Anti-vaxxers swelling the ranks of stupidity

By david leibowitz

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about climate change as the most serious threat facing mankind. Respectfully, I disagree.

Climate change may indeed lay waste to civilization someday. But my money is on stupidity killing us first.

If that sounds mean-spirited, please understand that the past few weeks have been an epic stretch for those of us who track idiocy, which happens to be my principal form of entertainment. And while it’s easy to excuse stupidity because we all have brain lapses from time to time, some of us seem determined to push human ignorance to its absolute pinnacle.

Like the now-notorious selfie-taker known as Leanne, no last name, who came to fame on a recent sunny Saturday at the Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park.

Leanne is alleged to have leaned beyond or otherwise crossed a barrier in order to get closer to a female jaguar. The jaguar did what annoyed jaguars do, swiping at Leanne through a fence, clawing her arm deeply enough to require multiple stitches.

“We have determined the jaguar was not at fault in any way,” a zoo spokesperson told a reporter for Channel 3. “The injuries were due to human error.”

Uh, I’ll say.

The story quickly went national as a “jaguar attack,” but semantically speaking this was more like “attempted suicide by jungle cat.” Seriously, if you can’t attend the zoo properly as an adult, how do you handle stuff like work or grocery shopping?

I typically ponder such existential questions while hiking Piestewa Peak, except I’m giving that particular trail a break now, after police arrested three men there last Monday. Their crime? Firing a 9mm handgun at a saguaro near the busy Hopi trailhead. While smoking weed. And babysitting a 1-year-old.

Terrorized hikers and residents called the cops. Officers found the Glock pistol in the baby’s car seat – beneath the baby. The 29-year-old dad, Nicholas Forte, told police he was holding the toddler when a buddy handed him the gun, so he put the Glock in the baby seat, then sat the kid down on top of it.

This story makes me wonder why there isn’t an enhanced sentence for criminal stupidity, similar to how a “hate crimes” designation adds prison time for heinous offenders. We clearly need to up the ante, because stupid people are getting more dangerous daily.

Like the anti-vaxxers.

Leanne risked only her own life. The Saguaro Shooters endangered a small child and some nearby hikers. Anti-vaxxers endanger broad swaths of Arizona by refusing to vaccinate their children, despite decades of persuasive medical evidence and the urging of everyone from the Centers for Disease Control to the Surgeon General to Gov. Doug Ducey.

Mesa Rep. Kelly Townsend, head of the state Legislature’s Looney Tunes bloc, fired up her laptop recently to bash vaccination requirements, opining, “The idea that we force someone to give up their liberty for the sake of the collective is not based on American values but rather, Communist.”

Townsend later doubled down on the crazy, comparing vaccinating children to ward off measles, mumps and rubella with … the Holocaust?

For Townsend, mandatory vaccines to protect public health – or, as she puts it, “government forcing you to inject a solution into your body that could very well damage you for life or even kill you” – is somehow akin to the Nazis tattooing prisoners with ID numbers at death camps in places like Auschwitz.

“Your body is your own,” Townshend told reporters. I couldn’t agree more. As a rule, Americans stand free to use our bodies as we see fit. I just wish more of us would actually use our brains every now and again.

David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact