Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shocking Words

In a certain sense I of course agree with the many responses given to my recent post that expressed extreme displeasure with that post's choice of words. The use of words such as “cure” and “eradication” to describe individuals and their characteristics is always offensive, insulting, and inexcusable. Count me as guilty. Express your outrage. It's a reasonable thing to do.

But of course I did not choose either those words or the target of those words idly. Ms. Stagliano, her supporters and Autism Speaks all routinely employ words such as “cure” and “eradication” to describe autistic individuals and their characteristics, and the application of those words against autistic individuals is no less offensive, insulting and outrageous than in any other instance. I only wish that those who are so quick to take umbrage at my remarks about Ms. Stagliano would be as equally quick to take umbrage when she and others apply such terms to autistic individuals. If that were to happen more frequently, I would gladly accept any humbling that is my due.

It is interesting to note that a similar course of events has already played out for the most part in the homosexual community. Forty to fifty years ago it was a routine practice to describe homosexuals as in need of a cure and to target their characteristics for eradication. Homosexual individuals quite rightly took offense to such terms and ideas, fought long and hard to overcome them, and today such phrases and efforts have all but disappeared from the culture. The few holdouts who continue to spew mindless invective against homosexuality are now widely recognized as being bigoted and narrow-minded; they are actively spoken out against, they are no longer tacitly approved. (And if someone were to suggest to these homophobic individuals that they were the ones in need of a cure and it was their intolerance that was in need of eradication, you can be sure it would be they and their supporters who would be the first to holler about being insulted and offended.)

If one wants to be treated with respect and dignity, then the place to begin is by treating others with respect and dignity—all others. This is a lesson the autism advocacy community is badly in need of learning, because the number one issue facing that community is its ongoing lack of respect and understanding for autistic individuals. The whole point of my original post was to impress upon the members of that community their need to treat autistic individuals with more acceptance and to see the situation more often from the perspective of autistic individuals. My rhetoric might seem a little too shocking and harsh at times, but if this culture is ever going to rise to the level of treating its autistic members with the dignity and respect they deserve, the autism advocacy community is going to have to be disturbed out of its currently offensive, insulting, and mindless ways. Maybe I go too far at times, but sometimes it's of more value to be a prod than to be polite.


Norton Gunthorpe said...

Ms Stagliano's claim to have been giving her children Boyd Hayley's OSR #1 (An untested industrial chelator) is something that in the UK would probably enough to get the children placed Social Service's 'At Risk' register.

Her championing of Andrew Wakefield and promotion of any and every quack treatment for Autism is quite degenerate.

She certainly has some cognitive distortions that puts her and her band of mothers beyond the realms of the world the rest of us live in.

Let's try and avoid her dragging us down to her level.

jonathan said...

Alan, when Kim Stagliano wishes to cure her daugher and eradicate autism. She merely wants her child not to have a crippling disability that will prevent her from making a living, finding a mate and being able to function in the world and be able to do all the activities someone like yourself takes for granted. my dictionary refers cure as restoring to health soundness or normalcy. Autism is a health problem and not a difference no matter how much spin you want to put on it.

When people talk about eradicating autism they are not talking about killing autistic people any more than someone who wishes to eradicate poverty wants to kill poor people.

In the context you used eradication you implied that Ms. Stagliano should be murdered, only because she wishes to help her daughter live a better life or has an idea that you don't happen to agree with. Sort of like what Hitler did during world war II. This is why people took offense.

I take offense at you comparing my condition to homosexuality. Whether or not homosexuality is abnormal or just an alternative life-style, it is not a disability that impairs the individual the way that autism does.

Therein lies the difference.

Alan Griswold said...


I understand your concern about the comparison of autism to homosexuality, but you are conveniently ignoring the historical context. Fifty years ago it was routine for people to describe homosexuality as a disability, an impairment, an illness, one that required serious intervention to return the person to health, soundness and normalcy—the exact same terms you (and others) currently use to describe autism. In the case of homosexuality, we no longer speak and think that way—in fact, it now sounds downright ridiculous.

So how certain are you in describing autism as a crippling disability, one that impairs the individual and prevents that person from living effectively in the world. Are you as certain as the people who routinely employed those phrases in describing homosexuality a mere half century ago?

It's also interesting that you color Ms. Stagliano's use of “cure” and “eradicate” as a well-intentioned effort to help her daughter and other autistic individuals, while you paint my use of those words as a call for murder, worthy of a comparison to Hitler. That's the thing I always notice when people employ such terms as “cure” and “eradicate” against others and their characteristics: the people using those words always have some nuanced explanation justifying the words for that particular occasion, whereas for the targets of those words, all the nuance disappears.

jonathan said...

Alan, I have lived with this defect in my brain for more than five decades. You have not for one day, so i can be far more certain than you, yes. Comparing eroticism for someone of the same sex to someone who cannot speak, bangs their head against the wall, can't work, find a significant other, has handwriting impairments and phobias and uncontrollable self stimulatory behaviors is absurd. I don't see how else your comments about Ms. Stagliano can be construed. Apparently from looking at the comments in the thread and post on autismjabberwocky apparently 28 others agree with my interpretation.