Sunday, October 29, 2006

On Infallable Victims

Ann Coulter did it to the Jersey Girls. Rush did it to Michael J Fox. It's a tried and true tactic, not only do they blame the victim and blatantly call them liars(and tell lies about them), they completely shred the victim's experience and discount it. And for some fucked up reason,it works,at least enough to plant seeds of doubt.

While victims of any tragedy are not infallable,their perceptions and experiences are indeed of worth. While not perfect,those who have gone through trauma and lived to tell the tale are indeed among the first people we should listen to. Who better to tell you what something feels like than one who has had that experience? Would you see a podiatrist for a brain tumor? Of course not,you'd want someone who had actually had the experience and treated brain tumors,or you would if you had any sense at all. Wingnuts and authoratarian bootlickers have no concept of cause and effect,which if you think about it,makes them especially NOT qualified to run their yaps. This is especially glaring in these troubled times with them giving military advice and warmongering when they haven't spent one second in uniform.

Coulter,in her attacks on the Jersey Girls,made up some nonsense about their husbands getting ready to divorce them anyway. She said those men's deaths were a delight for those widows who are now rich as a result of their speaking out and demanding answers. This is coming from someone who has never married or been in a long term relationship with anyone,who has never had a hand in raising a family. Coulter lost NOTHING on 9/11. I'd go as far as to say that Coulter is the one who got rich off 9/11,using it as a springboard to write more books,make more TV experiences, find more paid speaking gigs, she,who lost nothing in the wake of 9/11. Except some more of her mind that is.

If you've never been in a car accident,you can't know what it's like.

If you've never cooked a gourmet meal,you can't tell a gourmet chef they're doing it wrong.

If you've never raised a child you cannot tell someone else how. Ok,you can,but any parent with half a brain would tell you to STFU.

If you've never worked on cars, you'd be the last person anyone would take auto repair advice from.

Experiences matter. The people who have those experiences matter even more.

This sort of dismissal happens to poor people alot in our country. People who have never been poor pontificate and cluck at great length about what causes poverty,how to fix it(or really,how to blame the poor and not lift a finger to solve the problems that allow poverty to flourish. If we had the political and national will to end poverty we could. The answers are right under our noses.), and of course there's the old"just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and shut up". Which would be fine if you had boots. But what if you have no boots,no way to get boots,and no way to get to the boot seller? And if you've never been poor,don't talk to poor people and do nothing to help them,how in the hell are you qualified to "solve" that problem? The short answer is,you're not. And this is the heart of many problems this Nation has,not just poverty.

Our schools are a mess,but does anyone ever ask the kids,their parents and the teachers what sort of things might work to fix what's broken? Nope. Instead,school systems hire "consultants"who rarely if ever have set foot in a public school classroom,at least not since they were kids. Many of these folks spent their school years in private schools, explain to me how the hell THAT makes any sense. Is it any wonder then,that by the time kids reach middle school that many of them are bored out of their ever loving minds?

When civic leaders talk about "cleaning up" a particular area of their city(code for the ghetto),do they enter those communities and talk to the people who live there? Do they ask the people living hand to mouth in those places what would make their lives better? Not so much.

Consider the plethora of child rearing"experts" in the marketplace today. It's rare to hear any one ask them what credentials they have,besides some sort of degree. Yes,an education is important,but so are the experiences of mothers and fathers and families and children. They live this stuff,every single day. I'd trust an experienced,successful mother's advice over a self proclaimed expert any day of the week.

As many of you know,I have an autistic child. We're lucky,my son has defied the odds and is not the "average" one thinks of when the word "autism" is used. When he was much younger,I knew something was wrong,but had no idea that's what I was dealing with. And so began a LONG journey to various doctors,psychiatrists,psychologists,neurologists,speech therapists,physical therapists,and hundreds of hours of my own research into autism. Had I listened to all those experts and discounted my own experiences,here's a small sampling of what might have been:

1) Insitutionalizing my child. I was told he'd never speak,read,or write. The most I could hope for was a silent child incapable of love or emotion. So,"to be fair to him" I should lock him away in a mental institution.

2)Medicating my child. With the anti-schizophrenic drug Risperdal. To be fair,some severely autistic children have used this drug with success,but in my son's case,the autism is not that severe,and the use of this drug would have harmed him. This diagnosis came after 20 minutes in a psychiatrist's office,on the first(and in this case,last.And this woman charges 250 dollars an hour for her "expertise"AND she doesn't take insurance)visit. I also had to deal with an idiotic elementary school principal who tried like hell for three years to badger me into putting my son on Ritalin(our pediatrician,who gives out Ritalin like candy,told me this drug in particular would most likely result in my son becoming violent and hyperactive and he would not prescribe it to him). I finally stomped into her office one afternoon and told her if she didn't knock it the fuck off I was going to an attorney and the local media. Which wouldn't have been pretty considering her hubby works as an executive for Big Pharma. The subject never came up again. I often wonder how many parents she bullied into medicating children who didn't need to be.

3)Placing my son in a school for the mentally retarded. My son is not mentally retarded,he's autistic. Big difference. Needless to say,I walked out of that particular specialist's office while he was in mid sentence. If anything,had I listened to this guy,my son would have not recieved what he needed to learn,because he's not mentally retarded.

My final encounter with"specialists" happened when my son was about to enter second grade. On the way into the office,my son looked up at me and asked,"Mommy,am I going to die?Am I sick?". I told him no,but his brain works different than most people's and we just needed to find out the best way to work with that. He replied"well,I HATE these dumb doctors,because they talk about me like I'm not even there,and treat me like I'm sick.I'm not sick,I'm not stupid,and I hate them". We never made it out of the parking lot,we turned around and went home. I realized that I had made a big error, I had not asked my son what he needed,what his world looked like,how he felt and how he saw and experienced things. In my quest to do the best thing I could for him,I had left him out of the process entirely. The progress made after that day was amazing,and while we have many miles to go, I realized ALL the progress we had made since he was born came from my research,my trial and error,my work with him on his speech and language skills,my 24/7 presence and my relentless search for answers. It wasn't the experts,it was me and my son,hand in hand walking through this wilderness alone that did it. Today he's an avid reader,talks a mile a minute,is a budding artist,and extremely bright and outgoing. He lags behind his peers socially and emotionally,but other than that,you can't even tell he's autistic unless you spend alot of time with him. That's no accident,it was work and years of uphill struggle. And my work pales in comparison to his. He's one of the bravest kids I know,and it's me who is blessed by his presence,not the other way around. Being his Mother is not my right,it's a privledge and a commitment.

So,while I may not be infallable(nor is my son),that does not,in any way invalidate our experiences. I'd also never in a million years presume I could tell any parent of an autistic child what they should do because every autistic person is different. But what I can offer is our personal experience,our insight,as part of the big picture. Infallable? Oh hell no,but valid? You bet your ass it is. And I'll be happy to kick ass and take names with anyone who dares to dismiss my journey who has never been there and never will be.

Fuck anyone who thinks otherwise.

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