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.


  1. and it is the same thing for me the word disabled mean something to all of us people are able to do things if you don't dis them and yet in every culture and color and every single background that you have is beautiful to us and yet I am a native as well I am part cherokee indian myself and yet many people from different groups of indians needs help and special needs people my biggest role model from the past is Martin Luther King JR and for a female role model is Rosa parks we don't need people who hurt's others especially who is hostile and killing people we need people who love us for who we are in return