Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
So there’s this kid in a local town around here who has Asperger’s. Apparently he invited a bunch of people to his birthday and nobody came. So someone- his mother, I think- got on social media and asked people to send him birthday wishes.
It’s turned into a meme. Everyone’s sending him happy, affirming messages. Even Justin Trudeau. And I just saw a Facebook post which makes it look like approximately a hundred thousand people showed up to have a birthday party for this kid.
I would really like to feel good about this. I would like for this to reaffirm my faith in humanity.
But here’s the thing: where are these people going to be tomorrow? They’re not going to stay in this kid’s life, they’re not going to make any future effort to support him. They’re not his friends.
It seems like people believe that the problems in this kid’s life- maybe the problem of Asperger’s, period- has been solved through warm wishes.
And maybe people feel like they aren’t responsible for anything more than that. What can we do, right?
Well, what about yesterday? What about all the events, large and small, which led to nobody coming to this kid’s birthday? Why did that happen?
It’s because of the way society imagines disability. It’s because the kids he invited thought of disability as unwanted, undesirable, and repulsive. It’s because the kids he invited- and their parents, I’m guessing- are profoundly lacking in empathy.
This is a society-wide problem. I know this, because this is not the first time something like this has happened. I can recall several other instances where disabled children received birthday parties or birthday cards through social media. Where do you think those kids are today? What do you think their next birthdays were like? How many people do you think showed up then?
The way that society imagines and deals with disability is fucked up and toxic, and we’re all a part of society. All that society is, is us. So if there’s a problem with how things are run, well, we can do something about it. Not only that, but we’re the only ones who can.
I’ve noticed many times that people like to take the easy way out when it comes to addressing serious problems. There are “awareness campaigns” for various disabilities. You and I both know I’m retarded, so would someone have the decency to explain to me what the fuck an awareness campaign is? I’m pretty sure most people know by now that autism is a thing, and that A.L.S. is bad.
How many people watched those ice bucket challenge videos last year? Altogether, cumulatively, how many people participated in that campaign in some way? I know that there was a boost in donations to the organization, but I’m betting it was in no way proportionate to the sheer number of people who simply enjoyed watching their friends get doused with ice.
The ice bucket challenge came and went, and I guess they must have cured A.L.S., because I haven’t heard anything about it since then.
Now people are trying to launch an autism awareness equivalent to the ice bucket challenge, and I’m not even going to say what the name of the campaign is, because I don’t want to accidentally support these idiots.
Here’s something to be aware of: if we don’t make an effort to be more empathetic and accepting of different cultures and different ways of being, then the problem of autism is never going to change. If we don’t teach our children empathy, then these problems aren’t going to go away. We have to constantly question ideas about disability.
Because the problem of autism is not autism itself. It’s all those kids out there sitting by themselves at lunch, or waiting for birthday guests who never show up, or getting beaten up after school.
The problem is isolation from society, which is caused by society, and we are society.
So let’s try to make a real difference and challenge the things that disability means to us. Awareness is a neverending process, not a goal.