Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Crane Poole and Schmidt and Neurodiversity

Jerry was back in Boston for the second week in a row, this time defending a sorority accused of kicking out members for "social awkwardness". Last week, Espenson had struggled with his new found "persona", a wooden-cigarette-chomping blustering a-hole capable of holding his own against opposing counsel Alan Shore. In the end, he pocketed the prop and delivered an eloquent closing as his charmingly autistic self.

This week, he only flirted with the idea of morphing into SuperJerry, maintaining his Aspieness throughout the episode. He argued that as a social club, the sorority had every right to reject those it found to be lacking in sociability. He added that the student had learned a valuable lesson regarding life's unfairness and the penalty she'd have to pay for having a perceived disability. He pointed to the cruel remarks made by his own colleagues who had recently used his diagnosis against him in attempts to undermine his confidence. These he painted as incidents of cruelty executed by basically kind and moral people in times of weakness, the sort of unfortunate thing one must expect to encounter in a flawed society.

I hadn't planned anything specific for Blogging Against Disablism Day, but the questions addressed by the show seem fitting as well as tying in with some of the arguments I've been running through my head this week. One has to do with conflicts between professional and personal responsibilities and has so many components it will require a full post to scratch the surface. Best to let that wait until after finals week.

The other one I will mention here is partially an offshoot from a discussion on Whose Planet Is It Anyway re: Hillary Clinton. I had remarked there that I suspect Clinton is oblivious to the facts, but probably not ill intentioned. Two points in the reply from abfh gave me the opportunity to reflect on the basic concept of intention and how much weight it deserves compared with place of importance I tend to grant it.

The first point was that in her position, Clinton should know better than to spread harmful propaganda and make such ridiculous statements as she has about eliminating "anything along the autistic spectrum". I agree absolutely with this; every senator and representative must accept the responsibility for critical thinking and information gathering. Certainly, one who aspires to the presidency must recognize that the current discussion of autism goes far beyond the surface picture and the concerns of the organized and monied faction seeking to force its own agenda. It's not like she doesn't have plenty of staff to assist with this gathering and thinking.

Yet we are still a small voice among many louder ones. There are a number of autistics working hard to spread the message that the popular War on Autism is more properly seen as the promotion of not only institutionalized discrimination, but potentially, genocide as well. Abfh's second point was about the evils done historically by persons who just "didn't know any better" than to follow the lead of a charismatic but depraved figure. One has to wonder how the course of history might have been changed had an equally strong and articulate voice of reason been able to intervene.

How can we become that voice against the rising fanaticism surrounding this issue? How can we best demand the attention of mainstream media to the cause of autistic human rights? The internet is a powerful tool and there are many powerful writers and thinkers on the Hub and elsewhere. I believe in blogging as a medium for spreading ideas. I see it as a necessary but not sufficient action to write about injustice as well as about my daily life in the context of being "differently brained".

When I find myself wondering what more I can do, I think about the other "isms" still plaguing society. Every minority movement has had to begin with waking the twin sleeping giants of denial and ignorance. Sometimes that means jumping up and down on their heads, knowing how cranky giants can be when roused from a deep sleep. As an "out of the closet" autistic, I know what I am risking. There are consequences and there will be more repercussions to come. I know what it feels like to be swatted down by people with "good intentions" but without an active interest in and commitment to learning the truth.

These consequences, however real, must be measured against the cost of invisibility and silence. The person who cannot hide, who cannot "pass" will always pay the price. The price must therefore be lowered through the participation of some of us who have at times the choice to "play the part" of neurotypical.

Sometimes, when I catch myself doing it, I think about Jerry, far from the ideal role model, but a visible Aspie at least. I picture myself at those times with a goofy wooden cigarette between my lips. Spit it out, I say to myself. If I say it out loud and twice, so much the better. I'm an Aspie and sometimes that's what I do that's what I do so deal with it.

The longer the giants sleep, the bigger they get. Let's make some noise.


  1. Every minority movement has had to begin with waking the twin sleeping giants of denial and ignorance. Sometimes that means jumping up and down on their heads, knowing how cranky giants can be when roused from a deep sleep.

    Great image! Now I'm picturing Jack (of the beanstalk story) pelting the giants with handfuls of dried beans.

    Is Jerry starting to become more realistic and less like an Amos-n-Andy caricature, with scripts that give some actual thought to disability issues? I haven't been watching Boston Legal because I was so disgusted with their stereotyping of autistics as irrational and violent...

  2. Yes, that incident with the cake knife, that was really stupid, but in the context of BL, no more "out there" than the types of troubles the NTs there bring upon themselves. I totally understand why some autistics object to the portrayal of Jerry as stereotypical. I think it doesn't so much offend me because he has so many of the traits I have. Like I wrote in an earlier post, we don't all act like Jerry, but some of us (myself included) kind of do.

    Several of the episodes this season have dealt with the discrimination he faces and have done a pretty good job of that I think.

  3. You know, I identify with Jerry because of that "persona" thing he adopted. I spent quite a lot of time honing a caricature of myself that resulted generally in me making an ass of myself.

    Funny thing (and forgive me if I missed this mentioned elsewhere), but I recently discovered that on The Practice, of which Boston Legal is evidently a spinoff (yeah; I'm sure that's "duh" news, but gimme a break; I don't have a TV anymore), the actor who plays Jerry played a "creepy" murderer type. Not the same character, obviously, but it's still kinda bothersome that the guy who's type-cast for an Aspie is also type-cast for a sicko. Hmm.

    A number of other atypical characters, now, especially Bethany, are doing a fairly decent job of asserting themselves . . .

  4. . . . though at the same time I could argue that the "pushy little person" stereotype has been plenty "done" . . .

  5. I kinda like Bones' portrayal of an Aspie.


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