supported by the highest court in the land, what’s that saying? that faith has precedence over law and that we may as well invoke the bible every time a ruling doesn’t go our way. Even more startling, such decision affects members of more than half of the world’s population: women.
Considering that the court also removed the physical protections for those heading to abortion clinics, in place since lethal attacks have killed patients, doctors and health professionals in the past, it’d be not a stretch to think that other so-called sexual minorities are also at risk.
Yes, the march towards gay rights seems inexorable in this country, but a contradictory message is also being sent as well, countering that advance: at the end of the day, the rights of some have more value than the rights of others. Sorry, but what about that for the ‘land of the free?’
The point is not bashing the self-deluded but to keep in mind that those who are being singled out now, being American women, gays in Africa, or African-Americans here, may be us, tomorrow. And any gesture against the persecution of your street neighbor today will empower your family’s rights and increase the safety of your own home, someday. It’s been said that good deeds are contagious, so be it.
You’ll soon learn that the choice of the word ‘contagious,’ we admit, is not random. It serves to tie it all to our final observation today, about the emergency of new, startling backward thinking fronts, referred to above: the Internet-based misguided movement against public vaccination.
Just like climate change or HIV as the virus causing Aids, it makes no longer sense to discuss whether immunization is effective or not; that boat sailed almost a century ago and since then, many infectious diseases that previously decimated entire populations have been virtually eradicated.
But a quick Internet survey (when they’re not?), shows that suspicions about immunization abound, and reputable medical research organizations, such as the Centre for Disease Control, are now aggressively advising parents to inoculate their children, and warning them of the consequences.
The reason can also be found under the same general search criteria: there has been a rise in cases of Measles, which is deadly and already considered the world’s most contagious disease. A common childhood ailment which baby boomers learned about only through its routine use in public immunization campaigns, it’s still rampant throughout the world, despite billions of dollars invested on vaccines and public awareness.
The relatively small group of anti-vaccination advocates in the U.S. is already facing a backlash as reports about commonly treatable illnesses staging a dramatic comeback, due to lack of preventive vaccination, have increased. But what about the rest of the world?
A lack of conviction about such an effective public health weapon, irradiated from the world’s most powerful nation, may exact a similar kind of devastating impact that other ill advised cultural exports have had, and it wouldn’t be out of proportion to bring up again the issue of gay rights.
It also fits a rising pattern, within segments of American society, of denying the scientific method to evaluate reality, and treat it as speculation, either for ignorance, or religious intolerance, or both. It would be all a matter of cultural discrepancy, of little consequence, if it didn’t cost lives.
But since it does, both in this country and abroad, we simply can’t afford letting this terrible idea to fester any longer. Parents do have rights over their children, but such rights have limits, specially when their little bundles of whatever infect other kids. Have a great week. WC


One thought on “Curtain Raiser

  1. One quick correction: The “Centre for Disease Control” is actually the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” common shortened to “Centers for Disease Control” or even CDC. But note the plural “Centers.”

    I’m puzzled about this statement: “It seems obvious that the debate about gay rights in the U.S. is now over: the people – everyone, really – won. The right for anyone to live their lives according to their own sexual orientation has been approved by the immense majority of states and it’s on its way to cover the whole nation.”

    I agree that it’s on its way to covering the whole nation, but “immense majority of states” could not be further from fact. There are 50 states in the United States and several jurisdictions (DC, Puerto Rico). Only 20 states and DC allow same-gender marriage. Twenty-eight states have state constitutional restrictions limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Again, far from an “immense majority.” Perhaps you meant “immense majority of people in the United States”? The first poll showing nationwide support of 50% or more for same-gender marriage appeared in 2010, and the support continues to increase. Additionally, support among the next generation is high even though support among the elderly is still low.


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