Rites of non-passage

A conversation with a friend last week nearly had me seeing red. We were talking about vaccinations, and the idea that it is somehow better to get the disease than to get vaccinated (which defeats the point of vaccinations), and one person pulled out the ‘rite of passage’ argument. Since this argument is also often used in defense of letting ‘kids be kids’ (IOW, allowing bullying), a VERY sore subject for me, I had to respond not only to him, but here as well to get all my thoughts out.

See, here’s the thing–there’s no NEED for these so-called ‘rites of passage’ to exist. I mean, there’s some things that mark growing into adulthood–doing your own laundry, learning to drive, moving out of your parents house. These are important because they mark you becoming an independent person. Getting sick and being bullied each have one meaning–that you got sick and were picked on. They don’t force you to grow up, just suffer.

The more I think about it, the more the ‘rite of passage’ excuse is BS for both situations, and for the same reasons. Both getting sick and being bullied can have negative life-long consequences, through medical complications and depression, not to mention can be lethal for some people. These two ‘rites’ can be destructive to your long-term welfare, and short term not everyone survives. Why would we force anyone, let alone children, to go through them if it can be prevented?

Some of this mindset comes from privilege. “I went through it and was fine, so it’s harmless.” While this is the case for some people, it isn’t for everyone. Some of it comes from vindictive tendencies–“I went through it, so you should have to go through it.”  And for anti-vaccination types, a bit comes from complacency–“My child is unlikely to get sick because the disease is so rare.” (Which is no longer the case for some diseases we can vaccinate against, because of lowered vaccination rates in some places.) Wherever it comes from, we are doing our children a disservice to think that these ‘rites of passage’ should be allowed. There’s a saying that the measure of a people’s kindness is in how they treat their most vulnerable citizens. That some would allow children, who have no recourse of their own, to suffer needlessly is a very shameful thing indeed.


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