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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Sunday, April 06, 2008

 

Behind the Lou Dobbs Smile

Lou Dobbs made me cry.

Maybe I was more vulnerable this time. I had cancer surgery on World Autism Day. I do not have cancer, and if I did, it is most likely gone now I am not going to tell anything more about that until I finish my book, so you’ll have to wait. So excuse me for being a little emotional as I recuperate, watching re-runs from “World Autism Day,” on CNN. I was thinking about this as I as being prepped, thankful in a way that I would not be watching the TV that day -- sorry, almost, that I felt compelled to watch it afterwards, holding my wounds, the words of some of its reporters pretending to “do good” almost cutting me deeper.

"We have to do something about this ugly, ugly, ugly disease,” Lou Dobbs said emphatically, talking to Dr. Thomas Insel. That’s when my tears flowed. I imagined my Adam listening to his words flowing in between his denture-like smile, self-righteously saying that autism, my son’s way of being in the world, is ugly. Mr. Dobbs has obviously never met Adam or any other autistic adult. He cannot even fathom the joy we experience everyday when we are together (Adam and I, that is), and the utter sadness when people like Lou Dobbs goes on air to talk to millions of viewers of what he knows absolutely nothing about. Autism is so “terrible” everyone is saying, that I felt so terribly sad for all the parents out there fighting for services, for their children’s right to be valued and accepted, to be educated, and to contribute to the world. That’s our fight. It is what unites me with everyone who also loves their child and just wants them to have the best in life. It's what unites me with all the autistic adults who say the same things and are constantly ignored in favour of the parents! No, our fight is to change the education system to include all children of all kinds of learning abilities, because it is representative of the world we live in. Our fight is not to eliminate autism, because that then threatens the lives of so many people who are born with different disabilities (or who may age with them), and who cannot become a part of our world. So, I think Mr. Dobbs and CNN owe millions of us parents and autistic adults alike, an apology because,

Lou Dobbs has never seen Adam laugh so fantastically that it would make the entire world glow.

Lou Dobbs has never felt Adam’s arms wrapped around him so that everything in the world would make utter sense to him – even immigration policy.

Lou Dobbs has never received a kiss from Adam against his cheek that would make him stand up for Adam’s human right to be and live a full life as an autistic person, in an instant.

Lou Dobbs has never seen Adam laugh with his friends – something it took him a while to do, and something that one never ceases to appreciate when it happens – the true value of real friends.

Lou Dobbs has never seen Adam read Henry VIII at the age of a year old.

Lou Dobbs has never observed the interesting games that Adam is capable of creating on his own.

Lou Dobbs has never seen Adam begin to type sentences with such meaning that Lou would understand the depth of understanding of humanity that a five-year-old autistic boy can possess.

Lou Dobbs has never witnessed Adam pulling his mother and father's hands together when they are fighting.

Lou Dobbs has never seen Adam work so hard in a world that doesn't spend time to understand him, and who can also learn many things so easily in his own autistic way.

Lou Dobbs has never seen a child who wants to be so social, but who lives in a world with little patience. If Mr. Dobbs would make some time to spend with Adam, I know he would understand.

Lou Dobbs has never spoken with autistic adults who struggled against the stigma of “horror” and “ugliness” that the much of the world believes autism and disability is, and who today, can tell us all about it.

Lou Dobbs does not seem to understand the difference between challenge, struggle, sadness and joy and how we can never separate all of those human feelings. We can never make life more perfect than it already is. We can never separate the vastness of all these feelings for we would be a risk of being numb – smiling with whitened teeth without really knowing happiness at all. (Okay, I’m picking on your white teeth, Mr. Dobbs, but you have to take a little tit for tat because you hurt us so much, even if unknowingly).

No matter where you stand on spectrum of autism politics, I cannot imagine that not one parent or autistic person listening to Lou Dobbs would not want an apology. Adam has passed the television set a few times listening to these horrific reports. I’ve muted the volume. I never want him to hear anyone say that he’s ugly, or that his autism is. It is only Adam’s right to express what his autism means to him – not a non-autistic person’s. It is NOT OUR RIGHT TO JUDGE WHAT AUTISM IS OR MEANS TO AN AUTISTIC PERSON. We may relay what it means to us as parents, but that is only less than half the story. It’s time CNN put some autistic anchors on their shows about autism. It’s almost too late. CNN has made a lot of people perhaps so depressed. And it is not depressing to live with autism.

Our agenda, and the agenda of CNN (if they want to help) is diversity and inclusion. My child will give the world many gifts as many autistic adults do today – from software developers, to writers and artists --- these are things, folks, that are not trite – they are to be utterly valued as a part of who we are.

I don’t want whitened teeth and a fake smile and I'm fed up with pretty anchors on CNN. I want to see more disabled anchors -- truly representative of our world. I want to know happiness and I know it’s wrapped up in all of those complicated emotions that we all feel every day. From pain and suffering that makes the quietest joy like the faint sound of a flute playing in the dark of night. We look for those tiny lights that illuminate the meaning of life, that give us air.

I want Lou Dobbs to meet Adam. I even want to shake his hand and say thanks for the effort if he makes it at all. I want Mr. Dobbs to find out what the meaning of life is, through Adam the way I think I’ve found it with Adam and many others like him. I want CNN, if they want to “help,” to work towards a world of inclusion as the amount of disabled people, as our population survives longer and longer, will inevitably grow.

22 Comments:

Blogger Casdok said...

Beautiful tear jerking post.

Hope you are recuperating well.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Maddy said...

Unfortunately with mass media it really is a case of empty vessels making the most noise, that's the real sadness. I wonder why 'we' still have such a small voice?
Best wishes for a speedy recovery after your stint.
Cheers

12:03 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Lou Dobbs is a racist (how else to explain his aversion to and constant preverseration on brown people) and obviously a disability bigot to boot.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't want whitened teeth and a fake smile".... don't worry, it is clear to see from those pictures you posted of yourself that you already have that.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Phil Schwarz said...

I think it *would* be a good thing for Lou Dobbs to meet Adam.

So good to see you back online, and I hope the post-surgical healing goes smoothly and quickly.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

My teeth are not bleached white, but my smile is real. And I have a lot to smile about.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

Estee,

It was very touching what you wrote.
Somehow I had missed the bit with Lou Dobbs (I never watch his show). I decided to redo the beginning of one of my videos and post it on my blog. I'm just constructing it but thought I would pass it along to you.

http://www.autisticnation.com/Christschool/Home/Entries/2008/4/6_Self_Portraits_and_Self_Esteem%2C_One_Easy_One_Hard.html

4:19 PM  
Blogger kyra said...

amen, sister.

i am SO GLAD to see you posting and to know that all is well.

sending xx for your quick recuperation.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

FWIW, I think Lou Dobbs is ugly ugly ugly. Seriously, have you seen the guy? Ugly doesn't quite capture it. Ugly on the inside too.

Here's hoping for a quick recovery.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Jeni said...

It irritates my daughter (mother of two children, both autistic) and me to no end when people say things about our two little ones, even though I know they mean well, but they have no clue as to what is what with our kids or anyone else's for that matter who have autism. I'm not angry or sad that my grandchildren are autistic but I am overjoyed that they are here, hale and healthy, walking, one is talking (the 4-year-old -a mile a minute now too), both are beautiful, funny, fantastic, snugglers, cuddlers, smart and just plain wonderful. Now, where anyone could possibly see anything ugly in either of them is absolutely beyond me. And the same goes for all other children who are learning day-by-day, to bring out the best of their abilities -the very same things all other children do, just ours may have to learn those things in a different way.
Hope you heal quickly too.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Seidel said...

Oh, Estee. What a beautiful post.

I didn't see the show and I don't think I want to.

Surgery is hard. Get plenty of rest and plenty of help. Go slow.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Do'C said...

Estee, I could not agree with you more. Lou Dobbs seems like one hateful SOB. Thank you for writing this even though you may not have felt up to it.

11:36 PM  
Blogger S.L. said...

Beautiful--what you wrote. Dobbs was horrifying on "World Autism Day."

Hope your recovery goes smoothly. Take care of yourself. I have no doubt that Adam will be your best medicine, I know my little one does wonders for my spirit. Take care.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Alyric said...

Lou needs to read Adam's writing. Keep up the recovery:)

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Louise Lewis said...

Admittedly, I am rather ignorant on autism, only hearing bits and pieces about it on the news and TV talk shows... (did not see the Dobbs show.) But your post touched me and I wanted to stop by to say thank you.

You've reminded me of the very important fact that when someone (me) doesn't know first-hand about a topic, I need to just sit back, shut up, and listen and learn. (I welcome all much-needed reminders :-)

I hope you don't mind me wishing you peaceful healing.

As my simple way of 'giving back', I'd like to offer you (and all who read this) a free gift copy of my book. No strings attached... really! Just e-mail me via my site.

Again, thank you for the wonderful post.

take care,
Louise Lewis, Author
No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!
www.noexpertsneeded.com
Always Follow Spirit!

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get it.
One in fifty children suffer from trauma.
That is waaaaaaaaaay worse than autism is. Their statistic is 1 in 150.
So why isn't more attention paid to these traumatized children instead?
I don't see why he must say such things about autism.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The below are comments that where left on my videos and it a normal thing to see these. This is what all that devastation and misinformation leads too. I wish I was dead. I cant take this anymore. (no I dont want pity) I hope poor adam never heres this. Keep him off the internet so he is not treated like this. It builds up to be to much. This is what may beat down the people who try to speak up and are constantly not believed. It is much more than these comments. This week I went to New York (first time I left home without family ever) and could walk Times Square by myself. The way I dressed, the fact I cant do numbers and what kind of art I liked and my needing to call home once in a while was later pointed out as being "to dependant" Weird thing is was that it was my most independant thing I ever did. Now I know its all over. I cant fight to get out of the house and fit in to a world that only sees what they are taught on that f*cking TV. Maybe we can blame the Dobbs of the world for the misery that some live in everyday due to their misinformed crap on TV. I wonder how many people are dead today because of that. I am to upset to write a fake nice post. So sorry. I left out all the post calling me a retard. One guy spelled it wrong. lol


"you dont have autism you wouldnt be able to do this!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Nice video. But: Why is the first thing you tell us about your autism?"

"So people can feel sorry for her but I am just tired of everyone doing that..It pisses me off"

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Adi said...

I don't know what to say except...wow. thismom's son Fluffy has been blogging about when a spirit enters a baby's body and I've been thinking about how our spirits must have chosen our body and our parents and the life and space we will live in. And I can see why Adam chose you.

1:57 PM  
Blogger FinnyB said...

Thank you. As a self-diagnosed Aspie (who currently does not have either the money or the insurance to attempt obtaining a diagnosis though she badly needs one), thank you, for posting this, for loving your son, for being you. Thank you.

10:11 PM  
Blogger LAA and Family said...

I ended up not having the TV on much last Tuesday. I'm especilly glad I missed Lou Dobbs that day (my husband often watches him after work). I call him "Chicken Little," the sky is always falling according to him! Even my oldest son has joined me in calling him this.

I hope your recovery is going well!

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy Lou Dobbs is a "hype" artist and reminds me of Goebbels and his propoganda -- everything is wrong and yet he has no solutions other than rabble rousing. He could be dangerous.

Anonymous

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi,
i always thought of lou dobbs as the quintiessential ne plus ultra wasp.well lou you pull a fast one on
me.i very disappointed in you,that as a jew you would spew such hatred for individuals of a somewhat darker hue
than you.whatever happen to tikkun olam.may hashem have mercy on you.x

10:34 AM  

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