Monday, 21 November 2016

Autism is the Reason I Abuse You

Trigger Warning - Ableist Abuse, Domestic Violence


In order to make my point, I need to include a Facebook post that set me off along my current train of thought:


This post uses a key tool in the cycle of abuse to explain the post-election online environment. I got out of an abusive relationship ten years ago. It seemed to be something I'd put in the past, but the American election cycle has dredged up a lot of the worst feelings. A couple of blog articles, and this Facebook post, have given me clarity concerning why this is happening.

One blog post I am going to refer to has the repugnant title of Psychopathy of Asperger's Syndrome by a woman named Adelyn Birch. If you follow the link to her blog, titled Psychopathy & Love, you will have a strong inclination to speak your mind to her. I strongly recommend you ignore this impulse. From what you are going to read below, you will clearly see she is an abusive person. The fact remains, she is also the victim of physical abuse. She clearly has not dealt with it in a healthy manner. There is no point in letting her make you the target of her abuse. I will still provide the link, so you can verify the validity of my quotes.

The link is as follows: http://psychopathsandlove.com/psychopathy-or-aspergers-syndrome/

Here are some of the more disgusting things the article said. They are VERY UPSETTING and will be the most disturbing for people with Autism:


"...if you get involved in a relationship with an "Aspie", as they're called, you will get hurt. Badly."



"...a key feature of their disorder is the inability to understand their disorder."



"Aspies are very similar to sociopaths, with the most obvious exception being that sociopaths are socially charming and aspies are socially awkward. Despite the lack of empathy, one of the core traits of a sociopath, aspies are treated as totally legitimate in our society."



"...get it tattooed on your f**cking head or whatever, I don't care what you do, just stick with your own kind and stop destroying people!!!"

"...life's too short to deal with assholes, no matter what their hangup is... Just because you clueless dumbasses don't mean to hurt someone, doesn't mean that you don't."

"...go back to tracking weather statistics... stick with your own kind is all I'm saying."



From personal experience, there are plenty of Neurotypical people who physically abuse their spouses. When it comes to people on the Autism Spectrum, they are more likely to be the victims of such abuse than the perpetrators. From personal experience once again, if a person on the Autism Spectrum is abused in such a way, it is very likely they will have their autism used as justification for the assaults by their abuser. If there are many differences between an abuser and the person they victimize, the abuser will use these as "justification" for their actions. The same is true in reverse. For example, a person might latch on to their abuser being of a different religion or culture as the reason for their abusive behavior.

The next blog I want to address is not vitreous in its viewpoint in quite the same way, but I felt just as victimized. The name of this blog is Asperger's Wives Need Understanding. The link is as follows: http://karinfriedemann.blogspot.ca/2009/12/aspergers-syndrome-wives-need.html?m=1

I am going to list words/sentences/phrases she uses that were insulting/infantalizing/incorrect: 
  • "High-Functioning" - People really need to quit using this. In my experience it is used to silence people on one end of the spectrum by suggesting they aren't quite "autistic enough" to have the right to talk about autism. It is also used to suggest that people on the other end are incapable of having opinions worth listening to, and gives permission for people to feel free to speak for them. 
  • "Notable lack of common sense" - Have you watched Youtube?
  • "Brain disorders" - While not technically incorrect, in context of everything else, it really bothers me.
  • "More common in men" - Nope. It is more diagnosed in men. Research is trying to draw attention to ways autism looks different in men than women, but even this is too simplistic. What about people who describe their gender and sexual identities outside of straight, male, and female? 
  • "The shortcomings of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have been camouflaged beneath layers of coping strategies and defense mechanisms." - Yes, people on the Autism Spectrum have coping strategies and defense mechanism. Seeing these described as ways to camouflage our shortcomings made me throw-up in my mouth just a little. Our strategies often are the result of years of torture through Applied Behavior Analysis techniques or simply having to live with the hypocrisy and double-standards of a society that lays the blame at our feet for any social interaction we're involved in going sour.
  • Behavior comes off as "odd" or "eccentric" but is "passable" because they offer something special to society in the way of specialized skills or intelligence - This attitude is the bane of marginalized groups. It isn't enough for a person of color to be good at their job. They have to be the best. It isn't enough for a person with Autism to be gainfully employed. If they are anything less than extraordinary, someone is going to call them a "burden to society". I recently wrote a blog about how terrifying the word "burden" is for people with disabilities. If you want to read it, click on this link: https://t.co/wLCLsvOqBl
  • "Appears normal" - The context of this was that her friends see her spouse as "normal", so they don't understand her "suffering" and won't give her the sympathy when she expresses these thoughts. She says this leaves her "isolated".
  • "Spouses play an abnormally large caregiver role" - She says that her spouse doesn't do his share of chores and isn't emotionally available. Right, because that is something no spouse of a Neurotypical man has ever accused her husband of. My sister is married to a man who does no chores. He doesn't even do the things that are typically considered "man's work". In his opinion, he goes out to work and everything at home is her job. The really crappy part of all that is he gets days off and holidays. She never does. She also doesn't have a quitting time, unless you count the moment her head hits the pillow. Chances are she won't ever get to retire from what he considers her job, where he will. My ex-husband was completely irresponsible in every aspect of life. I was the only reason we ever had food on the table, bills paid, and a roof over our heads. I am autistic and he is Neurotypical.
  • "Although people with Asperger’s Syndrome do feel affection towards others, relationships are not a priority for them in the same way that it is for people who do not have Asperger’s Syndrome." - I can't help thinking of the Doctor who asked my cousin if she cares about other people, and what they think of her. When she answered that she does, he told her this is proof she isn't really autistic. Jackass. In my experience, we spend so much time thinking about relationships and interactions, we wind ourselves up into big balls of anxiety. Sometimes we have to walk away from it just to be able to get our minds and bodies straight again. 
  • "Afflicted" - Ugh. It's like she thinks we are diseased. Gross. 
  • Lack of Empathy - In my experience, which is increasingly being reflected in research, many people on the Autism Spectrum are Hyper-Empathetic. They feel responsible for the whole damn world, which often is why people with autism are left-leaning and social justice activists. We feel people's emotions like a physical assault. 
  • In many cases, the Asperger partner analyzed the partner prior to marriage and assessed them as being capable of filling a compensatory role for his own deficits. - This sentence is so repulsive, I feel like it speaks for itself. She goes on to say the non-Asperger partner takes on the role of a personal assistant in a business relationship rather than a marriage. She also says this spouse will feel betrayed by not having their expectations of a mutual/equal relationship met.
  • "Sacrifice" - It ranks right up there with "burden" on the obnoxious word list for people with disabilities. 
  • "Flexibility is exploited" - Got to love that language of the person with Autism abusing the Neurotypical person. It is rich language coming from someone who is writing about her husband this way. She goes on to talk about these things damaging the Neurotypical partner's self-esteem. Seriously? You wrote THIS BLOG about your spouse and you want to talk about your self-esteem and empathy?
  • Suggests the Neurotypical partner evaluate whether there is enough value in the marriage to continue, while also suggesting they keep all their financial affairs separate. I would love to suggest to her husband that he do the same. 

The comment page for this blog was full of people thanking her for such an enlightening article, and for affirming what they'd been feeling. I wonder if this woman knows how many people in bad marriages try to armchair diagnose their "difficult" spouses so they can blame everything wrong in the marriage on them. When she suggests an undiagnosed person will resist diagnosis, she is basically giving people permission to harass their spouse to get a diagnosis (which they'll use to explain everything that goes wrong in their life). There were comments that mirrored a tamed down version of the first blog referenced (Pychopathy & Love). At least one of the anonymous commenters could have been the author of that blog. Equally disturbing was at least one person with Autism accepting what was said, and believing she must be unfit for a romantic relationship.

So what does all of this have to do with each other? How do the Facebook posts and blogs relate to each other? 

Jeremy McLellan says that an abused person is ultimately blamed for their own abuse. Everything they do and say is used as proof. Everything they fail to do or say is also used as evidence. 

Both these blogs do exactly this, from completely different perspectives. The first is a woman who suffered physical abuse and chooses to blame it on the fact her abuser was on the Autism Spectrum. People on the Autism Spectrum are far more likely to be victims of abuse. I used myself as an example to demonstrate what Jeremy McLellan describes as the "feedback loop". Everything I did or didn't do was used as an excuse to beat me. I would never suggest the woman who wrote the first blog deserved to be beat. That is not my intention. I am saying that her spouse beating her had nothing to do with him being Autistic. My Autism also had nothing to do with why my ex-husband beat me. He did that because he was a raging asshole. 

The second blogger says she loves her partner and plans to remain with him, yet she wrote all those horrible things about him. She seems to blame everything in her marriage on Autism, and the feedback loop says that there is nothing he can ever do to change that. Since she has decided it's acceptable to blame everything on Autism, she will more than likely keep doing it, sepecially under stress. That is the phenomena Jeremy McLellan describes in a nutshell.




I want to loop back around to Adelyn Birch's blog (Psychopathy & Love). In the process of making sure the link I was providing was still valid, I discovered she has doubled down on her toxic opinions since the first time I came across her blog. She is bound and determined to prove that ALL people with autism have ZERO empathy. Her efforts so strongly prove my position, I thought I should include some of her points to demonstrate this:

She starts by quoting David Finch, from his book called Love is Blind - Marriage is the Eye-Opener. Why does she use this quote? Hint: David Finch is autistic and he blames this fact for the destruction of his marriage.

She repeatedly writes about how "they" try to censor her. "They" stalk her online. It is depressing to see somone who believes they know so much about people on the spectrum,  but fails to understand we are not a homogenous group. The disability community has intersectionality of race, religion, language, culture, nationality, socio-economic background, gender etc. She boasts about writing 200 posts about people with psychopathy over the course of three years, and says none of "them" have responded in the way people with autism have. Hmmmm...I wonder why? Could it be that people who are psychopathic are vilified in ways she couldn't imagine? Could it be they are unwilling to interact with someone will either dismiss everything they say, or use it as evidence of their point? They might be afraid of what could happen to their lives if they speak out.

Adelyn says nothing she has written is libelous, and is protected under free speech. Free speech might give you the right to say it. It doesn't protect you from backlash. People have the right to respond.

For this next point, I am going to use a direct quote because it so precisely demonstrates the position I am arguing:
"Now if you do a Google search on "Asperger's and Empathy", you'll see something strickingly at odds with that fact (the "fact" she refers to her is that people with autism have ZERO EMPATHY) - you'll find an endless stream of links to articles claiming "not only do Aspies have empathy, we have much more of it than neurotypicals!" All these articles are written by Aspies themselves, and they should know, right? Don't believe it for a moment! Remember what I said above - a key feature of their disorder is the inability to understand their disorder.  

She goes on to clarify her opinion that an autistic person's self-assessment of being empathetic can't be trusted unless it is verified by non-autistic people in their life. This is the feedback loop - the very act of claiming to have empathy is proof you do not have empathy.                            

She really loves to quote Simon Baron-Cohen to prove her points. He suggests a better source for accurate information about whether a person with autism is empathic is to talk to the people around them. He encourages people not to trust the self-assessment of autistic people when it comes to empathy.


To demonstrate Adelyn has a CONFIRMATION BIAS, and to strengthen my point about FEEDBACK LOOPS, I made she same Google seach she mentioned (Autism and Empathy).

Here are a few of the articles I found:

People with Autism can Read Emotions, Feel Empathy by Rebecca Brewer, Lecturer at University of East London and Jennifer Murphy, Graduate Student at King's College
https://spectrumnews.org/opinion/viewpoint/people-with-autism-can-read-emotions-feel-empathy/

We May Have Been Wrong About Autism and Empathy by Carolyn Gregoire, Senior Writer at Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/autism-empathy-brain-research_us_56f92575e4b014d3fe237413

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are Empathic by the Universiteit Leiden
http://news.leiden.edu/news-2015/children-with-autism-spectrum-disorder-are-empathetic.html

A Radical New Autism Theory by Maia Szalavitz
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/05/11/a-radical-new-autism-theory.html

There are lots more out there. Adelyn wants to find evidence to prove her assertion, so she does. She actually does say the fact that these kinds of articles concede most autistic people don't know how to respond or act on their empathy, therefore it isn't real. Sure. And that must also be true because you say so. People with autism do act upon feelings of empathy. That is why there are so many social justice activists who are autistic. It's why there are so many philanthropists who are autistic. It is why there are so many artists and writers who are autistic. Individuals might not always respond exactly the way YOU think they should. From personal experience, I have seen what some of those behaviors are worth. There are lots of people who smile when expected, hug, and give sympathetic pats; all while actively doing things to hurt the people around them because they are different.

For example, I bet Adelyn Birch responds in all the expected ways. She does that but also writes this article and at least 200 more about people with other mental illnesses and disabilities.

The people she quotes (Simon Baron-Cohen being an example) have made careers of saying what she wants to hear. These scholars might eventually adapt their thinking, but it seems unlikely Adelyn ever will. She lived with one man who was both autistic and abusive. It proves one man with autism is abusive. By her logic, all non-autistic men lack empathy and are abusive because my ex-husband was.

If you have scholarly articles about new research being done concerning autism and empathy, PLEASE LEAVE LINKS IN THE COMMENT SECTION.




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Friday, 18 November 2016

Burden - A Heavily Loaded Word

My post today will refer to conversations that occurred via Twitter on November 16th and 17th, 2016. The conversations involved Michael Grant, author of the Gone series, and the portrayal of autism in this series. It was a deeply upsetting set of tweets, made worse by the sense that he seemed determined to portray the things being said as unfounded attacks based on manufactured outrage. Once the review by Corinne Duyvis was tagged to him ( https://t.co/uKgOpzkzZG ) , Michael Grant seemed to pivot.

Authors often avoid reading reviews, so it is very likely he never saw Corinne Duyvis's thorough and thoughtful piece. It can also be difficult to take in everything being said on social media when it happens quickly and in volume. At such times, one should choose to inform people you are listening, then stay silent for awhile.

Michael has responded to Corinne Duyvis's three year old review ( https://t.co/ZCrUHmoy4M ) so he seems to be listening now.

Concerning the portrayal of autism in the Gone series, I will direct you to Corinne Duyvis's review that I have linked above. It is fair, balanced, and there isn't a thing I could add to it.

I want to talk more about the word "burden" when it comes to disability. The Twitter discussion mentioned above rotated around a woman telling Michael Grant that her autistic son read the first two books of the Gone series, and asked her if he is a burden. Michael Grant responded by asking the woman if she told him the truth or lied. This came off as him suggesting that telling the boy he isn't a burden would be a lie. Michael followed up by saying it was a meant as a joke. He says it wasn't meant to imply autistic children in particular are burdens, but that children in general are burdens by nature.

Any writer as prolific as Michael Grant must understand the importance of words, both in connotation and denotation. The denotation of the word "burden" is onerous without even considering the connotation: A burden makes life difficult for the person who shoulders it, with very little resulting reward.

The connotation of this word for people with disabilities is much worse. It carries the weight of THEIR EXISTENCE BEING A BURDEN. People with disabilities are widely portrayed as burdens in all forms of media (books, television, news articles etc)

Consider the movie/book Me Before You. The entire plot hinges on the idea that the disabled character's life is a nightmare, and he's a burden to the non-disabled people around him. The marketing for the movie included the ironic slogan "Live Boldly". The disabled character was left out of that slogan. In fact, his death by assisted suicide and subsequent willing of a substantial amount of money to the female main character is the reason she is able to do all the things he previously explained was evidence of living boldly. None of these things included dealing with his depression and learning to live with a disability.

Consider the way journalists report on the murder of disabled people. There isn't a week that goes by where I don't read of another disabled person murdered by a family member/caregiver. The articles and news segments reporting on these events almost always include the idea that the murderer was devoted to the disabled person, and burdened by them. The language of the articles tends to forgive the murderer before they've come close to facing consequences. It also blames the victim for their own death. If their existence wasn't such a burden, it wouldn't have been necessary to murder them.

Consider the rate at which people with non-terminal conditions that are not causing them chronic pain are using the option of Assisted Suicide in countries where it is legal. There are people with autism being convinced to end their lives by Assisted Suicide, because they are too much of a burden for their caregivers.

Consider the narrative created by Autism Speaks, the organization which supposedly represents people with autism. One of their propaganda pieces included an on camera interview with one of their board members. She sat with her autistic child and told the story of the day she had planned to commit murder/suicide. Her autistic child was right next to her as she explained the only reason she didn't drive off the bridge that day was the thought of how much her non-autistic child would suffer.

Autism Speaks loves to center parents in their narrative. They use fear-mongering and tragedy as a tool for fundraising. How many of you haven't read an article about the depression caused by having an autistic child, or that they will destroy your marriage and ruin your life? How many haven't heard autistic people described as tsunamis and epidemics. You realize that both those things kill thousands of people and ruin lives?

Michael Grant admits in his response to Corinne's review that he did very little research on autism before he included an autistic character. Her review more than amply proves that the result of his lack of research was to reinforce some of the most toxic characterizations of autism: tragedy, pitiable, nightmare, painful etc.

Michael wrote more than one book in this series, with this same narrative. The damage is done. One of his fans pointed out that his opinion of people with autism is greatly improved since reading these books. Is that what we should be focused upon? Should we consider it a win that a person who previously was very ignorant of autism is slightly less so after reading these books?

This entire conversation started when a woman pointed out her actually autistic child read this book and saw his most deeply seeded fears confirmed: He is a burden.

We should not be centering the perspectives of non-autistic people over autistic people when it comes to this aspect of the Gone series.

Michael Grant's flippant response (at best) demonstrates that he doesn't have any appreciation for how deep the fear of being seen as a burden runs in people with disabilities. He doesn't understand how it pushes disabled people to suicide, or keeps them in perpetual fear someone will one day try to kill them in order to relieve the world of the burden of their life. If he doesn't understand these things, is he the correct person to be writing such a character?

I want to add that Michael Grant also suggested that the fact the boy could consider whether his life was a burden and express the thought means he must not be very autistic. Wow. So if a person with autism can speak for themselves, you think they aren't autistic enough to have a debate with you on the merits of your representation of autism? This isn't alright. It is more evidence you probably weren't the best person for writing such a character.

If you want to read some of my thoughts on this, as expressed on Twitter, please click on the links below.

https://twitter.com/RachelDRainey/status/799009524367560704

https://twitter.com/RachelDRainey/status/799346845365342208


I also want to say that as an autistic single mother, this economy has been hard on me. I am struggling with an unexpected expense right now. They are the worse kinds to have on such a tight income. If you have the ability to share my link or help with my fundraiser, it would be appreciated. 

https://twitter.com/RachelDRainey/status/791724733284831232


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

It's This or Nothing

I recently had a dust-up with a fellow person on the autism spectrum over the film called The Accountant. This person feels people on the spectrum should stop whining, because we will scare away creative people producing content about us. This is a disturbing train of thought on a few levels.

My response is that it's equivalent to saying, "It's this or nothing. Smile and say thank you."

Where would we be if people of color took every insult Hollywood has slung at them without criticism? Or if the LGBTQIA community turned aside and said, "Maybe in the next movie/book the one gay character won't be killed off."

So why are people with disabilities expected to be grateful  Hollywood and the publishing industry are making movies and books about us, regardless of how bad the representation is?

The problematic elements of The Accountant are made worse by marketing designed to discredit criticism as whining. The film is called an "honest portrayal of autism". They invoke the name of Autism Speaks to prove their point. Here's the problem: Most people who are actually autistic consider Autism Speaks to be a damaging organization unrepresentative of our concerns.

I expanded upon the reasons for this in another blog entry: http://racheldrainey.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-accountant-problematic-autism.html?spref=tw

They also said there will be people who find fault with everything, invalidating criticism of actually autistic people before they even had a chance to make it. Trust me, there are things to criticize about The Accountant.

The father tortures his son in order to keep him from being a victim. His basic definition for what makes a person a victim seems to be admitting having disability and making adjustments to accommodate disability. He subjects his son to forceful and relentless over-stimulation with the idea it will desensitize him. Now that his father is gone, Christian Wollf self-inflicts his father's torture regiment. Apparently what his father did doesn't qualify him as a victim of torture if he keeps doing it to himself.

This torture is made more disturbing by the fact it's what his father chose instead of the traditional treatment of autism, and it actually manages to be a worse option. The traditional approach is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This treatment springs from the same roots as Conversion Therapy, which most reasonable people consider torture. Dog trainers who previously used methods based on ABA have decided it's  inappropriate treatment of dogs.

I will repeat: One of the current primary treatments for autism is considered torture when used to try to force LGBTQIA people to be straight, and is considered cruel to use on dogs.

This movie relies on tired and inaccurate stereotypes. Christian Wollf has a flat expression most of the film. He's a mathematical savant, despite the fact that savant syndrome is actually very rare among people with autism. In my experience, it is more common for people on the spectrum to struggle with visualizing numbers, making basic mental math a challenge.

One of the most troubling stereotypes relied upon is that Christian lacks empathy. This seems to allow him to shoot people in the head with little remorse or hesitation.

Autistic people are already widely labelled as psychopaths, so this is a dangerous stereotype to perpetuate. The Kansas City Star published a movie review by Robert Butler for the film. It reinforced all the most dangerous perceptions of people with autism. Do people not understand the target this kind of representation puts on our backs?

The first thing I did this morning was read an article about two autistic children murdered by their parents (murder-suicide). There isn't a week that goes by that I don't read a story about a person with a disability being murdered by their care-giver or parent. We are far more likely to be the victims of murder than to be murderers. Having a movie plot focus around a man who's an awesome vigilante killer because autism makes him remorseless COULD GET US KILLED.

One more aspect I want to address is the romance. The team behind The Accountant have proudly pointed to this being an atypical action movie because the main character doesn't get the girl. That might be an interesting twist with a non-disabled character. Disabled characters rarely get to have sex in movies and books, so it is just more of the same in this case. If Christian and Dana had ended up in a romantic relationship with hot sex, I might have taken points off my shit list for this film.

Am I whining by bringing up these things? Will creative types run away screaming from the idea of writing characters with disabilities because we insist on asking them to do better?

Here are some better questions: Do people with disabilities need non-disabled people to write stories about us? Do we need non-disabled actors to take roles of disabled characters? Do we need non-disabled directors to frame our stories on film? Do we need non-disabled writers to publish books with disabled main characters?

The short answer for all of these questions--- NO

If Hollywood wants to show they give a damn about people with disabilities, they should allow opportunities for us to tell our own stories.

If the publishing industry wants to show they give a damn about people with disabilities they should publish more OWN STORIES.

If all the people at every level of these industries want to show they support people with disabilities, they should stop stealing our work.

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Monday, 10 October 2016

The Accountant - Problematic Imagery



I should start by making clear that I'm all for Hollywood making movies with autistic characters, especially if they aren't focused around being autistic. Everything I am going to say might sound like I am demanding too much. I believe that we have to keep pushing for better, or things never change.

It's hard to imagine many people have seen the commercials for The Accountant without immediately realizing the main character is autistic, even though they don't say it. The reason people know he's on the autism spectrum is because of the pervasive imagery. The picture I pasted is a small example.

This same imagery is making it very hard for me to get behind this film.

The puzzle piece imagery has been made famous by Autism Speaks, which many autistic people feel is a hate group. Since some people might consider questioning this organization as hate speech on my part, I will give a little window into some of the reasons people with autism don't want Autism Speaks to speak for them.

I will start with the puzzle piece imagery. Many people are under the impression that the imagery represents people coming in all shapes and sizes, but that we fit together as a society. It doesn't take many Autism Speaks based articles to realize the message is entirely different. It is focused on the missing pieces, as displayed behind Mr. Ben Affleck.

The pervasive message Autism Speaks sends into the world is that people on the spectrum are puzzles with missing pieces; incomplete and less than fully formed. It is dehumanizing.

How would you feel if you kept seeing a commercial for a movie with imagery that makes you feel less than human?

There are so many things I could say about Autism Speaks to make my point, but it gets exhausting. I will try to limit my points.

In one of Autism Speaks most prominent fundraising videos, an executive with the organization talked about how she almost drove off the George Washington bridge with her autistic child. She says the thing that stopped her was thinking about the pain her non-autistic child would suffer. While giving this video-taped interview, her autistic child was sitting right next to her. She treated her like a piece of furniture.

Autism Speaks shames celebrities and companies into supporting them. They spend a huge portion of their budget creating the impression they are THE ORGANIZATION for autism awareness and support. In reality, they pull funds away from locally based organizations and give almost no support in return. Only 4% of funds donated to Autism Speaks make it back to services and supports for autistic people/families.

A huge portion of the funds donated to Autism Speaks are spent in perpetuating the idea that we are objects of pity and fear. We are called "tsunamis" and "epidemics". We are blamed for destroying marriages. Since a huge portion of their funds come from the anti-vaccination movement, fear of vaccinations has been promoted by the organization. We have been demonized as part of a process of giving the FALSE impression autism rates are increasing, in order to bolster the stance of the anti-vaccination movement. Thanks to their efforts, many diseases are making a resurgence. Thanks to their rhetoric, the parents of one little Albertan boy didn't take him to a doctor as he took two weeks to die of meningitis, because they didn't believe in pharmacology.

Nothing About Us, Without Us

Except the name "Autism Speaks" accurately describes how they treat autistic people.

Autism Speaks 

FOR US
OVER US
INSTEAD OF US

They encourage the toxic divisions of "high" and "low" functioning. Since governmental funding is limited, and Autism Speaks don't contribute any funds to actually helping us, some parents see every person like myself as a threat to funding for their child. I might take money that would be better spent on their child. The result is that people like me get told to sit down and shut up by parents of "low functioning" children. If we can speak or write, we are treated as not autistic enough to have a right to use either to advocate, because we are pulling focus.

Educate yourselves. Research. Try to understand why the imagery pervasive in commercials for The Accountant are so upsetting for autistic people to view.

Here are ways The Accountant could start to make things better: Remove the puzzle piece imagery from commercials, posters, and trailers.

Here are ways HOLLYWOOD can do better:

Autistic/Disabled writers
Autistic/Disabled actors
Autistic/Disabled directors
Autistic/Disabled crew

You get the direction I am going? If you want to help us, employ us.


If you have found value in my blog, consider helping me make a dent in this bill that I am struggling to pay down. I appreciate any help, even if it is in the form of sharing the link. Thank you. 

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Friday, 12 August 2016

There's Only Bad - #WaywardPines #S2

This Blog Post Contains Spoilers For Season Two of Wayward Pines

Dystopia explores what if scenarios where the most unpleasant outcomes for certain courses of action become a reality. They are designed as a warning: Continue down this path and this could be where we end up. When I consume this genre, in whatever medium it appears, I remind myself that one person's dytopia is another person's reality or past. 

It bothers me that so many people see the concept of triggering as something to be made fun of. They see it as the product of being precious - too sensitive for the world we live in. When you decide to mock someone this way, ask yourself if you have experienced sexual assault. Have you been called a cluck or a cunt by some raving misogynist? Has someone targeted you for doing something they don't like by sending you thousands of pictures of apes, and calling you one? Has someone told you to just get over it when your painful history comes up, while they whine about first-world problems like bad wifi or the absence of pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks? Have you ever had to live with the knowledge that a group everyone thinks of as representing people like yourself are actually a hate group trying to wipe people like you away from the Earth? 

I am starting to wonder if coming from a marginalized group should be a minimum requirement for writing dystopia. Themes of rape, abuse, slavery, genocide, eugenics, ableism, misogyny, and racism are so prevalent in the genre that I can't imagine someone who hasn't experienced any of these could write it in a powerful way. 

Last night I finished watching Season Two of Wayward Pines. If the goal of this season was to leave the viewer nauseated, they accomplished it. It was like watching a depiction of colonization from the perspective of the colonizer, and being encouraged to think of them as the hero. This might have been a choice made to give the counter-narrative more power. I sure hope that is the case, because the alternative is disturbing. 

Humans destroy Earth as we know it. One man foresees all of it, and sets in motion a plan that includes stockpiles in a mountain fortress and cryogenically frozen people. His plan works, except the mutations in humans he predicted did not wipe out humanity as he believed they would. His group comes out into the world and sees the site for their new Eden occupied by a new variety of humans. The creator of the plan immediately labels them Abbies (for Abnormal) and declares them to be animals. They start gunning them down to make way for their Mayberry of the future. 

Except Mayberry is one messed up place. First of all, the creator of the town could have chosen the population to create equality in diversity. Instead, he chose to make Wayward Pines dominated by white people. Another problem is that the residents of the town can't go against the powers-that-be in any way, or they will be reckoned. Reckoning can be slicing their throats in the town square, shooting them, or hanging. The point is, they are very much dead at the end of it. 

Why would people go against authority if they know this will be the punishment? Hmmm. It could be the forced breeding program where girls as young as eleven are forced to conceive the old fashioned way. Maybe it's because they are assigned spouses and occupations that they have no say in. Maybe it's that you can be killed for being homosexual. There are so many options to choose from. 

So, the original creator of the town is murdered by his sister. This promotes a teenager to the position of leading this community; humanity's last hope. His intelligent and ambitious partner seems more suited to leadership in every way, but she has a womb, so she needs to focus her energy on breeding. Of course, the ugly secret is that her vagina produced some of the scariest situations in Wayward Pines. She was cryogenically frozen days after giving birth. Her infant son was also frozen, but he was unfrozen years earlier than her and raised in Wayward Pines. The creator of the community hid their relationship in their official files. The son is now the asshole despotic leader of Wayward Pines, and has no idea he's married to his momma. The creator of the town had such a god-complex, he didn't  consider the possibility he wouldn't be around to make sure this didn't accidentally happen. 

Asshole teenage despot finds out he's been sleeping with his mom for a couple years and he tries to kill her. She beats him to the punch. Only afterwards does she discover their relationship (cue the vomiting). 

This puts the good Doctor in charge of deciding which half of the population gets to go back into the cryogenic chambers. Why do they need to do this? Well, the native people want their land back and Wayward Pines is out of food. The population of the town has grown, and some of the chambers were damaged, so not everyone will fit. 

Not to worry. Asshole teenage despot already made decisions on who should go. The good Doctor can just use his system. It's based on leaving behind defectives, but time is running out and the Doctor has to do something. 

One of the saddest moments in the finale is when NOT WHITE CHILD watches the non-defectives being led into the mountain and asks GAY CHILD , "What's wrong with us?" 

I'm already exhausted, and I haven't even reached the part where the good Doctor plans a genocide in order to secure the future of humanity. 

He records himself laying out his plan: He's going to inject himself with three deadly and contagious diseases, wait out the incubation period, and deliver himself up for consumption by the natives. The diseases will spread like wild-fire, leaving an Abbie free world for real humans when they next exit the cryogenic chambers. 

In his explanation, the Doctor says, "There is no greater good. There's only good."

Nope. There's also bad, and our version of humanity is falling on the bad side in all of this. 

Of course, now we're supposed to feel sorry about the sacrifice the Doctor is going to make. After all, he's the hero of this story. 

No worries. He's rescued by the girl who feels she's had more than her share of second chances, all of which have gone wrong. It doesn't go much more wrong than accidentally sleeping with your son. She injects herself with the diseases. 

I guess this is the part where we are supposed to feel relieved. 

She goes off to die, the ones left behind in the town wait to be eaten, and the chosen half go into the cryogenic chambers to wait out the genocide of the Abbies. 

There is one moment near the end where the caretaker of all of the chambers is imagining his dead wife talking to him. She tells him he has the power to create any future he wants. For that brief moment, it looks like he might sabotage the chambers and rid Earth of our version of humanity. It only lasts a moment, then he walks into his chamber with a hopeful expression. 

I don't think I've ever watched a program where I felt there were no heroes at the end. I got to the end of Season Two of Wayward Pines and thought to myself: There's not greater good. There's only bad, and lots of it. 

The only way I'm going to be happy with season three is the diseases didn't have enough time to incubate, or the mutations in the native population make them impervious. I want to see the real humans wake up to find the Abbies stronger than ever. I have a gut feeling stronger than ever will be presented as technologically advanced. The humans left behind technology Margaret (the Abbie leader) is more than capable of learning from. In this dystopic future, humanity has already proven technology doesn't equal strength, so that's not really a good thing.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Where's the Canadian Social Safety Net When We Need It?

I promised my sister I would post this letter for her. Most of you reading this won't be residents of the area we live in Canada, but I think it's helpful to try empathizing with real people hurt by the economy. I've seen people being glib, because of the environmental issues involved. I've seen people act like the people who are hurting deserve what they get. My sister and her family are struggling. Everyone I know are struggling. I'm right there with them, barely keeping my head above the water. When times are good, we pay out the nose into the social safety net. We help support programs, and we expect the system to be there to help catch us if we fall. 

Please make this post go viral. Our government should not be allowed to do this to its taxpayers legally. They should be made to be accountable.

It's with a heavy heart that I write this. As many other families in the oil and gas industry have already been forced to, we have found ourselves in need of applying for Employment Insurance. Up until now, I have been doing a great job keeping employment in this recession. Following Christmas, I found myself in need of EI a few weeks at a time. It was only ever for a few weeks between jobs, and never for more that two checks in a row. I've been able to find enough short-term positions to keep afloat. I've always prided myself in being a great provider for my family. 

I found a job in Edmonton, but we live near Lloydminster. I was told the job was going to last about a month, and would offer six days a week and 12 hours days. I took the position, even though it offered challenges since it wasn't a camp job. It meant having to pay a mortgage at home, and room and board in Edmonton. It was short term and lots of hours, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get some more money in the bank and try to get out of the hole. 

This was not the case. The first week at this job was as they had advertised - 6 days/12hours a day. However, that quickly changed. Week two I was told my days were being cut to 5 days a week and 10 hour days. I was not happy but had no choice but to stick it out. By weeks four and five my days were cut to 4 days a week and 10 hour days, weather permitting. In actuality, I was getting around 35 hours a week. This may have been alright for a  person who was from Edmonton, but I was still paying a mortgage three hours away.  I was now trying to pay all the bills for home, as well as $600 in rent in Edmonton and living expenses, all on 35 hour a week income. 

I asked my employer for a lay off several times throughout the weeks, but they refused, even though the job was originally only supposed to last a month. They did not live up to their word, but I'd already lived up to mine and should have been given a layoff. I was going into the hole quickly, not even being able to afford to eat anymore or pay my rent in the city. I was forced to quit, and had to borrow gas money just to make it home. 

I started the job hunt immediately and applied for EI. Yesterday, I received a call back from a man from the EI offices to inform me my claim was being denied. I was shocked, and asked him how they could do this. I have paid into the system at one of the highest taxable percentages for 18 years. I have never used it for more than one month at a time, except for when I went to school for my welding and electrical training. 

The man I spoke to told me I can't expect Canadians to pay for me to sit at home when I had a job. I explained to him that the job  was 450 kilometers from my home, I had to pay rent/food/gas to be there, and I was still supporting a household near Lloydminster that includes a wife and two children. I explained how the hours and days were cut back to the point that it did not qualify as full-time. I couldn't afford the rent to continue living there. I didn't even have enough money to eat. 

This man told me I should have been happy to have a job at all, and my lifestyle would need to be reigned in. That's pretty presumptuous. My mortgage is $1200 a month, including land taxes. I have no credit cards, I have no car payments or loans, I have not had telvision or internet in months, and our phones are about to be cut off. That makes finding a job almost impossible, but I can't afford the bills. We have not been living a lavish life. We have been doing what we need to survive. This man told me I should apply for welfare, because I wasn't going to get any money from them.


So today I am going into the welfare office. After 18 years working in Canada, paying into the EI system at one of the highest rates possible, I'm being forced to go beg for welfare. Last year alone I paid $23000 in taxes.No matter how demeaning, I will do what I have to in order to support my family. Today I am ashamed, but it isn't myself I am ashamed of.  I am ashamed to be Canadian today. In all my 35 years, I've always been a proud Canadian, but I can't be when my country turns it's back on me after all the years I've paid into our social safety net.  

I feel like I should have the option to withhold my EI contributions on my paycheques from now on. If they are going to turn me away when I need it the most, what's the point of paying into the system? 

I have been applying for any jobs in Lloydminster area, whether in my trade or not. Unfortunately, most jobs won't even look at me because I'm overqualified.

I am putting this out there as a desperate plea: 

If anyone knows of a job that will hire me or my wife, please let me know. I am a journeyman red seal welder with all positions FCAW/SMAW and my initial B Pressure. I have 20 years experience in this area but I'm willing to do anything! I have all safety tickets. My wife was a sandblaster by trade, before having our kids, and has been a cleaner for the past couple years. She is also willing to do anything. Please if you know someone looking to hire or if you are looking to hire let me know. Thank you

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Ignoring the Murder of Disabled People is the Norm of our Society

On July 30, 2016 I quoted someone's Tweet in a post, and ended up blocked by them after being told I'd completely missed the point.

This conversation centered around Japanese government officials failing to visit a residential facility for disabled people in Sagamihara, where a recent mass killing took place. My comment was that the failure to visit the facility in the wake of the attack is a reflection a society failure to pay attention to the murder of disabled people. Many people don't want to admit some part of themselves agrees with the way the killer thinks; that disabled people should just disappear.

I will admit that the person I quoted is living in Japan, and perhaps even directly related to the tragedy. My words might have come off as a direct attack on Japanese governmental officials, and their country as a whole. That was not my intention.

My intention was to spread my judgement to a wider audience than just Japanese people. To be specific, I meant to comment on every country in the world. I meant to apply my words to people of every race, religion, and political affiliation.

The person I quoted seems to believe the following things, none of which are true:
a) I'm American  b) I'm a supporter of Trump  c) I'm isolating my criticism to Japan

Disability is inter-sectional, and so is my criticism.

If you believe prejudice against people with disabilities is isolated to Trump supporters, you are living in a dream world. The woman who many people are considering throwing their vote to in the upcoming American elections, Jill Stein, has referred to autism as a disease which is at epidemic proportions. She has discussed how it didn't exist at these levels in the past.

The link to the Elle magazine interview I am referring to is below:

https://t.co/KEpM7XACYn

That is factually incorrect, and promotes the party line of Autism Speaks, which most autistic people consider to be a hate group. Jill Stein's attitude pathologizes people, many of whom would not choose to be anything other than autistic.

Moving beyond politicians, there is the representation of disability in the media to consider. Recent protests of a movie adaptation of a book, Me Before You, is a good example of deeply entrenched prejudices and stereotypes. The book was written by JoJo Moyes, who openly admits she never met a paralyzed person before writing her book. She explains her process writing the books as involving caring for someone with limited mobility and health problems, and wondering what their quality of life was really was.

Many people who love the book try to dismiss the protests as "Right to Life" proponents trying to force their ideals upon everyone around them. They ignore the fact that you could skip reading the ending of the book and still feel the value of your life as a disabled person is under attack. They patently ignore protesters who say they agree with assisted suicide, but feel it can't be implemented without risking society's most vulnerable sector being bullied and shamed into choosing the option. Considering how many disabled people have commented that when they protested the movie, fans told them they should kill themselves and save taxpayers money, it isn't that hard to understand why they'd feel this was a foregone conclusion.

We need to burn away the use of "Mercy Killing" from our vocabulary. There are people in pain, who are going to die and want to do it with dignity. I would never want to dismiss their experiences or their suffering. To suggest everyone living with disability and pain would rather be dead is a concept that needs to be scoured from our society.

Disabled people are killed in greater numbers than almost any other segment of the populations of every country of the world. Their murderers are often given sympathy for what they've done, and even praise. Rarely are they expected to face consequences for their actions. The consequences I faced for accidentally driving uninsured in Alberta, Canada have legitimately been more severe than two cases involving such deaths that I noted in great frustration.

I doubt you will have the stomach to read the whole list I am linking below. If you do, I want you to ask yourself if any of the murders listed sound like a mercy. Ask yourself if you really believe the killers saw the inside of a jail, because I can tell you that many of them did not.

https://t.co/hZZv8NsgjU