The Pigeonholing of Dissent
a personal story
I didn’t set out to be an agitator. It turns out being an agitator has less to do with intention and more to do with public response. I also didn’t set out to be a “dangerous anti-vaxxer-quack-holistic-acupuncturist who masquerades as a scientist,” as one local doctor described me. But we don’t get to decide how we are perceived.
Like most people, I prefer peace and harmony. I would have been pretty content to "live and let live” if that had remained an option. As acupuncturists and Chinese medicine practitioners (my husband is also a Daoist priest) who live in a pretty conventional area, my family grew accustomed to the idea that our choices are different from those of others. And that was cool with us.
With regards to writing, until a few years ago I was trying my hand at screenplays and short stories, not op-eds.
It was legislation to remove religious exemptions for vaccinations that forced my hand and drew me in. It was also realizing that I had been lied to. I REALLY didn’t like that.
What a steep growth curve I’ve been on ever since! Bumpy, but worthwhile.
I’m sharing my experience of speaking up, not because it’s special or unique, but because it isn’t. And also to expose the underlying systemic problems that drive the silencing of dissent. Many who speak up are initially blindsided by the hostile responses from within their own communities. They quickly discover that the ideology that encourages censorship has permeated all of our institutions. At every level. Right down to our town newspapers, local boards of health and education and community Facebook pages.
In my experience, when people are silenced or gaslighted, one of two things happens: they either shrink or they grow. I’m watching a lot of people grow. As they grow, they get more comfortable with their voices and they find each other. If you’re able to break the truth barrier, you’ll see this happening everywhere.
Meanwhile, there are continued efforts to weaponized our own voices against us. To speak against prevailing paradigm is to be quickly labeled and pigeonholed. This is what we saw in the highly publicized board of education meetings, in which vocal parents were deemed “domestic terrorists” by the National School Boards Association.
For me, it started with a letter to the editor published in my town TAPinto in April 2019.
It was my first letter, written in response to this article in my local paper,
The Board of Health unanimously approved a measure supporting the bill (A-3808) after a discussion of its merits at its Monday meeting…
…Avallone, who is the president of the New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials, said the measure is common-sense. In addition to supporting public health, it means the government would not have to judge what religious exemptions are allowed since there would be no exemptions if the law is approved, she noted.
“If you’re in favor of these new regulations, you need to make your voice heard,” Avallone said.
But what if you weren’t in favor?
Looking back at how I started this letter, I must have been known, at least on some level, what I was walking into.
I REALLY wish that you could hear what I have to say from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. during a debate with an educated vaccine proponent you really respect, but since no one is willing to debate him, I am lending my voice to this profoundly unpopular perspective. Frankly, I never thought I’d have to summon courage to publicly support informed choice, but seeing as New Jersey legislators have proposed the trading away of religious freedoms, parental rights and bodily sovereignty in the name of public health, a more thorough review of A3818, the bill that would remove religious exemptions, and the public health threats we are currently facing seems necessary…
Five days later, TAPinto Westfield published this rebuttal from a local pharmacist. It’s a long letter, but the disparaging tone is clear. As is the need to attack “the author.”
…Nonsensical, opening paragraph aside, the author then goes into her fundamentally misunderstood and misguided views of the potential public health threats posed by vaccine hesitancy…
…In addition to the inaccurate facts and misunderstandings of basic scientific fundamentals, the author concludes her letter with the induction of fear-mongering and hysteria by invoking eugenics, compulsory sterilizations, the Nuremberg code and, of course, Hitler. The author cries “informed consent,” a rebranded anti-vax label, but without factual, unbiased information, one will never actually be “informed.”
Attempts to engage on my town’s Facebook page did not go any better:
Here’s a sampling of the responses:
One person did stand up for me…
But ultimately, this is what one of the moderators had to say…
But somehow, posts like this, while not “Westfield-specific”, regularly appeared on the same FB page.
My participation in these posts were met with similar disdain and hostility.
(*The letter reference above was a response to this letter… and getting it published is a story for another day.)
Suffice it to say, there were A LOT of personal attacks, some that linked to my company website. And I was unable to get subsequent letters published where I live.
Unsurprisingly, over the course of the pandemic, the loudest voices in the echo chambers were emboldened.
From the same FB page in 2021…
These people aren’t monsters. I know some of them. We had kids in the same classes and on the same teams. My children are friendly with some their children. And at least some of them believe they are speaking up as a public service. In that way they are not so different from me. I’ve seen many of them exhibit kindness and generosity towards people in need, donate time and energy to causes that are important to them and behave like dedicated and loving parents. But it seems we have lost our ability to have hard conversations, and the results are kind of horrifying.
We’re in a “forgive them, they know not what they do” place right now.
Of course, mainstream and social media don’t help.
I don’t have the answers. This is all just witnessing.
But here’s the hopeful part.
First, some other towns have been willing to publish some of my letters. You can read them here, here and here …
Second, there are many more people writing letters these days. We’re finding each other, sharing the burden and supporting each other.
I’ll leave you with the article that reminded me of why it matters. Because it matters.
"One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change."
— Martin Luther King Jr.
The “challenge of change” is most certainly upon us. Together, or not, we are stumbling our way up an incredibly steep learning curve - revisiting what we are willing to sacrifice in the name of safety. And while I am moved by the generosity and creativity that this crisis has sparked in many people, I am gravely concerned about the removal of rights that I have witnessed and the broader impact of fear on our collective consciousness.
New Jersey went from " Garden State" to "Police State" way faster than anyone thought possible, with neighbor turning on neighbor over perceived “violations” of social distancing. More recently parks have been closed and some towns have gone as far as to introduce drone surveillance to enforce social distancing. Contract tracing software may soon be added to our phones to track our every move in the name of “protection”. In response, we have painted rainbows over oppression to make it more palatable. It’s a far cry from “Give me liberty or give me death” and it makes me wonder if we need to revisit our roots. And our current situation.
The COVID19 narrative fails to acknowledge that this is not simply a matter of all of us making sacrifices to save lives. It’s a much more complex equation - one that includes other vulnerabilities and other threats that have yet to be acknowledged at press conferences and in mainstream media. Women about to give birth fear they may be separated from their babies. Veterans, who fought to preserve our freedom, now face the possibility of spending their last weeks or months in isolation. Families are struggling to find enough to eat and don’t know when the next paycheck will come. Still others are navigating severe depression or have children with special needs and cannot access the support they require to get through this difficult period.
In other words, the measures we have in place to prevent Covid fatalities will cost us other lives and livelihoods.
Let’s not kid ourselves. We are constantly pitting one set of needs and vulnerabilities against another. We are weighing quality vs. quantity. With each new decision, we are deciding who and what matters more. New Jersey's value system is front and center as we watch our legislators prioritize in real time. We need to pay attention and make sure our values are being reflected in the decisions that are being made.
Even with the best intentions, it's messy. Medical error was the third leading cause of death in this country BEFORE the entire medical profession was plunked into uncharted territory with the abrupt appearance of a mysterious and elusive virus. Buried within our Covid19 death statistics are the lives lost to that learning curve. And given what we have learned about poor outcomes following ventilator use, research regarding the negative implications of anti-inflammatories and fever-reducers, and limited access to hydroxychloroquine (just to name a few), I'm going to guess those numbers are substantial. Recent legislation to remove liability from health care workers and institutions treating Covid-19 patients indicates that our legislators may have come to the same conclusion. This is NOT to assign blame to medical professionals who have been put in impossible positions, but rather to add perspective to the prevailing narrative, since many wonder whether that narrative is doing way more to drive political agenda than most people are willing to admit.
One thing that has become abundantly clear is that NO ONE has all the answers. Despite constant assertions from “experts”, the story has been changing daily for months. We are still awaiting accurate tests. We continue to move parameters and goalposts. The medical establishment has even changed how deaths are reported. All of this means that we still don't have reliable numbers on which to base our decisions and we will be piecing together the "truth" for a long time. Meanwhile, Coronavirus appears to be revealing the failings of virtually every system.
We now have valuable opportunity. Acknowledging a problem is always the first step towards solving it. If we can root into our deeply held principles as we face our fears, maybe we can get beyond knee-jerk reactions and “band-aids” to create solutions that are truly healing. Perhaps the whole system needs to fall apart to make way for something better. Only time will tell. Hopefully, whatever we create from here will be founded on principles.
Let’s figure out what those are.
These people believe they are following the science. They understand corruption. The best we can do, I believe, is to show them that medical scientists say the system is corrupt. This is one of my responses:
The last couple of years, heralds a new era where government appointed medical scientists have been given a position to dictate to the citizens. They have dictated when we can leave our homes, how far we can travel, order mandatory face masks and coerce citizens to be injected with pharmaceutical products etc.
This would be OK if the medical industrial complex were not corrupt.
Here are 3 editors of major Medical journals who are telling us that corruption is rife in medical science. These are not fringe conspiracy theorists, these are experts who have been at the coal face of medical research for decades!
What if there is a huge web of corruption that aims to design studies that amplify the effectiveness of vaccines? More importantly, to shut down any research or researcher that suggests they have significant safety concerns? I'm arguing this case because we are at a point where people who don't trust vaccines are being labelled irresponsible and worse. Experts who question the safety or the effectiveness or the necessity of the vaccines often lose their jobs and are always censored and vilified.
People are defending this because they are told that we are following the science. Well I'm putting the point across that we should at least question this ideology because editors of prestigious medical journals have come out and told us that medical science is corrupt!
Maybe we should be a little less trusting?
"Politicisation of science was enthusiastically deployed by some of history’s worst autocrats and dictators, and it is now regrettably commonplace in democracies.20 The medical-political complex tends towards suppression of science to aggrandise and enrich those in power. And, AS THE POWERFUL BECOME MORE SUCCESSFUL, RICHER AND FURTHER INTOXICATED WITH POWER, the inconvenient truths of science are suppressed. When good science is suppressed, people die."
KAMRAN Abbasi, executive editor BMJ, 2020.
“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or AUTHORITATIVE MEDICAL GUIDELINES. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as editor of The New England Journal of Medicine” (my emphasasis)
Marcia Angell 2004
"It's unusual to watch one of the world's most powerful editors in scientific publishing play with a marionette puppet.
But Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor of the BMJ, specializes in the unexpected.
The puppet she's holding is dressed as a doctor, complete with a stethoscope around its neck. Its strings represent the hidden hand of the pharmaceutical industry.
'I think we have to call it what it is. It is a corruption of the scientific process.' -Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor, BMJ "
Another quote from the article
"It's led me and others to increasingly question the idea that the manufacturer of the drug could ever be considered the right people to evaluate its effectiveness and safety," Godlee says.
"That seems to me to be very mad idea which has grown up historically, and we have to start questioning it and we have to come up with alternatives, which would mean independent studies done by independent bodies."
And it matters, Godlee says, because bad science can be dangerous.
"Patients do get hurt."
In regards to NJ’s A4334 bill requiring COVID vaccines for all higher institutions of learning I sent emails opposing A4334 to all 40 members of NJ Senate and to all 80 members of NJ Assembly. I was able to do this in using only 2 emails.
ACT NOW NEW JERSEY: Tell Your Law Makers to Vote NO to Covid Vaccine Mandates at Institutions of Higher Education | Stand for Health Freedom