R.F.K. Jr. and Trump on Vaccines

I should begin this post with a disclaimer.  I have negative feelings toward Robert Kennedy, Jr.

This has nothing to do with his personal life, although the rumors are creepy.  I don’t know for a fact what he does behind closed doors, so it’s best to leave that alone.

I attended Montclair Elementary School (Oakland, CA) with Martha Moxley, who died in 1975 at age fifteen in Greenwich, CT.  She was beaten to death with a golf club in her family’s gated community by someone who approached her from behind.  It’s unlikely she saw her assailant at the time of the attack, and the crime was the ultimate act of cowardice.

The criminal investigation of Martha’s death was suspended for years, and resumed in the early 1990s.  I know of an unconfirmed report that the investigation was halted because a person of interest in Martha’s death, Michael Skakel, was well protected by family money and influence.  He was the same age as Martha, and allegedly had behaved improperly with her in the past.  His aunt is Ethel Skakel Kennedy.

In 2000, Mr. Skakel was charged with Martha’s murder.  He was convicted in 2002, and sentenced to a long prison term.  In the long run, the initial protection he received from the criminal justice system worked against him.  If he had been held accountable when he was fifteen, he would have been sent to a juvenile prison and the State of Connecticut would have released him by the time he turned twenty-five.

Mr. Skakel was charged when he was nearly forty years old, and tried as an adult.  He served eleven years of a twenty-to-life sentence before numerous appeals finally secured his release a few years ago.

Now, Michael Skakel might return to prison.  His conviction was reinstated on December 30, but currently he’s free on bail.

Martha Moxley and I weren’t close friends, but I have pleasant memories of her at school.  I was at her house once, and remember quietly getting angry when our petty fifth grade teacher gave Martha hell for using a facial tissue that was paid for by the School District. Martha wasn’t the only one to hear from Mrs. B. on the topic of blowing one’s nose at taxpayer expense, and the way I remember it I discreetly wiped my nose on my sleeve a few times during that school year in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid hearing the teacher yell.

Back to RFK Jr…

The Kennedys are noted for family loyalty.  That can be a good trait, but depending on how it’s carried out it can be foolish.  RFK Jr. has been vocal in defending his cousin, who was convicted after a good deal of evidence was presented at his trial.  Mr. Kennedy has a First Amendment right to vent whatever crap is on his mind, but his denial is disrespectful to Martha and hurtful to her loved ones.  In a nutshell, that’s what I have against the third born child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy.

Protecting Michael Skakel from the criminal justice system backfired miserably when he was fifteen years old, and any denial on the part of his family now feeds Mr. Skakel’s long-running attempt to escape responsibility.  It helps no one, including the man who murdered a fifteen year-old girl more than forty years ago.  It’s an arrested development situation.

I remember reading about Mr. Skakel engaging in the ultimate act of defensive gall at a pre-trial hearing, when he approached Martha’s mother and said, “Dorthy, I feel your pain, but they got the wrong guy.”  What civilized human being does that?  It’s the sort of remark that comes from a spoiled rich kid who is grasping at straws.  A guilty spoiled rich kid.  I can only hope Mr. Skakel’s own family had the decency to cringe when he did that.

Robert Francis Kennedy Jr.’s most recent error in judgment involves childhood vaccines.  Although the so-called research that resulted in fears of an autism risk has been dismissed as junk science, Mr. Kennedy hasn’t dismissed the myth from his own mind.  It looks as if he may assist Donald Trump in reinforcing the fear among parents, who will put their children at risk out of ignorance.

Personally, I don’t completely trust vaccines.  They aren’t risk-free, but the risks are minimal.

It isn’t easy for me to say that.  I know someone whose child suffered an unusual reaction (not involving autism) to a vaccine at age twelve and was ill for several years.  One specialist told the family that a small percentage of kids had experienced similar health problems after receiving that particular vaccine, so there were questions.  It was a rare misfortune, but when it happens to someone you care about you can’t keep an emotional distance.

Personally, I have memories of being hurt by a cruel, pervy pediatrician who made every medical procedure worse than it should have been.  Vaccinations were scary.  The answer wasn’t to go without protection from disease, though.  The trauma I suffered at the hands of a sadistic doctor had nothing to do with healthcare, and to be completely honest getting sick with smallpox would have been even worse than having to deal with that son of a bitch.

Mr. Kennedy’s concerns about vaccines aren’t supported by reputable scientists.  The doctor who published the results of his dubious study no longer has a license to practice, and his article in The Lancet is considered an embarrassing moment in that journal’s history.

If Mr. Kennedy is genuinely interested in protecting the public health, he should be opposing the efforts of the incoming president (and the GOP in Congress, who aren’t even very popular with the Kennedys) to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Ignoring his Uncle Ted’s legacy — and the legislative victory which Senator Kennedy didn’t live to see — is inexcusable.  After all, Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. is a family man.


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