De Niro’s rose colored glasses may be less rosy this morning. He’s waking up with a media hangover unlike any he’s ever experienced. His successful career has often been mirrored by his unblemished, ingratiating personal appearance. His character was never called into question, until now.
And oh how the roads traveled by those seemingly so far away can suddenly seem rather similar to our own. De Niro’s life of red carpets and glitz and glamour a far cry from my life, which a day’s biggest event might be me picking out produce in a hurry before my daughter’s playdate.
De Niro’s life was so different from mine: until it wasn’t.
We have yet to find out what De Niro’s exact perspective on vaccines is. Maybe because of his child’s autism, he rejects them completely. Maybe he is skeptical of them. Maybe he disapproves of some vaccines, but not others. The thing about it is, though, is it has all washed out the same: He’s an anti-vaxxer. The anti-vaccination, due to aggressive scarlet letter tactics by the media, is really anyone who questions vaccines at all. If you skip a flu shot, welcome to the anti-vaccination club.
De Niro didn’t realize the club existed though. In his mind, he probably thought that it would be reasonable to question the system, that looking for an autism cure would make sense for society, and that reason and logic on these matters would prevail. Instead, De Niro, who made his early living playing characters who intimidate and murder those who question his authority, was suddenly as feeble as a Rowan Atkinson character, bumbling about a market knocking over vases.
When De Niro’s reason and logic, his application of an uncensored medium, failed him so dramatically, I imagine flushness of his face was the first noticeable sign of panic. He’d thrust himself into the world of vaccines cause autism without actually even saying that.
When I was a young mother, I questioned vaccines to a teacher at school.
“Well I am still looking into vaccines, just need to do a little more research,” I told Mrs. Lavine.
“Vaccines don’t cause autism,” she hastily responded.
I’d never even said that they do. The label of an anti-vaxxer has remained with me ever since. I was harassed and bullied by those near and far of me (mostly and unfortunately, those near, like family). Those closest to you will cut you to your very core. Vaccine supporters often are alluded by objectivity and reason. To them, you are a murderer, and that’s exactly what people saw in De Niro when he originally backed TriBeca’s decision to screen Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. And this time they weren’t judging an on-screen character, they were judging him personally.
And he folded.
But the fact is, I am not sure I blame him. The position is tough. I can’t blame one mother’s decision to hide her anti-vaccination sentiments no more than I can judge De Niro’s decision to go back on his word. And maybe the rest of us shouldn’t either. I think we’ve all allowed emotion to get the best of us. De Niro’s original defense of the documentary set us ablaze with emotion just as his contrarian flop was a cold bucket of water over the head and chest; and that caused us to feel deserted and destitute.
Our position is better used to support others in their times of need, not judge them for their reactions to discrimination and harassment. That’s our character’s fiber and it is only strong when we show empathy and understanding. We should always stand as a unified being and never a divided quarreling Barnhouse meeting. We know that strength is in our resolve just as it is in our understanding of the difficult journey we’ve all taken to get here. So let’s be that group, that pillar of hope that doesn’t crumble inward.
Because that’s simply who we are.