Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

I’m mostly steering clear of controversial topics on this blog, as it is very much devoted to reading and writing. The main reason I abandoned Pam’s Pages was that some of the posts were deemed controversial by family and so-called friends.

But, as a science-fiction fan, I remember wanting to see V for Vendetta, but not wanting my (then) impressionable children to see it. The film promised violence as well as controversy, as well as Star Wars veteran Natalie Portman in a main role. There were reasons the kids would want to see it, and there were reasons I did not want them there. So, I dropped the kidlets off at school, did a couple of errands, and went to a large mall on the outskirts of Atlanta to see an 11:00 am showing of the film. T’was a surreal experience, and I am not talking about the movie. There were only a couple of other patrons in a very large cinema. And, that was one of the few times I had popcorn for lunch.

Of course, V for Vendetta is a powerful film, but the intimate showing made it even more so. That gi-normous screen held my attention, and there was not so much as a cough or a crunch from a fellow patron to distract me. While I understand that the author, and then the producer, view the graphic novel/film as a reaction to overly conservative government, I see it as a cautionary tale against any sort of totalitarian regime, regardless of whether it swings to the right or the left. As a child, attending public schools in the 1960s, (yes, I am that freakin’ old) our teachers sometimes warned us about propaganda. Those educators saw it as the weapon of choice in the Soviet Union’s means of keeping communism going, and they wanted their pupils to understand the power of media under governmental control. So, from an early age, I was taught to look beyond face value at message, any message, and to search for truth. In V for Vendetta, the message may be a bit heavy handed, but any government can get out of hand, if the people do not maintain control. And, as a youngster, I had few doubts about Walter Cronkite’s version of the “news,” but quite a lot of modern day media tends to make me cringe, and that is on both sides of the American political spectrum.

What to do, then? Well, I am not advocating blowing up anything. Nor do I advocate becoming un-engaged in political discussions. However, it is necessary for people to renew their efforts to evaluate governmental policy, from the local school board to Capitol Hill, not in terms of “what do I get?” but in terms of “is this the best way to rebuild a nation that is in deep trouble?” We must do so without “fact checking” journalists and/or highly paid lobbyists. Only then will the leadership void be filled. Otherwise, historians will look back at our time as the beginning of the end of the United States.

Oh, and this would be a great day to watch V for Vendetta. Actually, any day is a good day to see it. Bring on the popcorn.

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White Lies: A Tale of Babies, Vaccines and Deception—a review

While researching the relationship between vaccines and illness, I ran across a fiction title that so interested me that I bought it, but other matters (and books) were in the way. One evening, iPad in hand, I sat down to read a bit before bed. I launched the Kindle App, and the title jumped out at me again— White Lies: A Tale of Babies, Vaccines, and Deception. Thinking I would read just a bit, I began. Quite honestly, the book was like 99 cents, so I wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t get to sleep early that evening, because the book grabbed my attention. Indeed, I finished it within a couple of days.

All mothers are a bit apprehensive about that nurse coming toward a new infant, needle in hand. I remember my pediatrician practically running over me when I voiced concerns about all of the vaccinations that were suggested (indeed required) for my own children. When I was a youngster, I had vaccinations for small pox, DTP, and polio. That was it, and all of the minor illnesses were a matter of take a few days off from school and enjoy a good book or something.

Nowadays, children are vaccinated against many illnesses, including fairly minor ones. And many parents and health professionals are concerned, and rightly so. There are too many vaccines in the same needle; there is too much mercury; there is no need for certain shots. But, if we don’t vaccinate, our country will regress and some of the girls will have cervical cancer. There are convincing arguments on both sides; that is the nature of controversy.

Sometimes, the best way to humanize such a controversy is via fiction, and that is what White Lies does. The reader is introduced to Jean, a divorce lawyer who doesn’t have the expertise or desire to handle a case involving a brain injury, and Lacy, a mom who doesn’t trust any lawyer other than Jean, who handled her divorce. As Lacy pushes Jean to learn about her son’s tragic injury and as Jean involves various experts, the reader gets an education in medicine, government, and risk. Every fear that a mother might have is realized in Lacy’s tragic case, and it is this emotional involvement, rather than actual suspense (although there is a bit of that) which keeps the reader turning the pages. The tale is extraordinarily readable, considering the subject matter, and I can honestly say that this is a book that should be in every mother’s to be read stack. Even non-readers ought to give it a shot (pun intended) because it has a powerful message.

The publisher states that the book is inspired by true events, and that is made abundantly clear in the notes that follow the novel. After I finished it, I was back researching vaccines, but with new ideas and resources. Sarah Collins Honenberger’s White Lies is a good read but it will haunt readers, especially mothers. Don’t let that stop you, because this novel has a message that needs to be heard.