The Travolta Tragedy

I hate cults.

Let’s just get that out of the way–whether it’s the ideology that encourages psychos in a compound to impregnate minors or convinces otherwise seemingly rational people that aliens gave diseases to earth dwellers or assures people that Gore is going to save the world one glorious carbon swap at a time–I hate cults. There are many reasons to hate them and the leaders that get rich off the followers of the ideology. Mostly, I hate cults because people cede their power and potential to another person or group and often drag innocent people (children) along with them in their craziness.

Here’s the thing, though. This is America. People are free to do what they damn well please as long as it’s legal. And because the line between cults and corporations or churches or groups is so fine, I’d rather err on the side of the individual to choose his own crazy. State-mandated “sanity” is its own crazy cult and I want even less a part of that than some insane idea cooked up in a basement somewhere.

That preamble brings me to Scientology and the death of John Travolta and Kelly Preston’s son, Jett Travolta. The death of Jett Travolta is a tragedy. It is a family tragedy. It is a personal tragedy. I might not agree with their family’s “religion”, but it is none of my business and it’s no one else’s either.

The fact that the Travolta’s son might have had autism and that the Church of Scientology doesn’t recognize the illness does not matter. Science has little of value to help families of autistic children so the diagnosis is nigh to irrelevant. If the family doesn’t want the label, who cares? Science fiction has about as much to help an autistic family as science. Right now, the best families can do is to love their kids and give them intense one-on-one education–something the Travoltas did (home schooling is very one-on-one).

Americans are free. They are free to be stupid. Parents are free to educate their children in a manner they see fit. They are free to go to the church and associate with whom they desire. And people are free to not accept a diagnostic label, even if it means they’re in denial, when the diagnosis yields little benefit (if any) and treatments are elusive.

All citizens should feel protective of these rights even if they disagree with how a person employs these freedoms individually. Freedom can be uncomfortable business, but totalitarianism is a whole lot less comfortable and it creeps on Americans one conventionally accepted dogma and public indictment at a time.

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