Thursday, October 16, 2008

Does This Offend You? (#17)

"There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can't compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks ... to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don't give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you - yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both."

Because that text from Denis Leary's soon-to-be-released book, 'Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid,' sure offended the autism community.

Wrote one commenter on an autism website, "For Dennis Leary to make such a comment (even in jest) is sick ... I think these comments have the potential to ruin his career." Others called Leary stupid, ignorant, moronic and even an asshole. Though the weight of that last descriptor is mitigated by the fact that Leary previously applied that label to himself. In a satirical way, that is.

Which is exactly how Leary's autism comments should be viewed, not as a hateful or ill-informed commentary on parents of children with autism but, rather, as satire. Taken in context (which, in fairness to those who say they've been offended, is a bit difficult at this point since Leary's book won't be published until next month), it seems Leary's comments were meant to show the irony in trying to explain away less than perfect, but perfectly normal, behavior with diagnostic labels.

Mind you, I think ADHD would have illustrated this point 100 times better than autism. Nevertheless, Leary's underlying message is right on target.

Think about it. Half the kids in America, and increasingly their parents, too, are popping Ritalin and other (legal) mind-altering substances to treat symptoms like making careless mistakes in schoolwork or work; not following through on instructions; being forgetful; or talking excessively -- hallmarks of ADHD that many people exhibit to some extent. So, how is it that these symptoms were hardly ever considered a disorder just a few decades ago? Did numerous people fail in life because their inattentiveness and distractability went undiagnosed? I think not. Most sucked it up and learned to deal with their shortcomings instead of relying on labels and pills to get them through.

That is something we do far too little of today. If that offends you perhaps you have obsessive offendability disorder.

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