Fluoride Fallout

May 15, 2013

By: Jay Lieber

This morning, my partner received her ballot in the mail. She’s not normally one to get involved in political processes, either. However her, like many other people in my periphery, registered themselves specifically to vote on this issue. Soon, the results will be tallied, the verdict announced and the victorious party will no doubt be mercilessly gloating over the other, as is the customary reward within the viciously competitive paradigm in which our politics are staged.

Perhaps you find yourself embroiled in heated and nasty debates on the subject (I certainly do). Typically docile people very quickly resorted to name calling and mud slinging. The pro-fluoride set, using certain scientific studies as their sword and shield, became increasingly nationalistic in their bravado about our government’s assumed duty to protect the health of its people and of how the “underprivileged classes” were somehow “too poor” to take care of their own teeth, resulting in the “Oregon Dental Health Crisis” I had somehow never heard of until the fluoride lobby came to town.

Now, I was homeless for 10 years. My diet consisted exclusively of scraps, trash, malt liquor and street drugs. I was as poor as it was possible to be and I still managed to brush and floss regularly. It cost less than a nickel a day with moderated usage. All of my teeth remain in place and are quite strong. And yet, when trying to communicate this to people (usually in positions of financial privilege) I was just ignored or met with rebuttals to the effect of “I brush my teeth and still have cavities so fluoride.” (Floss, people. It’s the most important part.)

As the debates continued, I could not help but notice certain patterns emerging. There was less discussion than there was the posting of links alongside malicious insults or condescending snark. The pro-fluoride set was adamant about the process being the best and only way to protect our children’s health. The anti-fluoride set was so busy finding evidence of fluoride’s dangers that it failed to open a discussion about a mutually beneficial scenario in which the people who want regular fluoride doses can be provided with it without forcing everyone else to drink it as well. My attempts to open this sort of discussion were met with responses like, “what sort of argument is that?” and, “do you have any other arguments you want me to shoot down?” They couldn’t seem to wrap their brains around the fact that I was not arguing.

The greater issue here that was rarely even touched upon is consent. There was a prevalent attitude among the pro-fluoride team that I found unnerving. It was assumed, but never outright spoken, that a government does not need the consent of its people to introduce a non-essential chemical element into the drinking water (chlorine treatment against water-born pathogens being considered necessary) for “medical” reasons since they “know better than you and want to help you.” A forced medication whether you want it or not, whether you need it or not.

Falling into this line of thinking opens a variety of terrifying doors in which people are somehow conditioned into a sort of subservient, masochistic pride (not the fun kind either). There is the idea that your rulers (elected or otherwise) are infallible and want nothing more than to help you live productive, healthy lives in the greatest country in the entire world. It’s a tidy, one-dimensional fantasy that offers the imaginer the security of not having to make too many tough decisions, a freedom FROM choice, and all too easy to subscribe to.

As much as it should be true that the government’s priority is the welfare of its people, the truths emergent in this information age clearly demonstrate many parts of government being pawns of industry, regurgitating the industrial lobbyists’ propaganda and watching the checks roll in while havoc is wreaked in the global environment. The recent interview with the CEO of Nestle (who is currently in the business of water distribution) in which he was quoted as saying water “is not an inherent human right” is a clear indicator that the moguls of industry are not interested in the wellbeing of you or I. (Fun fact: if cities do not buy fluoride from the industries that produce it, that industry must pay to have it disposed of as toxic waste.)

So how will it go? We’ll soon find out. The magic of writing allows my thoughts here, in the past, to enter your minds there, in the future, where the decision is soon to be reached. I’m going to go ahead and predict that, like before, the people of Portland will reject fluoridation. I find myself opposed to the whole thing for the reasons of not wanting to further contaminate some of the purest drinking water left in the entire world and not wanting people to get used to mass, forced medications. If it passes, then so be it. I will survive. Either way, the generation of imaginary crises, the dividing of otherwise functional communities, the blind nationalism and the attempted circumventing of the voting process by industry are all the footprint of a bear, if you will, and a very large one. Great and awful things are in the works and our ignorance of them is their greatest strength.

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