18 June 2013

I am not afraid.

Trigger warning: Violence, murder, mention of rape and torture, ableism, profanity.

1. Another autistic is dead, and what can I say? I'm not surprised. This is business as usual.

2. People like me are routinely murdered, raped, tortured, and abused because we've committed the unforgivable crime of inhabiting atypical bodies and minds.

3. Movement differences, communication differences, learning differences. Those of us who are disabled by our functional abilities/impairments, by perceptions of and presumptions about our bodies/minds, by our appearances, by our speech -- when we are marked as disabled, we lose the right to be afforded even bare, minimal human decency.

4. It was a strange, almost liberating feeling when I realized that I am a non-person, a sub-human suffered to live by the overwhelming generosity of abled people. I am a citizen only in the most technical legal sense.

5. I will not be entitled to zealous advocacy if I am murdered by someone responsible for supporting me.

6. I am presumed to be deficient in empathy. I find this fucking hilarious.

7. You can pass all the laws you want, and sure, that's a good start, a nice gesture, a sometimes condescending, sometimes reticent, sometimes begrudging acknowledgement that we exist. But laws won't do shit to change attitudes, to inform paradigm shifts and changes in society and culture.

Because murder is illegal.

But that doesn't stop people from murdering us.

8. Alex Spourdalakis is not dead because of abusive restraints.

(His mother and caregiver stabbed him to death.)

He is not dead because of a lack of services.

(Illinois offered services and his mother declined.)

He is not dead because his mother might have a psychiatric disability.

(She planned and executed his murder because he was autistic.)

He is not dead because being autistic can be hard.

(Autism doesn't cause death, but hatred of our kind can certainly motivate murder.)

He is not dead because he was a "burden" on his family.

(His burden was living in a home and society where his life -- instead of his murder -- can be written off as the tragedy.)

He is not dead because his family had mercy on him and wanted to end his suffering.

(Murder is no mercy, and autism is not suffering.)

9. I started to write this post and had to stop a week ago because I was fighting to keep from crying and words wouldn't fucking come. How can they say we lack empathy when every part of me, my existence, my consciousness, aches for someone I've never met?

I slipped out from the office and sat in the back of a courtroom as defense counsel questioned a prosecution expert witness in a murder trial where the defendant was using the "not guilty by reason of insanity" defense.

And all I could think about was the fact that someone who should have been part of my community was dead.


You can't take that back.

You can never, ever take that back.

It's over.

It's done.

He's dead and you murdered him.

10. Who will be next?

My heart will never stop aching, never stop breaking, never stop saying, "and there's another one gone."

11. There was another essay on another website about Alex's murder that I thought was incredibly well-written until the author declared it had to have been Dorothy Spourdalakis's "mental illness," and let me tell you, other than the murder itself, nothing has infuriated me as much as the insinuation that only mentally ill, psychiatrically disabled people commit murder.

The same sentence appears in the first chapter of The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism -- "That's not autism. That's mental illness."


Fighting ableism with ableism doesn't fucking work, and it's so ironic and hypocritical that it's almost hilarious, except that it's not and it can never be.

How can you respond to a disability hate crime with disability hate speech?

Nothing could be more disrespectful to Alex Spourdalakis, not coming from someone who in the same breath claims to fight the ableism that justifies and exculpates murderers of autistics.


12. You think you'll get tired. Where's the strength to be angry all the time? Too many fucking times, and somehow it's still rage gnawing at the ragged edge of emotion.

But mostly it's emptiness.

13. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network released a statement urging the Department of Justice to prosecute Alex's murder as a hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act.

14. I'm terrified that the onslaught will keep marching on because Alex is certainly not the first and I know, I know, I  know, he will not be the last.

15. I am not afraid to keep on living.

I am not afraid to keep on fighting.

16 June 2013

Canamica retreat open to all, but no ramps for wheelchair-user?

Canamica is a Jewish spiritual and educational retreat whose website states is "open to all." Yet when Jim Sinclair, founder of the Autism Network International, asked whether there would be ramps so xe could access the buildings that are inaccessible, xe was told by three of the organizers not to expect ramps and that xe won't be able to get into all of the buildings.

More to come later on this, as the retreat is happening now, but here are the relevant comments from a Facebook thread posted on Canamica's public page.


June 7 at 2:04pm
"The retreat is open to all." Yet a wheelchair user was told by three different retreat organizers not to expect to be able to get into the buildings. Huh?

Technically true, as all but one of the cabins is inaccessible. But we don't hold programming in the cabins--it's all in the tent, in the dining hall, in another structure the children use, or outdoors. You can expect some grass travel and uneven surfaces, but no steps.
June 7 at 3:57pm

is there any way folks can contribute so that ramp(s) can be a possibility this and any/all other years?
June 7 at 5:33pm

a little bird told me the same, about a chair user being told there's no ramp. ...which is confusing, as I'd think a community would seek to reach all of its members. Saying "except you, you broken person" is kind of...offputting. Oh and would be illegal if this wasn't a religious thing.
June 7 at 6:56pm

This same person has participated other years, in a wheel chair. What has changed? Inconvienience isnt an excuse. We disabled are not burdens. We are not too expensive. We are not the first to be thrown under the bus.
June 7 at 7:36pm

Yes, it would seem that if someone is aware of a problem with access now, I would think there would be plenty of time to remedy the situation. There are still comments hidden?!! What is that about? Also, why are non-issues being addressed in response to concerns?
Friday at 8:01am

Response from Jim (wheelchair user told not to expect ramps) to Stan's comment: There *might* have been time to remedy it, if Sara's query about how people can help had not been hidden all this final week before Canamica.
Thursday at 9:17am

There is a permanent ramp in place at the accessible cabin. All the other non-cabin buildings are step-free. The only issue is whether we get a threshhold ramp to span the (sizeable) bump at the bottom of the permanent ramp. If Sara, Jim, or anyone else would like to bring one, they would be very welcome to do so. We on the organizing committee would very much appreciate it, as this is a matter that slipped through the cracks this year.
Thursday at 4:44pm

Justine, I've unhidden Sara's note now. We do appreciate the offer of help. We don't need a full ramp, though, just a threshhold ramp. In future years this will be part of our checklist.
Thursday at 4:51pm

It seems to me that putting the burden of accessibility only onto one or two persons attending escapes the concept of accesability. Surely this matter has been known about for years. Surely there must be some way that effort and expense might be spread around the larger community? Especially with the shortness of time matter.
Thursday at 4:54pm

Sara, everything we do comes down to one or two people actually doing it. We're not a large organization. In previous years, this has been Jim's area of expertise, in the same way that the eruv is Alan's, the food is Yael's, and so forth. Like those other components, the expense comes from general revenues, which means people submit receipts and get reimbursed, but the effort, especially for this component, is pretty much a one-person job. I'm not in a position to commit to finances, but my expectation would be that if someone did make advance arrangements to bring a threshold ramp this year then we would pay them back for any costs.
Thursday at 8:55pm

Is this what has happened in previous years?
Thursday at 10:01pm

Another reply from Jim: Seriously Kivi, I am trying hard to believe this was an honest oversight and not a deliberate decision for exclusion, but credulity is being strained more and more the longer this drags on.

You've kept Sara's comment, asking how people can help you get the threshold ramps, hidden all week. Anyone who might have been able and willing to help get those ramps, had they known they were needed, wouldn't have known they were needed because the comment was hidden.

You finally unhide it this afternoon, less than an hour before close of business on the last day before Canamica begins. And then you say you'd appreciate it if someone would bring a ramp? You've effectively made it impossible for anyone to have time to make the arrangements to do so, by waiting so long--until less than an hour before close of business on the last day before Canamica begins!--to unhide the comment.

Yes, it was right for you to unhide it at last. And yes, you should also unhide the other two that have been hidden all week. You should unhide them all because that's part of honesty and transparency, and honesty  and transparency are parts of accountability, and accountability is the beginning of teshuva, and teshuva is definitely needed here.

But the deliberate actions of hiding the comments and leaving them hidden all week have eliminated all possibility of any able and willing comment-readers being able to get the ramps this year. You can't fix that. You can only quit stonewalling and make yourselves accountable for your actions. Please quit stonewalling, unhide the comments, and make yourselves accountable.
Thursday at 11:07pm

Sara, yes it is. Although the planning is usually much earlier in the process of course.
Friday at 12:54pm

Justine and Stan, please message me directly for an explanation of our posting policy.
Friday at 12:56pm

A posting policy seems like a good thing to make public on the facebook page so everybody is aware of the standards for posts.
Yesterday at 12:56am

07 June 2013

Israeli Imperialism, Palestinian Liberation, Apartheid, and Appropriation

Trigger warning: Israel, Palestine, Zionism, imperialism, racism, classism, terrorism, apartheid, South Africa, state violence.

This post is directly and unequivocally critical of the State of Israel. If that is offensive or triggering to you, you may not wish to read further. 

This post was also written after a week of training for my summer internship, so may lose coherency at some point toward the end. I'm sorry in advance if this happens. 


What do Israeli imperialism, Palestinian liberation, apartheid, and appropriation have in common?

Earlier today, I happened to see an image on Facebook displaying a message about "Israeli apartheid" in the context of discussing Israeli imperialism and Palestinian liberation.

The word "apartheid" refers to a specific state-sponsored, enacted, and enforced social policy of classism, racism, and imperialism in postcolonial South Africa wherein the privilege that white Afrikaners experienced was formally institutionalized and structured at the expense of indigenous Africans of a variety of particular ethnic groups.

The State of Israel has been responsible for many human rights atrocities through its state policies of racism and imperialism that privilege Israeli Jews (and even Israeli Arabs to some extent) at the expense of Palestinian Arabs. Israel's system of checkpoints, arbitrary mass incarceration, and state-sponsored terrorism that govern the lives of those who live in the Occupied Territories, all in the name of security for those whom the state has elected to privilege, are evidence of such interwoven oppressive systems.

Yet this is not a system of apartheid, and the use of this word to describe the brutal realities of Israeli oppression serves only to appropriate the struggle against the white Afrikaner state in South Africa as if it were the same struggle as that of the Palestinians striving for liberation from the Israeli imperialist occupation.

The conventional claims of intersectionality are often oversimplified to state that all struggles against oppression are really the same struggle. This is simply not true. Though a frequent response to accusations of ranking oppressions (otherwise known as oppression Olympics), this statement is equally flawed. While I would be hesitant to claim that the oppression any one group experiences is worse or not as bad as the oppression that any other group experiences, I would not hesitate for a moment to make the factual observation that the oppressions that different marginalized groups face are different. Queer white people do not face the same specific manifestations of oppression as Black straight people. Gay cisgender people do not face the same specific manifestations of oppression as trans* people. Disabled Christians (in a Western context) do not face the same specific manifestations of oppression as Muslim abled people. Jews pretty much everywhere in the world have experienced severe marginalization and oppression, with the exception of within the borders of the contemporary State of Israel.

If we are truly committed to translational social justice and liberation from oppressive systems, then it is imperative for us to be cognizant of the dangers of appropriation in our search for intersectional mutuality. Justice for the poor is deeply intertwined with justice for the disabled, with justice for people of color, with justice for the undocumented, with justice for those who have been queered and classed and gendered and racialized. You cannot fight for disability justice without also understanding that disabled people are disproportionately poor, that disabled people of color and disabled queers are even further subject to discrimination and disparities in healthcare and the criminal injustice system, and so on.

Similarly, I support the cause of Palestinian liberation because imperialism perpetuates oppression and destroys lives as well as the ideals of liberty, equality, and justice that so many supposedly democratic states claim (laughably) to uphold. Yet the use of the word apartheid to describe the present political status of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation does strike me as potentially quite problematic. Firstly, it is an outright inaccurate statement. Israel is not South Africa. Palestinians are not Black or African South Africans. While the state-controlled systems enforcing racism and classism in contemporary Israel and apartheid-era South Africa undoubtedly operate in frighteningly similar ways, they are simply and factually not the same. Secondly, the use of the word apartheid to describe the Israeli state repression suggests that it is acceptable for anti-oppression and anti-imperialism activism to conflate different oppressions as if they were to same -- in other words, this usage legitimizes appropriation and weakens the impact of otherwise potentially quite powerful and liberating work. 

It would be far more accurate and precise (as well as non-appropriative) simply to refer to the current state of affairs as Israeli imperialism, or Israeli occupation of Palestine, or Palestine's occupation.

01 June 2013

This isn't a joking matter.

Trigger warning:
Several mentions of the r-word and extensive use of profanity.


To the person who referred to someone as a "fucktard" in my presence last night:

When you refer to someone as a "fucktard" and I then tell you not to use that word (because "fucktard" = "fucking retard"), you do not tell me to calm down. Just accept that the word is Not Okay To Use and stop fucking using it. If you don't agree that it's inherently offensive, hurtful, oppressive, and a slur, (and fine, you can believe whatever you want to believe), then at least just stop using it out of respect for the people around you who do see it that way and who are fucking triggered by the sound of it. And don't fucking tell people to fucking calm down. (That's called tone-policing and paternalism.)

For the record, that is the SECOND time this week that someone from a progressive disability rights program has used a form of that word and given what pretty much has amounted to a perfunctory apology that I at least suspect wasn't entirely sincere. (I could be wrong about the sincerity of the apologies, but that's how they came across.) Profoundly disappointing, upsetting, and disturbing that disabled folks/people with disabilities in a progressive disability rights program apparently see no problem with using the word "retarded" and its various iterations.

This is a word that has been historically and currently used to dehumanize people with developmental, learning, and intellectual disabilities, thereby helping to shape the very attitudes that have legalized forced sterilization, involuntary and non-consensual medical "treatment," and abuse, violence, and murder. This is a word that the people whom it has been historically used to describe have unequivocally and continually condemned as unacceptable for use in any context whatsoever because of its extensive and contemporary history as a weapon.

Yet this isn't merely about a word that simply "offends" people or isn't "politically correct." This is about minimal human decency and respect for other people. This is about recognizing your individual social responsibility, and living up to your supposed commitment to social justice for disabled people. If you care about the attitudinal barriers that keep disabled people segregated in schools, unemployed, unable to access necessary supports and services, and marginalized writ large in society, then you should damn well give a fuck about the language that you use and recognize your role in passively supporting the hegemonic oppression that gives rise to these social attitudes. And then make the responsible decision and stop. Because it's the right thing to do. Because it's about respect and because it's about actually keeping the promise of fighting for a just society for all disabled people.

So no, don't you fucking tell me to calm down when that word has been used as a weapon against hundreds of people I care about and against me. You were sitting in the room this morning when I told everyone in the program how that word was used to attack me and to make me hate myself. You are also disabled. You know what it's like to be marginalized. You should know how language oppresses, how language perpetrates microaggressions and facilitates systemic oppression.

You should know better.

You know who you are.