Growing up with a verbally and physically abusive Father whose manic depression made it nearly impossible to know what was going to happen next, gave me a few different choices on what direction his behavior would influence me towards. You don't have to have a master's degree in child psychology to know that having one’s self-worth mentally and physically beaten out of them doesn’t generally lead a child on the path into becoming a well-adjusted adult. While I can happily offer up that I’ve never had any use for hurting someone physically, I do love to verbally slice up anyone who sends a zinger my way.
I guess it could be worse, as I could have continued the physical abuse cycle my Father demonstrated on his immediate family. What has kept me somewhat likeable, despite being in constant verbal joust-mode is that my Mother was the opposite of my Dad. She wanted everyone to like her. Somewhere in the middle of this is this strange dichotomy of parentage is my personality. I would diagnose myself as being aggressive/passive. I will take a shot at someone I think deserves it and then just as quickly, try to get them back on my side. It’s hard to explain, but I do know that I went into the right profession, as having this type of personality works well on the stand-up comedy stage.
I have a predilection to want to shock my audience. I am a natural contrarian, who feels uncomfortable when I’m preaching to the converted. While I’m a really even-keeled person, I do tend to have a chip on my shoulder in regards to the privileged who I don’t believe have earned their success. The reverse of this is that I have a pretty strict code on who I will attack.
My standards for who is off my comedy radar.
If you were born with some particular malady.
If you were injured in some type of accident that was no fault of your own.
The second standard is specific, as someone who is befallen when doing some dangerous activity like driving a race car or bungee jumping being fair game, according to my code. I want to make clear that while I believe political correctness is based in a nice concept, I generally hate it, as I feel it limits people discussion. Race, Gender, Sexual Preference, Body Type, etc., I see as all being potentially worthy targets, as long as the joke is based in some type of fairness.
The comedy biz is filled with performers from every type level of ability, who believe the easier the target, the better. Why is this the case? Because these comics know a certain portion of the audience embraces making fun of people who they feel superior to. I have never seen the intellectual challenge in taking on the defenseless, but there are things I say that offend others, so I try to stay out of behaving like some type of moral police.
Good enough, but what is the point behind your rant?
My 4 year-old daughter is Autistic. To the uninitiated, I have put below a basic definition of the disorder that comes from the website, Autism Speaks.
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.
Most Americans who haven't been touched by Autism know the disorder from Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man or a number of other newsmagazine pieces that demonstrate some amazing gift that an Autistic person has. It is actually a small percentage of Autistic people who exhibit some kind of a savant-like behavior (less than 10%). My daughter Madeline fits more of the typical example of an Autistic child, as she has a hard time communicating and does a moderate amount of hand-flapping and body rocking.
The emotional and fiscal challenges of having a child on the Autisitc spectrum can be exhausting, but Madeline has brought me more joy than all the other great moments in my life, combined. Unlike my natural tendencies of being guarded and cynical, waiting for the world to offer up its next haymaker to my jaw, Madeline has no malice towards anyone and only has unconditional love to offer. While others might see the trepidation she has in taking on new people and new tasks, I see a little girl who has her own rhythm to life. A rhythm that is unencumbered by the pressures that us typical people face. Madeline has given me perspective on how small slights that befall us all are pretty small in comparison to the challenges that she faces.
I blame no one for being uninformed about Autism, as I was that person just a couple years ago. While I knew by the age of 2 that she suffered from learning delays, I thought there was no way that she would be classified as Autistic. My girl laughed a lot and was affectionate to people she knew and trusted. Her sweetness was infectious to those who came in contact with her and complete strangers often commented on how beautiful she was. This was not a withdrawn child who sat in a corner. She did not spend hours just lining up blocks. The more I became informed, though, the more I realized that the Autism spectrum is much wider than I had realized. Doctors are very reticent to diagnose a child with Autism until the age of 3, as it has such a stigma to it and most parents of younger children believe their child "will grow out of it."
As much of a joy as my daughter continues to be, there is no real way for me to convey how overwhelming it is to have a child who is autistic. Since Madeline has little understanding of what can harm her, she needs constant adult supervision. Since she struggles with communication, the sense of utter helplessness overrides you when she is sick or hurt and can't tell you what is wrong. There are many other difficulties that go along with her Autism, especially meltdowns that come from seemingly nowhere. If you are interested in what it is like for a parent to have a child with Autism, I strongly recommend watching Lauren Thierry's powerful short film about the subject titled Autism Every Day.
So now we come to the word retard. In my lifetime, it has always been around, but strangely, while so many other derogatory terms have become less prevalent in most people's conversation, retard seems to currently have a free ride with most. As I mentioned before, I'm not here to tell you what or what not to say, but I do want to offer a couple points on why you might want to drop it out of your vocabulary.
While I'm not advocating using bigoted terms for people, I will mention that when these hurtful words are used directly at someone, the offended party is able to defend themselves. I know many people's defense is that when they use the word retard, they are not using it to inflict any type of pain on people who are mentally challenged. Some would offer up that the word just comes from the medical term of being mentally retarded, so what is the big deal? Once again, I'm not telling you are an evil person if you use this version of the word in your everyday speak, but you should know the pain that it brings to not only the people who are mentally challenged, but their parents as well.
Think about the staggering increase of this disorder in the U.S. 1 in 150 individuals is being diagnosed with Autism.
There is a good chance you know someone who has a family member that suffers from this disorder. Let me mention that I have never met anyone who has been impacted by Autism, who uses the term retard when discussing their child. If they say anything or not, I know that most of these parents wince when they hear the word thrown around, even it is done by someone they consider a close friend.
Take my thoughts for they are worth, but know that as much as I wish my daughter could experience many of things most of us take for granted, I wouldn't trade anything for what she has brought to my life. She makes me a better man everyday that I spend with her. I feel very lucky that she calls me her Daddy.