I wasn’t sure if I would even write this entry at all, or what shape it would take if I did write it, until earlier this morning. Honestly, while we will surely be participating in lighting our house blue during the month of April for Autism Awareness, I was not sure that our constant calls to action were being heard by too many people at all. Yes, some friends and family have been on board, and Amber and I really appreciate their participation and support of Kaitlyn, but I guess maybe I had hoped to reach strangers. It turns out, I just might have. And even if it is only one, that is a start. I was checking my Twitter feed this morning, when someone who follows me (and who I now follow) inquired as to whether or not our Capitol building would be blue again this year; I told her that I was not sure, but that I would try to find out.
Last year, the Light It Up Blue event in front of our Capitol building seemingly came together at the last minute. I only found out about it the day of the event, and I think that is true for the few other people who showed up as well. While we were proud to be there, and we have a copy of the proclamation on our wall at home, Amber and I both wished there had been more people there. Amber started a Facebook campaign to help drive people to petition the White House to participate, and we have gotten quite a few “likes” on the page.
I could not find any information as to what Florida was doing, so I did what any motivated caregiver/dad would do. I started making phone calls. Since our state’s CFO, Jeff Atwater, attended the event last year, I started with his office. As expected, it is next to impossible to talk to anyone on the phone at any level of government, so I resorted to emailing him (you can email him at email@example.com), and also contacting him via Twitter. I am still waiting for a response from his office. Next up, I figured I would try the office of Governor Rick Scott. Same result on the phone, so I emailed him (firstname.lastname@example.org).
And because I am not content with contacting our state government, I also decided to visit the contact section of the White House’s website (here) to fill out their generic form. My message to President Obama was pretty straightforward, and it was my usual request to have the White House participate. I also included that I have now contacted the White House three years running, and yet to even receive a response (and of course, no participation either), and asked that autism would be something they would help raise awareness about (I included a reminder that the White House has gone pink for breast cancer, red for AIDS awareness, and even green for St. Patrick’s Day). I am not going to hold my breath for a response from the White House, or for the White House to be blue on April 2, though.
My sincere hope is that one day, people will at least have a better understanding of autism and those on the spectrum. There is nothing “wrong” with those on the spectrum. I know that an autism diagnosis can be confusing because Kaitlyn confuses and confounds us every day. I also know that Amber and I love her unconditionally, and that there is nothing we would not do for her, because we know that her having Asperger’s will put so many roadblocks in her way as she grows up; we know that some people will never understand her, and that some people will never accept that she does not fit their mold of what they envision for her. We also know that understanding is gained through awareness and education, and when places like our Capitol building, the White House, the Empire State Building, or the Eiffel Tower turn blue, if even for a night, the natural curiosity of people will lead them to learn more about autism and those with autism.
Awareness, however, does not start with those public places. Awareness starts with me, with Amber, and with you. Will you make a difference this April?
That is the question I want to ask someone every time they use the word “retard” when describing someone or something. That is a very harsh word. We have eliminated it from the vocabulary at our house. And you should, too.
One person who just cannot seem to stop using the word is conservative talking head Ann Coulter. She likes to describe supporters of President Obama as “retards,” and she feels no shame in doing so. I am not going to use this space to get political, but I have written about her limited vocabulary elsewhere, and just recently (click here).
Apparently, she is at it again. Last night during the last of the Presidential Debates, Coulter tweeted “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.” My friend Ashley posted her thoughts about it on her blog, and it took me a while to work past my desire to channel “angry blogger” or worse before I wrote my thoughts.
Really, her continued use of the word speaks more about her than it does anybody else. “Retard” is such an ugly word, and no matter what the intention (hers was meant to demean), the connotation is a negative one. Ann Coulter would consider Kaitlyn to be a “retard” because she thinks and acts differently than other kids. And that bothers me. No, it does more than that, it makes my blood boil. Ann Coulter would consider the amazing athletes at Miracle to be “retards,” and that makes me mad. Ann Coulter thinks that the child with autism, or the student in ESE, or the kid in the wheelchair is a “retard.”
Ann, let me be perfectly clear on this. Kaitlyn is not a “retard,” and neither are any of the athletes at Miracle. It seems to me, Ann, that you have trouble using your words when you want to make a point. You could have used any number of other terms to get your point across that you are not a fan of President Obama, or that you think those who support him are making the wrong choice, but you decided to use your limited brain power and call people names instead. Maybe calling people such hurtful names makes you feel better about yourself, and, having been exposed to your “work” before, I guess you have to do what you can to feel good about yourself. I would say that you are better than that, Ann, but I know that you are not.
These people, who you seem to delightfully call “retards,” may be the ones that develop the cure for people who so easily stick their foot in their mouth, of which you would certainly be one of the first ones eligible for. Rest assured, Ann, that when you need a life-saving procedure, a “retard” will probably be the one that saves your life, and they will be the bigger person and save you.
I would ask anybody that reads this to post it for others to see. Please share this. Share my friend Ashley’s blog that is linked to above. By all means, spread the word that you will not tolerate the hate that Ann Coulter and so many others so easily spew when they decide call people names. If you are a user, frequent or otherwise, of this word, stop using it! It is not that difficult to stop. You are not superior to me because you can call me a name, and I am not superior to you. Oh, and if you want to continue to use this word, that is your right, but know that it says more about you than it does about the target of your insult.
A few days ago, I shared the letter that I wrote to President Obama asking that the White House be bathed in blue for Autism Awareness Day in April. I received a response, sort of:
February 23, 2012
Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with me. I am so glad to learn that you have benefited from the help of our Government.
Each day, I meet with my advisors to make sure we are doing all we can to support Americans during these difficult economic times. It is encouraging to hear stories from citizens who are getting the assistance they need.
As we work to bring relief to families and individuals — from providing COBRA and unemployment benefits, to getting credit for small business and preventing foreclosures — there is still more work to be done. Please know that the trials and triumphs of hard-working Americans motivate my Administration to work even harder to overcome the challenges before us. Together, I am confident we will emerge stronger than before and with a renewed promise of a better future for all.
Thank you again for your thoughtful letter. To learn more about my Administration, please visit: www.WhiteHouse.gov. I wish you the best.
|You are receiving this one-time email because you contacted the White House about a particular issue.
For information on President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address, please visit: www.WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU
If you are interested in receiving regular updates from President Obama and senior White House officials, please visit our subscription page to sign up: www.WhiteHouse.gov/get-email-updates
The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 202-456-1111
Here is how I read the letter:
This is an automated response. Like most of America, I do not understand autism and really have no deisre to make an effort to understand autism. I don’t think that I will be lighting the White House blue for autism, but check it out on March 17 and it will be green for St. Patrick’s Day.
President Barack Obama
An automated response just won’t cut it. Autism Awareness Month is one month away.
Today, I submitted a letter to President Obama to request that the White House participate in this year’s Light It Up Blue campaign to raise awareness for autism. I asked for a response, but am not holding my breath for one. My sincere hope is that the administration will opt to light the White House blue and allow autism to join the ranks of causes that have been honored, right there with AIDS and breast cancer. Even St. Patrick’s Day has made its mark.
Below is the text of the letter that I sent:
In 2011, Rockefeller Center, Terminal Tower (Cleveland), the Prudential Building (Boston), the Empire State Building, and the Eiffel Tower joined numerous other monuments and buildings in Lighting It Up Blue for Autism Awareness Month. Sadly, the White House did not. As a parent of a daughter with autism, I was very disappointed. My sincere hope is that the White House will be blue this April, allowing autism to join AIDS Awareness, Breast Cancer Awareness, and St. Patrick’s Day in being honored. I know times are tough and the budget is tight, but I hope that there are funds available to purchase some blue bulbs from a local Home Depot. If not, I would be honored to purchase them and send them to the White House to be installed.
I am preparing myself for autism to be ignored again this year. Disappointment seems to come standard when you attempt to educate people who want to ignore autism.
I’ve been trying to choose my words very carefully today so that I don’t come across as being an insensitive jerk.
I wrote a few times earlier this year about lighting the White House blue for autism awareness, and cited examples of other times that it has been illuminated for a cause. The Obama Administration ignored the pleas of many when the White House remained white for the entire month of April (Autism Awareness Month). To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
Well, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and sure enough, the White House was illuminated pink last night. Now, I am not opposed to the act itself, and raising awareness that will strike 1 in 8 women is important. I have seen a close friend lose her mother, and saw how much it impacted her life. I have twice run the Breast Cancer Marathon in memory of my friend’s mother, and will be running the half marathon in her memory this coming February.
What bothers me is the selective causes the White House supports. I am disappointed again that because so many people have such limited education regarding autism, it is swept under the rug.
Please support breast cancer awareness causes, and “go pink” when you can, but remember April is around the corner, and you can “go blue” for autism.