I try to avoid politics in my work because I want everybody to feel welcome on my site. Honestly, I hate just about everybody involved in politics, and I only stay on social media for my blog. I have thought about quitting many, many times. I absolutely hate that every word of mine is judged by those who would twist the very name of love and/or God itself to their specific agendas. I also hate the fact that everything I say and do means I am either a hater or a snowflake. I even fantasize about leaving the Unites States altogether due to the hellish political climate. So, if you want to discuss politics anymore I will not participate. I am tired of walking on eggshells for the right and the left. So, I am now apolitical. I wash my hands of this political climate. Call me Hitler, call me Stalin, call me every swear word in the book. I am done. I must take care of my mental health in order to survive you.
So there is an outbreak of measles in Minnesota among Somali-descended children, spreading to other vulnerable populations. I want you to understand that. What I don’t want you to do is point the finger at me about it. For the longest time, I thought that, being autistic and scary to a neurotypical population that is afraid of me, that I was the cause of unvaccinated measles outbreaks, in Minnesota and Southern California (at Disneyland, no less), especially since Jenny McCarthy literally blamed her son’s autism for all her suffering in life. But, in this case and others, I have already dismissed my existence as a cause of measles outbreaks, especially since now there are more complex, pointed reasons as to why there is an outbreak of measles they are dealing with in Minnesota. I want you to read the next sentences very carefully. That’s why I have separated them out.
The causes of the outbreak of measles in Minnesota are as follows:
- Ableism, represented as Anti-autism
The causes of the Disneyland outbreak in Southern California are as follows:
- Ableism, represented as Anti-autism
These lists are not finished. First, I want to discuss the discovered causes of the measles outbreak in Minnesota. Let me start with ableism.
Thank you so very much, Jenny McCarthy. Thank you, Andrew Wakefield. Thanks a lot, Autism Speaks. While I won’t go into the extremely non-duplicated, thoroughly debunked, corrupt and hateful so-called “study” of how you think the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine causes autism. I have felt personally responsible and personally attacked because of you. You have made children sick because of my existence. You have murdered over nine thousand children as of July 2015. And the cause of all this pain and destruction? The existence of autistic people. I am autistic. Therefore, you make ME a target. Your hatred of me justifies your actions of denying children their health, their immunity, even their lives. You justify your kills because of me. I am tired of being the cause for the loss of innocent lives.
Now, onto the next two causes, because they are interwoven and intersected. They are Racism and Xenophobia.
Now, when most white American people look at Somali immigrants, what do they see? They see dark skin – race being the previous mark of slavery, and they devalue the person. They see a foreigner – those “evil” people trying to come and take their lives, jobs and livelihood. They see a Muslim – and deem them dangerous, evil terrorists, not realizing that most Muslims HATE those terrorists. (Don’t get me started on some of my Muslim friends’ seething rage.) So, when these dark-skinned foreign so-called terrorists come to them with an issue – their children are getting autism – what do those white American people do? They ignore and deny help to these inferior people. So, what does the ableist, Anti-vaccine camp do? They listen, and recruit soldiers for their own terror. Herd immunity is compromised. And children in Minnesota now have measles, many of them hospitalized because their weak and developing immune systems are defenseless against the onslaught. Now do you see how danger and strife can get a foothold due to racism and xenophobia?
I am not here to bring anybody down, or anybody out. I am simply facing hatred in three intersecting directions of ableism, racism and xenophobia. Now, I know I am not black and an immigrant, but I will fight the diseased rot of ableism, racism and xenophobia right alongside its victims. I do it every day – even in my mind. When children are dying, there is something wrong. One absolutely must speak up for the sake of the future. One must speak up for the sake of the suffering children.
Where does this “Accept” and “Love” position I give come from? Why, it’s from viewing autism as what it really is: a different operating system, which anthropologists are now coming around to as beneficial to many aspects of life. Autism, like any other trait, has benefits. Sure, you’re not sitting around talking to people in a bunch of flowery chitchat, but the autistic person has real focus and drive. Most of us can cut to the point quicker than most. There are more than I can think of, but here’s the point: I have come to believe that autism is not some divine punishment. I believe autism has its purpose in this life, and society. The fact that I have to wonder if the autistic will be destroyed before we find the purpose out is what troubles me. According to anthropology, most religion, and technology, there is a purpose for autism. Do we autistic people have to be destroyed before we find it out? I hope not.
So, I went to church this morning and looked around. There were a few people wearing blue, but not anyone whom I would suspect is working for Autism Awareness. Well, maybe one, but I do not think she is particularly concerned about her one-year-old being autistic. Truth is, I am the only known autistic in the church. And here’s a photo of me after coming back.
As you can see, I’m wearing red. I have decided not to begrudge most people wearing blue today, because most people wearing blue are utterly clueless about how the #ActuallyAutistic feel. Most of them just want to do some good, and they are clueless that Autism Speaks wants to rid the world of us. (No cure is known at this time.) The only people I will call out are those like Donald Trump, who are willfully ignorant. Those who actually ignore facts that do not line up with their way of thinking. Some people may accuse me of the same thing, however. The reason I cite Donald Trump is this:
I don’t like to disrespect the President, but when he willfully ignores facts-and the fact is, Andrew Wakefield’s study was debunked and the results never duplicated in larger-scale university studies-he needs to be called out. He’s being willfully ignorant.
Enough about the President. The point it, willfully ignorant and hateful people have hijacked the conversation about autism, and we have to fight HARD to get it back to those who know it best – autistic people. We’re here, we’re autistic, get used to it.
….but not until next month. Perhaps us autistic adults can give some insights and gentle correction to upcoming mistakes I’m sure Sesame Street will make with Julia.
If you don’t know, Julia is an autistic Muppet being introduced to Sesame Street. So far, that is her major trait. Hopefully, her autism will not separate her too much from the other characters. It seems to look promising, since they are reportedly welcoming her into the fold. I’m a little concerned, though, on how Julia will be portrayed. Will her autism be her defining trait, as it often is of many shows’ neurotypical writing? Will she be looked on as less in neurotypical eyes?
The best-case scenario is as regular people who are just a little different. Let her participate in adventures. Let her experience life in groups. Give her some interests. Have her appear often and Flesh out her character. Autism is not the only thing unique about Julia, if you do it right.
There are many well-intentioned disabled or neurodivergent characters who fall flat, and even a few in unexpected places who would actually do well in reality. Of course, I think the key to a good portrayal in neurodiversity or disability (which are often treated the same by a conformist society) is a good dose of reality, inclusion and fleshing out. So many autistic characters are stymied by stereotypes that it really is tragic that one must fit this stereotype to even get an autism diagnosis. I prefer that Julia be a recurring character, at least, so she could have some time to flesh out. Good characters get time to flesh out over a series, but most characters with differing traits rarely get anything beyond their introduction and defining trait. Hopefully, we can see a development over time.
What I am trying to say is, please, don’t make Julia a one-shot. Make her a realistic child. Listen to us autistic adults. We can give you some insight.
I’m remembering a really bad movie I saw last year: Zoolander 2. More importantly, I’m remembering the Razzie award-nominated portrayal of All, the supposedly gender fluid model in an earlier portion of the movie. This is in no way a defense of the portrayal. This is an explanation of what actually is wrong with the portrayals that come up with marginalized people, especially if those specific people are not involved. The problem is this: the portrayal that does not involve actual research, involving actual people, is usually stereotyped, flat, often deviant, and almost always wrong.
Does anybody remember the 1988 movie “Rain Man?” I know that you are probably groaning right now, considering my regular readership. Most autistic people hate Rain Man and many subsequent portrayals of autism that do not involve the actually autistic. This “Rain Man” is a perfect example of what I say – that a first and many subsequent portrayals that are not involving actually autistic people. The only portrayals of an autistic person I have liked are the one by Claire Danes, of Temple Grandin, and Dr. Latham from Chicago Med. (I’m currently wavering on Dr. Latham – it seems a little checklist-driven.) The point is, a person from the margins of society must be involved for the portrayal to be whole. My problems with most portrayals is this:
Stereotypes and Deviancy
My initial problem with a marginalized portrayal is that it’s usually based on stereotypes. Remember the portrayals of blacks in the 1930s? They were usually a Mammy, a singer, or someone usually incompetent. Don’t get me started on how the black female romantic lead had to be light-skinned – or white-looking. Usually, the dark-skinned black person was regulated to the role of prostitute or criminal. It’s sad that I have to look to the 21st Century to see Viola Davis in non-criminal roles – and her resume is not even criminal free (How to Get Away With Murder, anyone?). How long before a regular actor of dark skin can escape portraying a criminal?
It’s absolutely necessary to note, back in Rain Man, that the man who is the real-life inspiration behind the “gold standard” for autism portrayal, diagnosis and future study, was not even autistic. He had FG Syndrome, a genetic anomaly on his chromosomes. It mimics autism, but it is not autism. The reason I look at Claire Danes’ portrayal of Temple Grandin is because it was much more accurate in showing how autism can actually give a different world experience, and might actually – GASP!!! – help the person. It’s a shame that a person along the margins of society cannot be given a proper portrayal unless they come out of the closet and show people how they are.
The problem with all this is: people rely on portrayals of others and their own experiences to believe the person when they come out as, say, autistic, or gay, or even with anxiety. Due to these inaccurate portrayals of the trait or condition, they usually do not believe an autistic person unless they act like Rain Man, of more appropriately, “my cousin’s uncle’s brother’s sister’s former roommate’s son – he is autistic.” The autistic person has to literally justify their diagnosis. They have to lower their competency to be believed. They have to act like Rain Man.
It’s a troubling thing I have come up with: I often wonder if I would have succeeded more, or gotten more in life, if I had not known or revealed my autism? I sometimes think that, but then I remind myself: lots of people have to hide certain “undesirable” traits about themselves, like choosing a “less black” name for a baby to make a resume more “acceptable” to certain hiring staff. (I watched an episode of Blackish a couple nights ago. Bear with me; it was a plotline.) It troubles me that people feel the need to hide their true selves. It’s a form of lying. Somehow, the truth will always out itself. A funny thing about lies: little white ones always grow and get color to them.
About lying about yourself: it’s often necessary to hide your diagnosis, or your race, or your nationality, etc. In order to be accepted to people who would judge you as “less.” So, maybe they’re partly responsible for people hiding themselves. Of course, I’m not placing blame on any system or person. Nobody gets away clean in the bigotry-and-hiding-cycle. The gatekeeper is a bigot; the person trying to get in is a liar. I think we may have to completely reject the whole cycle to get away from it. It is a big mess.