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Open letter to a parent who won’t vaccinate their children

Dear Anti-vaxxer,

There are many reasons why I don’t understand you. Some of them are quite obvious like for instance, the fact that it has been proven over and over again, in so many ways that vaccines are safe, yet you still choose to fall for the outdated self-promoting work of a con-man that lost his medical license over fabricating precisely this myth. Why don’t you do your research? Find reputable sources or just plain google it!

Still, after all available evidence to the contrary, you may choose to believe in conspiration theories and deny the veracity of the facts in front of you. I get it, this has become a common trend in our society and affects all aspects of life. Let’s accept the fact that no one will be able to convince you that vaccines are safe. Can you deny the good it has done? The lives it has saved? I don’t think anyone can. Have you tried to imagine a world like you say you want, where vaccines never existed? Are you still able to maintain your anti-vax discourse after that mental exercise? This is why your lecture sounds terribly selfish to me. It does feel as if you’re saying to the world – “Why do I care about eradicating this highly contagious and dangerous disease that used to kill hundreds of thousands every year?” or “Why would I worry about risking the lives of those who can’t get vaccines due to health issues, by helping bring back illnesses that were nearly eradicated? Not my problem!”. This is the kind of behavior that does rub me off the wrong way, yet it is not what takes me over the edge.

What robs me of any ability to even try to relate to your fears and not judge you is your discourse about Autism, and the false appropriation of the term ‘vaccine injured’. The fact that you would rather risk your child’s life than to have a child like mine. This, my friend, hurts! Hurts me, my child, and millions of autistic people everywhere. And it is just plain stupid! Parents of autistic children, like me, know this so well. Parents who have lost a child, like me, also know.

On April 23rd, 2000, I saw myself begging to God or to whoever could help to please give me a chance to keep my daughter with me. I was praying so hard and saying “even if something bad already happened, I don’t care if I spend the rest of my life caring for her,  please don’t take her away!”. I was repeating this pray like a mantra, tears rolling down my face, as I waited for the doctors to find a “more powerful” ultrasound machine. I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first child, my doctor was not able to find my baby’s heartbeat with the equipment in the delivery room. It was too late, her heart had already stopped without any apparent warnings.

As I grieved I had to endure hearing well-intentioned people say “maybe this was better for her” or “it is selfish to want her here, nobody knows how that could have been.” I remember thinking – Exactly, nobody knows, so what gives them the right to question if my daughter’s life would be worth living or not? What I did know is that as a mother, I wanted to fight for her life and protect her in any way I could. I don’t think there is a point when a mother first evaluates her child’s worthiness before deciding if she is going to be involved in loving and protecting that child. Even if there was such a crazy if-then logic to be followed, how on earth could anyone know? How can anyone dare to pretend to know?

The reason I share that story here is that I don’t think you realize that to me, you sound like you are attempting to do just that, to manage the ‘worthiness’ of your child. I don’t think you realize the gamble you are choosing to take with your child’s life. I don’t think you realize that you are declaring that you rather have your child dead than Autistic and having no shame about it. And I don’t think this is true, therefore, I can’t understand it. I don’t believe you are ready to give up on a child that does not follow your pre-established standards and expectations, or motherhood might end up being quite a short-lived experience. Kids are born with their own plans, you know?

So let’s all stop pretending it is justifiable to pick and choose between real life-threatening dangers that affect all of us – like infectious, but preventable diseases – and imaginary ones. Let’s stop pretending that this is the go-to choice of a caring mother! This is not protecting, it is endangering!  You are also causing an incredible amount of pain to an immense number of autistic people who hear you talking and spreading this nonsense. It makes them feel like that’s how you see them – defective, unworthy of saving. This is wrong, it is mistaken, and it is cruel. So I beg you, please stop!

After much struggle and loss, I was able to give birth to two healthy sons. I am so damn grateful every single day for having this two young men in my life. One of them is Autistic, both are fully vaccinated. I know vaccines do not cause Autism; however, I can tell you in all honesty that even if I believed otherwise, I would still have vaccinated them and not regretted.  Why? Because regardless of where you stand in the vaccination debate, here is an undeniable fact: Autism did not take my son from me. Their vaccinations protected them, my children are here and they are healthy, I did not risk losing them to measles, polio, rubella, the flu…

Yes, Autism can make things harder for him in some areas, but it also makes him uniquely special in others. His brain is indeed wired different, but different does not mean worse. It means it takes a different kind of effort from us to learn it better. He does get frustrated sometimes, but who doesn’t? What matters is that I did not lose my son when we got the diagnoses, he was still the exact same sweet little boy, our love for him was just the same, and it kept growing. With the label, we just got a chance to understand him better. Autism didn’t change him, it was always part of who he is, and we love him for who he is.

He works hard, he is happy, healthy and he knows he is loved!  I see many teens that are not as positive and happy as my youngest son. And before you get to recite phrases of martyr autism mothers, and tell me about the devastation and destruction of Autism, I ask you again to do your research. My son is not alone. Autistic people can be happy and lead a full and productive life.  Sooner or later you might come across an Autistic adult you have offended with your rhetoric, and they will be able to explain it to you themselves.

My message to you, after all, is quite simple: vaccines do not cause Autism, do your research; choosing not to vaccinate your child (without a legitimate health reason and doctor’s guidance) is dangerous and irresponsible; spreading this fear is offensive and makes you look heartless; the monster you’ve been running from is not nearly as ugly as you’ve heard. Putting it all together – choosing not to vaccinate your child and spread this nonsense is plain stupid, please stop it!

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This man thinks I need to show him my documents to​ walk on a public street. Would you ask him why?

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This is the photo of Tim Williams, the man who demanded my documents as I walked right there, in the middle​ of the street, was taken by my fleeting block-walking partner.

Just like thousands and thousands of volunteers for the Beto O’Rourke campaign around TX, on election day I was out in my area, knocking on doors to Get-Out-The-Vote. My walking buddy got tired when we had only a couple more houses to go, down the next street, so she went to fetch the car as I went on to finish my list.

As I made my way down the road, toward the two houses at the end of the street, a man stops me and asks, in a menacing tone: “what are you doing here?” In my surprise, I didn’t answer immediately, trying to make sense of the question.

He repeated, louder “what are you doing here?” “I’m a volunteer with the Beto campaign sir, we are making sure that everyone goes out to vote.”, I said.

To that, he said: “I don’t believe you, I think you are here to rob houses!”

“No sir, I’m not, I’m here to talk to people about voting.” – I replied.

“I don’t believe you. I think you are here to see if the houses are empty and rob them. Prove it, show me your documents.”  – he said again.

Then I tried to contain my outrage and reason with him “I’m a volunteer, I don’t need to show you a document to be allowed to walk on a public street. But I can show you our canvassing app.” Then I showed him the screen on my phone with the addresses and names on his street, then I clicked on the house number his car was parked in front off and asked “Here, this is your house, see? This is your voter information.” Still, he kept at it. “I don’t believe you; you are here to rob our houses; we had break-ins, and you are one of them; show me your documents, documents; documents;” I finally told him that if he believed I was a robber, then he should call the police, but I was done talking to him, and I was going to finish my list. I kept walking, and he followed me, still yelling.

That’s when the woman that went to get her car showed up, but briefly. As she arrived, I told her to get her phone out and start “filming the man who was calling the police just because I would not show him my documents.” (I admit I stubbornly wanted to finish the door knocking list on my phone’s canvassing app, and that’s why I asked her to use her phone). To my surprise, she yelled at me to get in the car, and before I could explain what was happening, the man turned to her, and she backed up her car, disappearing down the street like a thunderbolt.

“Great!” I thought to myself, “now he thinks my accomplice bolted away, afraid of the police!” I had to keep going. I rang the door of the next house and waited, the man kept talking. No answer on the door, I move to the next, he follows me: “why are you here in the middle of the day? Nobody is home, I want to see your documents.” I keep walking and reply: “It’s Election Day sir!” as I get to the last house, and ring the door. He is now back sitting in his car. I hear a car horn in the distance, and it’s my fleeting block-walking partner, she came back to pick me up, stayed down the block. I marked the last house in the app as ‘not home’ – list finished! – so I started recording as I walked to her car far down the street (link to the video on YouTube) – she was so scared she would not come anywhere near where he was.

After we got back, I contacted the police, and an officer came to file a report. At this point, I was told that there is nothing to be done. The Deputy said to me that Tim Williams, the man who stopped me in the middle of a public street to accuse me of being a robber, demanded to see my ‘documents,’ kept following and yelling at me for documents, did nothing against the law. According to the Deputy, these actions do not characterize harassment, discrimination nor racial profiling. Never mind the fact that I’m a 47-year-old woman weighing over 200 lbs – not exactly the profile of a cat-burglar. Which begs the question: what did that man expect me to prove by showing my documents? 

The truth is that we all have an excellent idea of what that man was talking about when he was asking for my documents, and it felt like a punch to my stomach. If you’re not sure yet, let me give you a hint: my skin is darker than the average American – I am American nevertheless – I’m an Immigrant, born in Brazil and living in this Country, the one I chose and pledge to call my own, for 19 years. I suspect that Mr. Williams was not able to see me. I suspect that his mind was so far gone down the rabbit-hole that divides our country that he actually believed I was there to rob him. In his mind, I probably was fresh out of Honduras, after walking hundreds of miles, hitching a hike with his imaginary ‘caravan of criminals’, jumping over the border with the help of Beto’s campaign (yes, this was one of the absurd lies circulating over here among Cruz supporters), only to end up on his street as a cat-burglar.  

It was one of the strangest, most ambiguous moments of my life. I felt scared for my safety, especially when my ride took off, yet I felt strong and determined as never before. In my mind, I could only think “This is the U.S. of f*ing A, I’ll be dammed if I let a bigot get in the way of my rights, I’m finishing my list!”. I felt angry and outraged, but at the same time, I felt some kind of concern for that man. He wasn’t much older than me, our kids could easily be at the same school or even be friends. Yet, there we were, and he was terrified of me too. How was that even possible? And boy, he really, really, wanted to see my documents! He also tried to convince me that I had to understand that his concerns with the break-ins were a reasonable enough justification for him singling me out and demanding my documentation as if it only made sense.  I most definitely was not about to hand out my name and address to a stranger yelling at me in the middle of the street, even though I was quite curious to find out which specific part of one’s I.D. could prove or disprove their criminal intentions. Should I be worried that my Texas driver’s license does not have an official stamp from the Round Rock Police department stating **Not a Burglar**?

So here goes my honest request: if you, reading this article, happen to know Mr. Tim Williams, a man in his 50’s who lives in the Fern Bluff area of Round Rock, TX, would you kindly do me a favor? Would you please ask him what did he think my documents would prove, and then get back to me? Until then, I will have to assume that his twisted mind and his bigoted, discriminatory views lead him to draw two widely wrong and racist conclusions: that I was there illegally, and that all undocumented immigrants are criminals.

By the way, while you’re there, it might be a good idea to break to him the news that white, American born citizens also commit crimes. But please be gentle.

 

 

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A Different Perspective

How come we spend this much time in the effort of adapting our autistic children, students, patients to our world, basically forcing Autistic people to accept and comply with our norms? Then we justify it by saying it is for their own good, to give them a chance of success in life. Is it the entire truth? How can we be sure if we place so little effort into putting ourselves in their shoes and accepting them for who they are?

Today I read this article in the Washington Post written by a mother like me, a mother of an autistic child. In the article, she describes in detail one instance when she felt forced to drag her panic-stricken son into a concert arena against his will so he would have the chance to see Elmo. Then maybe overcome what this mom described as ‘fear of indoor spaces’. The piece, written by Whitney Ellenby, is adapted from the author’s upcoming book in which, according to The Washington Post’s description, “details her struggles and triumphs with her son’s autism.

After reading I was left with a knot in my gut and yet, I needed some processing time to understand why. How could that story bother me this much? I’m no stranger to making decisions most parents would not understand or agree, or dealing with stressful situations in public. Yet, my usually overly active empathy ‘sensors’ and ‘warnings’ did not light up as usual for this mother, at least not as much as they did for the son.

Then it hit me – there is something significant missing in the article, and it has been systematically missing in our society whenever we attempt to bring forward the dialog about Autism: the struggles Autistic people go through. Not their parents, not their teachers, not their neighbors, not the people standing by. Continue reading “A Different Perspective”

Let’s give them an Island Paradise!

What if we give white supremacists an island? For real. A place where only the whitest of the whites could enter, DNA tested whiteness level. They could take their President, all their politicians, their Party, all their money and their Pastors.

What if we give white supremacists an island? For real. A place where only the whitest of the whites could enter, DNA tested whiteness level. All the white supremacist could go live there and rest assured the place will be completely miscegenation free. They could take their President, all their politicians, their Party, all their money and their Pastors.

It would be Nirvana for them! No more worries about any sub-race making demands of undeserving equality. Trying to take advantage of the money and the power that is their God-given right. No more stupid nonsense talk of human dignity, compassion, and love for all humankind no matter the race. Oh, the joy of finally reaching their dream!

Of course, admission would be voluntary, and all one would need to get in is to prove they genetically belong. After all, nothing else matters. Actually, not ALL admission would be voluntary. A good white supremacist paradise needs a few key positions, and we would have the obligation to provide them with a few white supremacists born leaders. I know they will just love the president we will send them!

Another important rule: We – the rest of the world – must make sure the paradise we gifted to this deserving bunch will endure and not be contaminated again by us like it once was. We need to protect them by making sure that not a single thing – even idea or thought, that may ever have been tainted by Continue reading “Let’s give them an Island Paradise!”

A President Under Siege

A look into the surreal events of President Trump’s last month in the White House.

Satire 

White House “arrest”

October 1ST, 2017

The World’s once most powerful and wealthiest country is facing trying days. The United States Commander-in-Chief has found himself, along with his entire family, confined to the White House grounds for at least the next fiscal year. With the Secret Service gone bankrupt and Federal Government shutdown until lawmakers come to an agreement on the Government’s funding Bill, the security of our leader is in the hands of a few devoted S. Service agents working off the clock for food, a White House roof over their heads, and the pride of serving their country.

“He’s no Obama” – replied Secret Service director Randolph Alles, when asked about why his agents didn’t agree to work without pay for the duration of the Shutdown, Continue reading “A President Under Siege”

As an immigrant, what just happened in Brazil is giving me nightmares here in the US

The Brazilian Congress has just voted not to start the Impeachment process on its current president Michael Temer, even after overwhelming evidence, including audio and video tapes surfaced of him personally endorsing and receiving bribery.

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The Brazilian Congress has just voted not to start the Impeachment process on its current president Michael Temer, even after overwhelming evidence, including audio and video tapes, surfaced of him personally endorsing and receiving bribery.  All that only a year after the same Congress removed the elected President Dilma Rousseff for lower level budgetary maneuvers.  Maybe he has the people by his side? No. His approval rate is 5%. He does have a corruption pact with Corporate Media, Congress, and the Brazilian Judiciary.  After reading the details of this odyssey on Glen Greenwald’s post today, on The Intercept, I felt compelled to write my first blog post.

Continue reading “As an immigrant, what just happened in Brazil is giving me nightmares here in the US”