The Civil War and Civil Rights. The unintended consequences

Civil Rights


A good old Negro in the slums of the town

Preached at a sister for her velvet gown

Howled at a brother for his low-down ways,

His prowling, guzzling, sneak-thief days.

Beat on the Bible till he wore it out

Starting the jubilee revival shout

(Vachel Lindsay)



John F. Kennedy’s assassination provided this country with the impetus to pass Civil Rights Legislation.

It is it an interesting historical footnote that to this point in time the legislation had been hopelessly stalled in Congress. Another equally interesting fact is that one of the most notorious Southern bigots in U. S. history; Lyndon B. Johnson, finally pushed the Bill through in the wake of the maudlin sentimentality evoked by Kennedy’s death.

Why did it take something like that to spur the conscience of this country into acting on a plan that was plain and simply the right thing to do in the first place?

Even more interesting is the fact that more than one of my relatives in Texas would swear on the Bible that LBJ’s first congressional victory was made possible by just the right number of his already deceased constituency casting votes from their graves.

The finally irony here is that the ultimate political prize was finally garnered for Johnson when a solitary dead man, Kennedy, whose own victory was secured when Richard Daly stuffed the ballot boxes of Cook County, Illinois, then cast one involuntary, solitary vote for President from the morgue of the Parkland Hospital.

I have my own rather simplistic opinion on the rather tragically pathetic saga of the plight of the black man in America. The key point is that Black Americans are the only group of people who came to this country against their will.

In fact many of them were sold into bondage by other Africans after being captured in tribal warfare, or even intentionally captured by other Africans to collect slave trader’s bounties. Brother against brother so to speak and just a subset of the conflicts that still go on in Africa today. Taking a hard look at the genocidal politics of the Sudan and Darfur will make one never again believe the myth that all black men are truly “brothers.”

The experience of the black American was never close to being rooted in the same optimistic dream that either of my bloodlines may have experienced. At the same time that these future slaves were being rounded up, put into chains and thrown into the holds of galley ships, almost every other immigrant group was trying to beg borrow or steal a voluntary ride over on similar vessels.

Once here, these blacks became the only group of foreign immigrants who were without the hope of a franchise as they were put into involuntary forced labor on Southern plantations or farm fields.They were purposely kept illiterate and were forced into a local culture of communal maternal socialism. Families were split apart, black men were forced to forego their manhood and black women were forced into domestic labor, involuntary sexual servitude, or made to wet-nurse plantation owner’s babies. Ironically, some of these same men who may have been suckled at the black nipple would occasionally be the ones to grow up and lynch the sons of the women who had nurtured them.

After about two hundred years of this insanity, the cultural divide between the North and the South finally erupted in a war that was predicated more on a differential way of life than anything rooted simply in the North’s gracious and magnanimous desire to free the black man.

It was, as in most wars, more about culture, economics, tax revenues and centralized Federal power than anything else. It was also a conflict the rural South could never hope to win from the outset, because it could never remotely match or mobilize the resources generated in the industrialized North. One small example of a minor technological advance that made a huge difference in the long run, or the long march to be more literal, was the Frye Company boot being better than any shoe produced in the South. While southern boys were eventually forced to fight in bare feet and moccasins, northern troops were marching through Georgia in fine leather footwear.

The Grey clad soldier, trained to hunt since childhood, could probably shoot better, but there were just too many better equipped and well fed men in the Blue uniforms for them to overcome these stacked odds.

As Generals Grant and Sherman cut their respective swaths through the South, the aftermath was the destruction of an entire cultural infrastructure which had been supported by slavery, only to then be followed up by the so-called emancipation of a group of people who suddenly found themselves with no place to go. While they were being liberated as a group, the unanswered questions were that they were “free” to go where and “free” to do what?

  • Greetings to all you slaves. We have fought long and hard to preserve our Union. And now that we have won the war, we are here to let you know you are free to leave this prison plantation, where forced against your free will you have had to call it “home.”
  • But free to go where boss? Free to do what? Where do I go? What am I supposed to do?
  • I’m not exactly sure, but I hear they plan to give all of you forty acres and a mule somewhere down Alabama way.
  • Yeah boss. But I still need some way to get down there, I can’t eat dirt; I’ll still have to feed the mule and what about a house?
  • Well, I don’t think I can help you with that part. And because our work here is done, perhaps you should just run along, get the hell out of here, and move on up to Detroit.

The Blacks, originally cast into the shadows as Union Army camp followers principally to be protected from vigilante Whites or in order to simply be fed, suddenly found themselves left behind as a residual group of people who were no better off than the ancient tribes of Israel fated to wander aimlessly through the desert. After the Northern army subsequently disbanded, they were literally left hung out on a limb; caught between greedy Carpetbaggers and vengeful whites who themselves had now been cast into abject poverty and share cropping subsistence living.

In this American Diaspora there was no trek to a promised land. The only open choices were migrate to the great cities in the North; where because they were less than welcomed by their great liberators, they soon aggregated into urban slums; or alternatively, to remain impoverished, suppressed and harassed by White supremacists and the KKK in the newly created shantytowns of the south.

Basically they were simply forgotten as the North complacently patted itself on the back as it perpetuated the great myth of having been the salvation of the Southern slave. American Civil War history always comes with the propaganda that it was only about slavery. It wasn’t. Slavery was a side issue. The American Civil War was a cultural clash about sovereignty, inappropriate taxation, maintaining a way of life, State’s rights and ultimately about preserving centralized Federal economic dominance.

A parallel view was offered by a Polish freedom fighter after the Nazis were defeated and he was asked if he felt guilty about the concentration camps and why he hadn’t helped to liberate them:

  • To us the Jews were an irrelevant side issue, a mere footnote. We didn’t even think about them. For us that was not what the war was all about. For us it was only about one thing: getting our country back.

Many Union soldiers felt the same way and almost laid down their arms when told they were fighting only to free the slaves.

Concurrently in 1865, the Federal Government had seriously failed to realize that forty acres and a mule was not going to cut it in an environment that was trying to force both the southern as well as the northern White man to suddenly love, cherish and live harmoniously side by side with his newly liberated Black neighbor and brother. One cannot destroy an entire culture and then passively hope that enlightenment will spontaneously appear upon its heels, when it is far more likely that the evil head of hatred will rise out of the ashes like a like a Phoenix. Chaos or anarchy then prevails; until there is a new revolution or a new social hierarchy appears.

It happened here, it happened in Germany after World War I, it happened in post Saddam Hussein Iraq, and it will happen again anywhere there is a vacuum of hatred left behind in the wake of a great yet unwillingly forced social upheaval.

Perhaps however the most egregious mistake at the Federal level was to never make any attempt whatsoever to educate the newly liberated slave population, leaving them then for the most part as functional illiterates who could neither read nor write.

There are some historians who believe before he was shot that Lincoln’s original plan was to send the blacks back to Africa. There are others who believe that the blacks would have been better off if the former slaves had been offered a free state in America. That however, would have implied the forced dislocation of local whites in Alabama and Mississippi, setting the stage for a plight similar to that of modern Palestinian.

One compromise came with the creation of the African State of Sierra Leone, but few Blacks bought into the opportunity to emigrate. And for those who stayed behind, the ball game was pretty much lost in the first inning. In truth, how many of these blacks had the resources to emigrate anyway or how many of them then being two generations removed from their original roots would have wanted to make that trip. They didn’t even speak the language anymore.

The game was lost because for those blacks that did stay behind; the offer never came for a decent franchise and more importantly, a decent education. Today’s inner city ghettos are nothing better than segregated concentration camps without barbed wire fences while most ghetto schools are the last place a slum dwelling child can hope to learn elocution, science, math and literacy.

It is truly ironic that these are the same issues debated in Congress to this very day and because of the strange reason they never seem to get resolved, continue to serve as the nidus that keeps the flames of racial hatred and bigotry alive and well. America swallowed a bitter pill when it first imported slaves, kept them ignorant and oppressed, then ignoring any specific needs they may have had as a second-class minority group, suddenly decided to let them go free.

Having never really been integrated; the result is now societal dis-integration.

Perhaps the only bright spot on the horizon for the Black man in America in 1865 was that in at least being relegated to ‘second class citizenry’ they were actually doing better than the Red man, who was relegated to no class of citizenship at all; other than the meaningless euphemistic classification of being called “sovereign citizens.”

Big deal. All this really means is that on the small parsed out reservations left for them to live on; they are not required to pay Federal taxes, can sell tax free cigarettes, or if they are lucky enough, to be granted permission to open a casino. But then again anyone else living below the poverty defined income level doesn’t have to pay taxes either.

The leg up for the American freed slave was that they at least were not targeted for genocide. With the Civil War having drawn to a successful conclusion, the U.S. military then turned an expansive eye toward the vast open territories of the West, where the dangerously fearsome Red man roamed.

In a great post war propaganda campaign likening these “Red” people to renegade wild animals, they soon became an easy target for sanctioned mass extinction and the sub Rosa agendas of eminent domain that secretly but savagely originated in the White House. The U.S. President and the Congress wanted the western Indians out of the way, while the U. S. cavalry, well trained and fresh on the heels of a civil victory was sent to secure the land for white settlers. Mass murder was condoned and encouraged at the highest levels of power.

At the 1870s stage of weapons sophistication, with the invention of the Colts 45 revolver and the Winchester repeating rifle, Smallpox was no longer necessary for effecting genocide. The bullet was infinitely more predictable in its effectiveness than germ warfare, was also a great deal safer to handle and certainly gave the white soldier an efficient advantage over the paltry effectiveness of the bow, the arrow or the hand spear. The guns were so accurate they could kill a man from over a mile away. The American Indian “problem” was eliminated when the population became so small that both it and its principle food source, the concurrently decimated Buffalo, could never recover. In so doing they were also eliminated as a legitimate political force.

What a great country. We killed off our indigenous population and then freed a new population that had been imported as slaves from another continent.

Hitler would have been proud of us. The American Lebensraum was in full bloom. The Red man was soon to be virtually eliminated, while the ignorant illiterate Black man was left to lurk quietly in the background, and soon to fall underneath the national radar screen; or at least temporarily. It was only until their increasing numbers made them a legitimate political force that required more diligent attention be paid to their collective voices.

Free at last; free at last, completely ignored; yet one day in the not too distant future about to become fully resurrected with a vengeance and a new means to power: Voter Registration.


Wounded knee 2

And look before you ere you leap;

For, as you sow, you are like to reap. 

(Samuel Butler)


What’s Wrong with ‘The Holidays’

What’s Wrong with The Holidays

There are seven major U.S. holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, Easter, The Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day. There are a few minor ones such as Columbus Day, Presidents Day, Veterans Day, Valentines Day and Halloween and there are other coincidental and cultural ones such as Passover, Martin Luther King Day, Yom Kippur and Kwanza.

For most of us, and for the most part, Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be the two holidays for which there are significant obligations and certain significant expectations, which revolve around and involve family. That these holidays require a great deal of psychological preparation is an understatement.


Historically Thanksgiving memorializes a gathering of Pilgrims and Indians at the time of the fall harvest. One legend has it that as the Pilgrims were then on the verge of starvation, the Indians taught them how to survive the harsh New England winter and may have even assisted them by supplying much needed food.

The favor was repaid in kind by the Pilgrims who purposefully threw their Smallpox infected blankets out on the perimeters of their settlements because they knew the Indians desperately needed them and would therefore use them. The Indians picked them up, brought them to their lodges and because they had no natural immunity to the disease were promptly decimated. Thus a simply effective form of genocidal germ warfare eliminated the Massachusetts (Massasoit) tribe and subsequently many more tribes as the disease spread from village to village; then eventually across the entire country. Eventually the Indians did give something back by introducing Syphilis to the White Man, but at least the method of transmission and the intention was more fun, pleasurably enjoyable, benevolently intended; and also not immediately lethal.

At the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln designated the day to be a day of true thanksgiving for the salvation of the Union’ which had nothing whatsoever to do with either Pilgrims or Indians.

Today, and now that the Indians are forgotten and out of the way we usually commemorate this original mixed cultural event with a family feeding frenzy.


Parsing out the Smallpox



Christmas is a contrivance of the early Christian Church that was made to coincide with and thus to supersede long standing cultural rituals of the winter solstice or of mid winter pagan celebrations. It literally means Christ Mass.

In ancient Rome the winter holiday Saturnalia was designated to honor Saturn, the god of agriculture, designated as a month long festival given over to hedonistic pleasures. Within that month at the time of the solstice, there was a feast honoring children, Juvenalia, and on December 25th the birth date of the god of the sun, Mithra, that particular day was observed as being the most sacred day of the year.  Druidic Europeans celebrated the winter solstice simply because the darkest days were then over, longer days would soon prevail being a generic concept I can wholeheartedly embrace.

Norsemen celebrated the Yule from December 21st into early January, also in recognition of the return of the sun, celebrating it by burning giant logs in fire’s that could last up to twelve days; ergo the possible derivation of the twelve days of Christmas. In some areas of Europe domesticated animals were slaughtered at this time so that they would not have to be fed during the months when feed stores were scarce, thus making this the only time of year when fresh meat was available for consumption. It was also a time when beer and wine fermentation reached a climax. Need I say more? Germans honored Oden, a terrifying vengeful god who in subscribing to the naughty and nice theory, made nocturnal flights to directly observe his people’s behavior and then decided upon who would prosper or who would perish. People hid inside their homes to avoid him.

For eons, early Christians observed Easter as their principle holiday, but it was not until the fourth century that the Church, on some arbitrary whim that a certain Pope decided to create a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. The truth is that no one actually knows the day when Jesus was really born. Some people think it was March of the following year: that is 0.25 AD.

Pope Julius I chose December 25th to coincide with and to absorb the pagan holidays, thus increasing the chance or the odds that it would be popularly embraced. He originally called it the Feast of the Nativity. After attending church, true believers would usually then become inebriated, then in a carnival like atmosphere crowned a ‘King of Misrule.’ Poor people would then knock on the doors of the wealthy demanding food and drink, but if the rich folk did not comply by paying back a presumed societal debt to the less fortunate, these aristocrats could then risk suffering mischievous revenge. Perhaps these indigent masses were just getting the holiday confused with Halloween or perhaps trick or treating simply became shifted to an earlier date on the calendar.

The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas 13 days after December 25th highlighting the ongoing mystery about the actual nativity date and creating significant friction between two great subcategories of Christianity. Puritans in England outlawed the holiday as being a decadent pagan ritual, while American Pilgrims imposed fines for celebrating it, until in 1870 the United States Congress overrode the prudes and finally recognized it as a Federal Holiday.

Thus it is easy to see how the hodgepodge of Christmas customs may have evolved. Thus includes its several names, the varied celebrations of Jesus birth, the emphasis on children, the invention of Santa Claus as a corruption of the patron saint of charitable giving, Saint Nicholas, the twelve days of Christmas, the Yule log, the eating and drinking, the socializing and the gluttony.

Somewhere along the line it has also became as romanticized as a Norman Rockwell painting or the vignette of a team of Budweiser Beer’s Clydesdales Horses towing a carriage to Grandma’s house over the river and through the woods during a gentle snowfall; just a picture perfect day, with perfect weather, for a perfect family consisting of a perfect three generations.

Christmas has also become an over commercialized capitalistic nightmare as well as an excuse for overindulgence and excess at every level. It has also been given over to a time when people decide for just one day out of the entire year to be charitable, loving, and giving or to visit relatives they often would not other wise give the time of day, while hypocritically pretending they actually like them. It is a day that children come to expect a trove of toys and gifts they either do not really need or actually deserve or which they will then ignore in about two days hence, when they then again beg their parents to buy them something else.

Politicians seize it as an opportunity to truck out the hypocritical concept of temporary armistice and world peace, with the irony being that sometimes the people we happen to be fighting are not even Christians who could care less about the one day of the year they may not be shot at or bombed.

The real problem derives from a lack of understanding that the idyllic Norman Rockwell family does not really exist. Subsequently then with holiday fantasies and expectations going unfulfilled or with a plurality of people actually believing that most families other than their own are having that Norman Rockwell day, there is a tendency toward large scale disappointment, bickering, feuds and collective depression.

The winter holidays then become a prime time for the vengeful emergence of seasonal depressive disorders and tend to be a peak time of the year for a substantial incremental increase in alcohol or drug abuse as well as suicide rates. That is unless you happen to be a school teacher, when Labor Day is the one that throws you into a withering little ball of pure angst.

Instead, the entire concept of these holidays should be simplified, grounded more in reality and put back into a better relative and spiritual perspective. Thanksgiving should be a day of gratitude by most of us for at least having something to eat, and to serve as a reminder that many in the world at the same time are starving to death. Christmas should remind us that every day of our lives we should try to perform at least one random act of kindness for one randomly selected stranger.

He’s making a list

And he’s checking it twice.

He’s going to find out

Who’s naughty and nice.

Santa Claus is coming to town.



Norm Rockwell

Happy thanksgiving


And a very Merry Mithras, too

Photos: 1 Lithograph/Unknown source 2. © Norman Rockwell 3. Personal collection




Tetanus and Immunizations

Ancient folklore has it that there were four incurable conditions in medicine: scabies, rabies, babies, and tabes dorsalis.. We’ve come a long way since then.


Salk vaccine


There is a very troublesome organized campaign in the United States that targets parents in an attempt to convince them to stop vaccinating their children. The information spread by these groups is misleading as well as seriously dangerous to the health of the nation as well as the rest of the world.

We are so fortunate to live in an era where certain bacterial and viral illnesses can be prevented by vaccination or immunization that we have forgotten how harmful these deadly organisms actually are. Physicians all too often do get to see cases of common illnesses such as hepatitis, but it is a real eye opener when a doctor has the non-privilege of seeing one of the rare ones. If the anti-vaccine groups had to participate in the care of any of the devastating consequences of vaccine preventable diseases, perhaps they would change their minds.

These insular minded advocates do not have to see liver failure following an infection with Hepatitis B. They do not have to see the forty-year old school teacher die from congestive heart failure following the influenza attack that destroyed his cardiac muscle cells. They do not have to see the congenital heart defect in the baby born to a mother who had Rubella during the pregnancy. They did not have to manage Jim Henson’s case when he died of a pneumonia caused by the common and ordinary pneumococcal bacterium. They have not seen the crippling effects of the few living individuals from pre-vaccine days that were fortunate enough not to die from polio but were nonetheless permanently crippled by it. Perhaps FDR doesn’t come to mind either.

The list goes on and on.

These advocacy groups always cite the rare case of the person who had a serious complication from a vaccination only to then utilize inductive reasoning which generates a hysterical perception in the general population that this vaccination is dangerous for everyone.

One of my favorite predictable gripes is the patient who comes to the office and states:

  • So I got my flu shot and I got the flu anyway. What’s the point?
  • Influenza is not the only virus that can give you a cold. When you were sick did you get tested for influenza?
  • No.
  • Then how do you know that it was the flu?
  • I just know. So next year I’d rather just take the flu and skip the shot.

That’s when the little man in the front of my brain says:

  • You really are a stupid ignoramus. Ask any of  those 18 million souls who died in 1919 what they might think about a shot that could have saved their lives.

But the real words come out as:

  • Why don’t we discuss it again next year?

Anti-vaccination advocates also come up with ridiculous personal theories such as the one currently in vogue that the mercury (thimerosol) in the Mumps-Measles-Rubella (MMR) vaccine is responsible for childhood autism. This one is worse than simply fomenting generalized hysteria because the concept causes parents to shun vaccination schedules; generates litigation and is predicated entirely on false science. Based on real and credible CDC scientific evidence, this propaganda has been debunked only to become yet one more example of one of America’s new favorite pastimes: blame seeking. In fact new theories are emerging that make more sense. For example, autism may be a maternal -fetal antibody phenomenon, similar to Rh incompatibility.

False science is so seriously dangerous because it presents as fact a series of deductions made without true scientific proof. For example, the false science of racial genetics and characteristics perpetrated by Heinrich Himmler in the 1930s convinced the German people by a series of pseudo-scientific measurements and salacious proofs that Jews were an inferior race: Why? It’s because their skulls look different, of course. The Aryan movement in modern America does the same thing reference to Afro-Americans: their brains are smaller.

Another recent example of medical false science was the inductive misinformation that silicone breast implants caused collagen vascular diseases; such as Lupus. This resulted in multi-million dollar law suits, wasted court time and the temporary withdrawal of the product from the market; leaving some women who legitimately required this type of prosthesis for breast reconstruction with less desirable alternatives. It was all a colossal waste of time and money; but only in America. European countries paid it lip service and didn’t give the controversy the light of day.

But even in the case of the MMR vaccine, and despite more scientifically convincing evidence that autism probably has a genetic basis, as well as the fact that some autistic children are really mislabeled mentally retarded; being able to convince these ignorant stalwarts to the contrary is virtually impossible. Or, as they say in Texas, do not let the truth ever interfere with a good story.

My eyes were opened for good after having to treat a case of Tetanus. Prior to seeing this disease in the flesh it was something a Resident House Officer would only read about and have to consider as part of a board review scenario.

This particular situation occurred in a middle aged white female woman who was doing window box gardening and happened to get a splinter in the web space between two fingers. It then got infected, resulting in a small pustule. But inside the little pustule the Clostridium bacteria had already set up shop and had done its dirty work before she came to the emergency room to have the abscess incised and the offending splinter removed.

Simple case, yes?

Not until she came back two days later complaining of hypersensitive skin and very non-specific neuralgic symptoms. If not for a very astute Infectious Disease Fellow she would have been sent home. But much to everyone’s surprise and veiled skepticism he had her admitted for observation. I said:

  • So why did I get this case? There’s nothing wrong with her.
  • Because I think she might have Tetanus
  • Get out. That’s ridiculous. Nobody gets Tetanus anymore.
  • Well she might have it
  • Tell me why? This is nothing but dumping  a shitty case on me.
  • Well, my opinion is based on her history as well as the fact that she told me she was never vaccinated.
  • So what history is that?
  • A very recent foreign body infection followed by hyperirritability, acute skin sensitivity and the fact that her husband says when he touches her she starts to twitch, then yells at him and says: “Get away from me. Stop touching me.” That is coupled by the fact that they have a good relationship and he says she has never in her life ever talked to him like that.
  • Yeah, right. Maybe it’s just menopuase or something.
  • Just admit her for observation; get Neurology over here; and every fifteen minutes or so just brush her skin with your fingertips. You’ll find out soon enough.
  • What a drag.

After about two more hours of bedside testing I placed a frantic call to the I.D. resident and said:

  • Get your ass over here right now. I just touched her and she went into a seizure.
  • What did it look like?
  • She screamed; arched up; clenched her fists; hyper-extended half her muscles and hyper flexed all the rest. The spasm was so intense I thought she was going to break her back.
  • So I was right all along, yes? And when was the last time you saw a Grand mal seizure ever look like that?
  • Never. So please, just get your ass over here right now because I have absolutely no idea what to do next.

She had Tetanus all right. But calling it Tetanus was euphemistic for what this horrific disease was really all about. Just blowing on her ear would cause so much involuntary total body muscle spasm I thought she would not only break her back, but would also beak every other bone in her body including her neck. And that was not to mention the horrifying screams that went before the spasms.

The treatment requires intubation, artificial ventilation and total body muscular paralysis with intravenous curare. The clinical conundrum here is that the disease then has to run its course over a period of several weeks, during which time other drugs are required in order to sedate the conscious brain. Because the patient is completely paralyzed there is then absolutely no way of knowing how awake the patients’ brain might be. Think about that. You are completely paralyzed, unable to move or to communicate, yet your brain is aware of everything that is going on around you.

The case dragged on for three or four weeks, in the middle of which the patient developed pneumonia and then a bleeding ulcer requiring urgent surgical intervention. Unbelievably, she survived and after a period of intense physical therapy was able to walk out of the hospital. That case made a believer out of me, even to the point that despite the last Tetanus booster I had; which put me to bed for three days with worst “flu” like reaction I had ever experienced; I would still take the shot again over the deadly disease itself.

During the time I was at St. Luke’s there was actually one other case of Tetanus that had occurred in a heroin addict secondary to infected skin-popping abscesses. Fortunately, I did not get the case, which nonetheless had a curious footnote. His “friends” were a collection of fairly unsavory fellow addicts who visited his bedside on a regular basis. One day however, the visitations suddenly stopped; but was curiously and coincidentally linked to the disappearance of several vials of curare that had been left in the patient’s cubicle. No one involved in the care was at all upset by the prospect of these junkies having gone out on the street and shot themselves up with something that would get them higher than they had ever been in their entire lives: all the way up to the level of the Pearly Gates.

The police would not even investigate a dead junkie with a needle still in his vein.

One really disturbing thing about vaccinations is the fact that the CDC has declared Smallpox to be eradicated from planet Earth; along with an opinion that vaccination for this virus is no longer necessary. This agency also believes that it owns the only remaining repository of the virus and that because it is hidden safely inside its freezer vaults, has even discussed the idea of destroying the remaining cultures. If I ran the CDC, I would not be so cock sure about this. We are living in the infancy of an era of genetic engineering that raises the possible specter of microbiologists having the potential ability to manufacture killer microbes earmarked for germ warfare.

A new global outbreak of Smallpox would have the potential to kill off ninety percent of the world’s non-immunized population, bringing new meaning to the aphoristic medieval curse that could possibly be adopted by a terrorist:

  • May the Pox be upon you; your family; and all your family’s family.

We now have vaccines for the following diseases:

Smallpox, Polio, Measles, Mumps, Pertussis, Tetanus, German measles, meningococcal meningitis, pneumococcal pneumonia, Zoster, influenza, Hepatitis A and B, Anthrax, Yellow fever and genital HPV. In the very near future we may also have vaccines for Hepatitis C, the worst of the nasty triumvirate that includes A and B, as well as for HIV and Herpes.

When I was a child I developed mumps, measles, chicken pox and German measles. None of these diseases were pleasant. The Mumps was complicated by a mild case of cerebritis causing me to hallucinate about wild animals attacking our house.It’s only too bad I did not see the Virgin Mary in the back yard, instead of a Grizzly bear, or we might have been able to translate that vision into a fortune by selling the rain water that always seemed to cascade off the hill behind our house and filled up our basement. Lourdes in our cellar.

Perhaps the disease did leave me with a small degree of permanent brain damage that I can blame for my I.Q. being only slightly above average but not genius; just like the people who blame MMR for autism. But I was fortunate if the only complication I got from the mumps was to be attacked by an imaginary Grizzly bear, because sometimes these supposedly simple viruses can do a lot worse. And when they do kill, there is nothing at all imaginary about the death.

There was only one other case I ever encountered that highlights the fact that as science has become more sophisticated, some homeopathic theorists have paradoxically thrown us back to the Stone Ages. A nurse I worked with, for holistic reasons, did not believe in tonsillectomies, and despite the fact that her daughter repeatedly developed Streptococcal pharyngitis, refused to let her have them removed. Beta-streptococcus is known to be responsible for causing Rheumatic fever, a disease that eventually attacks and causes serious scarring to cardiac heart valves. Treating the infection with penicillin easily prevents this consequence.

Then to make matters worse, after a number of prior infections and courses of antibiotics, this mother decided that too many antibiotic treatments could also be harmful. Instead of treating a subsequent Beta strep infection then, she had her daughter pray over lighted candles. The outcome was predictable as the poor girl developed acute Rheumatic Fever, spent two weeks in the hospital; followed by permanent rheumatic scarring of her Mitral valve. As far as I am concerned, this is a case of child abuse.

When I was a child I was fortunate that despite the fact of nay-sayers warning it could actually cause polio, my mother was proactive enough ignore them and pushed me to the head of the line for the Salk vaccine. Even people in the 1700’s were smart enough to know that if they rubbed their skin with exudate from someone else’s Small pox lesion; that they might get an attenuated or abbreviated form of the disease themselves.

At this point in my life, I remain a true believer, have received every vaccine available on the market and look forward to being the first in line to get the next one that comes out of pharmaceutical research and development. These miracles of medical intervention prevent not only the serious common consequences of the diseases that they abort, but also save millions of lives.To those nay sayers who still believe that vaccinations are passé, dangerous or unnecessary, I then facetiously say:

May the Pox never be upon you, your children, or your children’s children.



Soldier dying of Tetanus   Painting by Sir Charles Bell