Thursday, November 26, 2015

Autistic Thanksgiving (kind of) after Twenty-Six Years of Life

Today is my twenty-sixth Thanksgiving, and, while I am grateful for the great things in my life everyday, I will say that I am also grateful for being able to join my dad and grandparents after work at Buca di Beppo (Italian restaurant), enjoying bread sticks with olive oil and particularly saucy hot pizza, and finishing it off with canoli sticks. Sometimes that interaction-despite knowing the tragic Native American side of the story of this day-allowed me to gleam more of who I am and why I am grateful for what I have and what is in my life. Sometimes (as I know all too well as an autistic activist), you will run into the most narcissistic people; people who revel in what they've been through and reach the conclusion that the world revolves around them, and their sufferings and experiences are more important than anyone else's in their lives (autistic and a woman has been called a double disability, as has being from other marginalized backgrounds). But as I indulged in banter with my family, I thought "People on this earth have gone through everything they did, and are alive after all that." I (have known) some of the happiest people in the world who are not alive after split-second car wrecks, terminal illnesses, and other misfortunes that can happen to anyone (including me). As I thought this, I also realized "Whatever some people have survived, be it true or not, they might not have lasted if they had lived in someone else's shoes." I know I have lived in mine, and nobody can judge better than I would who could have survived this life that has made me happier than ever. I am a small town autistic Buddhist with a passion for environmentalism and Lord of the Rings fandom. As I learned when I moved away from city life and spent the next four years in Warrensburg, Missouri, small towns are extremely barren for autistic individuals, in terms of services, basic understanding, and outlets for cultural expressions. Occassionally you will see "discussion" on autism, but it tends to be shallow, gimmicky, neurotypical-led advertising where the host group accrues great financial benefits while belittling grass roots autistic work. In Buddhist circles meanwhile, I find even there I can feel alone and marginalized as a non-neurotypical individual. This has even led to misunderstandings and the unfortunate burning of bridges with many NT Buddhist friends (though thankfully none at the Pathless Land or JCCC's SGI chapter). While many NT Buddhists are rejected by their conservative Christian parents, I find myself rebuffed by my fellow co-religionists. I find myself grateful that I can do my morning meditation every day with my homemade altar and still refuse to honk angrily at some driver ahead of me inside his SUV. Buddhist culture is not something people automatically grasp or accept in small towns in Missouri either, and it took months before I thought rationally enough to stop concealing my Buddhist practice from my roommate and best friend from junior college. As for small town life, I am reminded everyday that these areas hardly seem to be on the radar of everyday autistic rights activists and well-known individuals. They have grown up in cities, filled their shelves with participation trophies, devoid of post-secondary education in history, government, sociology, and anthropology, and away from the poverty of Warrensburg that enables a culture of "trigger-warnings," allowing student voices equipped with twenty-year old computer knowledge engaged in academic and departmental debates to win by default and become experts in their field of study. For me, I created all evidence of autistic culture in my life from scratch-markers, embroidery floss, pencils, candy wrappers, old CDs, paper and ink-to the point where I suddenly realize what a fellow autistic friend from Central Missouri meant about autistic cultures when she said, "Rural Missouri is where it's at." I thought about the culture of Central Missouri, and realized it is the perfect training ground for autistic rights activists, a hostile climate to provide the growth-giving hardships that soldiers are well beyond knowing. There are no safe zones, no trigger warnings, and the vast majority of your activism better be off-line because this town is too close and full of things going on for people to search the internet until they find your results. Sometimes I fear for the autistic rights movement because I know the young people who it will soon be shaped by are being raised under a coddling culture, which would never have allowed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks to openly defy the white government at all costs. I am grateful that I have still been able to believe in such a cause because I have done it in such a hostile environment before and will undoubtedly do it again many, many times. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

5 Drawings: In Honor of Autistic History Month

For many autistics around the world, November is Autistic History Month ("because we need to know our history"-in the words of Kate Gladstone, see here), and in honor of this month, I've taken some drawings I've done recently to honor it.

I used this as my Facebook profile picture a few months ago.  It, of course, refers to autistic's tendency to stim (flapping hands, rocking, etc.)

Like the crests used by ancient Scottish clans, this represents the autistic world as one big human family (if not one where people fight with each other and don't talk for months) with five colors commonly associated with autistic rights organizations-gold (for which we have the chemical symbol Au, the first two letters of Autistic), red, taupe, orange, and purple, and five common autistic symbols-the butterfly, a flower, infinity sign, and a heart, along with the slogan of the Disability Rights Movement and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network "Nothing About Us Without Us."  This was also another profile picture.

Another profile picture, my likeness drawn in the four main autistic colors-gold, red, taupe, and orange.

This one's pretty self-explanatory.  It got many likes and a share from a mother of an autistic child who I am a Facebook friend of, saying alongwith it, "My son is not a puzzle piece."
In light of the recent attacks in Paris, I saw profile pictures going around of the French flag with a puzzle piece inside.  I liked the idea, but decided to change it to the autistic infinity symbol (as the puzzle piece is very disliked by proud autistics like myself to represent them).

The University of Central Missouri mascot with the rainbow infinity inside it.  Another profile picture of mine.
My latest Facebook cover photo, a charm necklace (that exists only in my head) of an autistic Buddhist, Johnson County Community College, UCM, University of Missouri Kansas City student, environmentalist, Tolkien fan.
There is also of course the newest picture for The Autist Dharma.  For more of my drawings, you can see my post from last April here.  Stay tuned.  I'll have some digital art work and multimedia pieces to share with you in honor of this month.  Good night.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Belated Veteran's Day Post

Since Veteran's Day is today (or yesterday, but I copied and pasted this from Facebook, fifteen minutes late after my computer lost power), at work we were giving free slices of pie to people to had served in our military. I would go back, getting apple, cherry, peach, and every other kind. At one point, a man said he wanted pecan, and it turned out we were out, but I brought four different kinds of slices and told him to choose whichever kind he wanted, and we kept those up for other veterans, though I kept going back to get more. I realized that giving them the pies wasn't so much a way of thanking them as doing it with so much care and respect. Now I honestly wanted to thank them as my coworkers were doing, but saying, "Thank you for your service," like they did just seemed off to me, and I found myself saying, "Thank you for everything." I realized, a great deal of veterans do not feel like they gave service though I do myself. What I will insist they gave was sacrifice. Service and sacrifice. The difference is subtle, yet profound. I also remembered hearing on the break room TV news sixty-five veterans committing suicide every day, and I know that people who commit suicide, or attempt to go about doing so, are not simply selfish. They believe there is no place for them in this world, which would be better off without them. Yet how can we call someone offer their lives for ourselves (on founded fears or not) selfish? We know that veteran benefits are being cut every day, and the transition to civilian life is complicated and overwhelming. Soldiers are trained to spot enemies, not friends. Soldiers come back having served in our country, sometimes on the basis of ill-founded politicians, and find themselves homeless and starving sometimes, and called lazy and selfish by people wearing yellow ribbons when they ask for the amount of money to buy a soda. The way they served their country is now virtually impossible in civilian life. Some have seen their friends die in combat to save their lives, and wonder why they are still alive. They cannot support their loved ones with the same modes that they have now that many of them are disabled. They know and hate that they have taken x amount of lives, regardless of how many they saved in comparison. The truth is, politicians grow to see soldier's lives as expendable, when they are actually inevitable risks. I hope though, that we will do more than just elect the politicians who will value soldiers lives to never be gambled for unfounded puropses; I hope we create a culture where these politicians will never happen period. This is far more than about any political party, philosophy, religious belief, or ideology. It is about the differences between false performances and genuine ones. Having Veteran's Day parades, tying yellow ribbons, and giving out one hundred free pies is not a enough to show respect. If you vilify a veteran trying their only way to get money, think you cannot extent government funds to help our soldiers readjust, and think you have any notion in mind as to how these people should be a veteran, please do not say you support the troops, because you do not.