Children should not drink water.

Water is deadly to them, and I don’t just mean drownings, which claim 700 young lives every year.

Water is poison. Many children who drank water, whether out of fountains or sippy cups or plastic bottles, almost immediately died in car accidents and fires, or contracted cancer. One hundred percent of the children who succumb to falls had drunk water within the previous 12 hours.

But Neil, you might argue, is this not an post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy? The phrase — for those not up on their Latin — means “after this, therefore because of this.” It’s where you link event A to event B happening before it, suggesting one caused the other, when there really was no connection. I eat Shredded Wheat for breakfast and then my dog runs away? He must hate Shredded Wheat!

Au contraire, I’d reply (French: “on the contrary”). To grasp the danger of water, just look at vaccines. For years, vaccines saved millions of lives, preventing children from contracting polio, diphtheria, smallpox, whooping cough, mumps, measles.

Then, in one of those odd confluences when the extremes of the political spectrum wander so far afield they meet at the outer reaches of reason and find themselves in agreement, parents on the far left, squishy liberals who don’t want their babies exposed to scary chemicals, and paranoiacs on the far right, who distrust anything the government does, decided to refuse to let their children get vaccinated, both wielding the identical logic that I use to condemn water (a pose I will now drop, since it’s so annoying. How can people sincerely embrace such utter idiocy? I can hardly stand to pretend).

For years, the trend of avoiding vaccines was largely ignored — America has a weakness for indulging stupidity when draped in the mantle of religion or sincere belief, as if sincerely subscribing to idiocy is a defense. Everything is an opinion, a belief; nothing is solid or real. The problem was allowed to simmer, since most kids get vaccinated, though that number dropped. In some states, 15 percent of kindergarteners haven’t been vaccinated; nearly 100,000 nationwide.

And now its inevitable fruit: in January, 102 cases of measles, a once-banished childhood illness now raging back. Is 102 cases a lot? Between 2001 and 2011, an average of 62 cases were reported each year. Which means we had more cases in January than are seen most years.

A few points to keep in mind:

1. Vaccines don’t cause autism. You could use the same argument that anti-vaxxers use to forbid water or “Spongebob” or any common activity. There is no link. One study that suggested a link was found to be in error.

2. The diseases these vaccines prevent are still out there — with the exception of smallpox — and the more children who aren’t vaccinated, the more will become sick.

3. Politicians encourage this because they’re evil. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said parents “need to have some measure of choice” when it comes to the issue. Tea Party darling Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said vaccination is “a personal decision for individuals.” That is because freedom sounds good, to their unpatriotic, government-hating base. Freedom to not be vaccinated is like freedom to jump the turnstiles on the L. It isn’t freedom, it’s a free ride on the backs of others.

What we are seeing is a shredding of American society. Where once our country had a draft, could call upon young men to give up two years of their lives and risk being killed, and their parents were proud of them, now a pinprick administered to tots is asking too much, and parents dream up a carnival of imbecility as justification while ignoring the solid medicine. Where once we trusted our leaders, trusted science, we lazily sink lower and lower into denialism, moving past a useful skepticism into a knee-jerk disbelief in any general practice. Public policy is now a plot, a delusion, and whatever daft notion we catch wind of becomes the secret knowledge that sets us apart from the gullible herd.

Liberals ignore history to romanticize a simple past, pushing for natural childbirth, ignoring that women dying during delivery was a big part of nature’s plan. Conservatives fear science, are reluctant to see mankind doing what only God is supposed to do. God can put us in proximity to the measles virus, and then let us build up an immunity to it; man can’t. God can warm the atmosphere and cause climate change; man can’t. God can mutate genes in plants; man can’t. The left joins them here, their Whole Earth Catalog, off-the-grid mentality rendering them as fearsome as medieval villagers.

But the fact-based world catches up. Always does. As we’re seeing with climate change. As we see with this measles epidemic.

Freedom does not mean freedom from consequences. You really feel your kid should not be vaccinated? Fine, don’t vaccinate him. But don’t send him to school either. That’s the law in Mississippi, of all places. No measles outbreak there. Plenty of kids are home-schooled by their fanatic parents. My bet is most won’t pull their kids over vaccines. We’ve made opting out of society on a whim too easy. Time to make it more difficult again.