Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eugenics With a Smile

When I was younger, I used to wonder how people who lived in Germany let the Holocaust occur. Over the years, I have come to believe that it was a series of small steps which seemed somewhat reasonable at the time, combined with a sense of "that doesn't apply to me" when many things came up, and finally, a tendency to believe those in authority.

Today I think I saw up close and personal how things like the Holocaust get started.

Peter Singer gave a talk today on a local campus. His topic was "Medical Decisions in Life and Death". After watching him today, I don't think that the devil wears Prada. Instead, he wears a rumpled shirt, smiles, is generally pleasant, and advocates for things like puppy dogs and poor people, right before he tries to convince the audience that some people are more valuable than others, and killing babies is OK if their parents decide it's the right thing to do.

OK, maybe Singer isn't the devil. But it was somewhat chilling to see students sitting in the audience quietly listening while Singer glibly tried to show that the definition of death is shifting and arbitrary, and that what we should be using to determine whether someone's life is worth living is Singer's somewhat nebulous definition of "personhood" which depends not on brain activity but on the ability of the person to be self reflective. Since he doesn't believe that humans are self aware before they are several months old, they are not persons, and therefore it's OK to kill them, especially if they are disabled.

Singer started by questioning the definition of death, then used selected quotes from (and pictures of) George Bush to (not so subtly) suggest that those who oppose Singer's definition of death and personhood are right wing religious wackos. Singer then quickly reviewed several cases where people with persistent vegetative states had their feeding tubes removed, and suggested that there was no difference between removing the feeding tubes and letting them die, and actively killing them. He finished by talking about assisted suicide, and how Oregon's law is leading the way forward.

There was time for questions at the end, and after waiting a respectful 4 seconds (so it wouldn't appear that I was gunning for him) I went up to the microphone to ask him a question. I was hopping mad, and I could hear my voice shaking just a bit. I asked him how he could place so much importance on preventing what he terms speciesism (discriminating against other animals merely because they are members of different species) while he so freely engaged in disablism by advocating that parents should be able to decide to kill their children up to several months old just because they (the parents) decided selfishly that their own lives would be better, and that the child's life was not worth living. After all, when disabled adults are surveyed, the majority of them report being happy. Singer was not fazed at all, and thanked me politely for the question. He then proceeded to respond with a bland recounting of why babies weren't persons (because of the lack of self response) and how we should respect the parents' wishes. He then moved on to the next question.

I looked around the room at the audience, which was composed mostly of students. Some seemed to get the point I was making, but most just sat there.

And I think that's what happened in Germany, too, when people heard that the Germans were killing the disabled, and later the Jews.

For a much better account of how Peter Singer is up close and personal, read Harriet McBryde Johnson's account of her time with Singer here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The film, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" is a complex yet wonderful western where sometimes crime does pay, and good goes unrewarded. Life has certainly been complex around our house for the last month, but unfortunately it's been far from wonderful. And the good has been far outweighed by the bad and the ugly lately.

Buddy Boy started out this year having the best year he's had so far. He loved school, thrived with being included, identified with his classmates, and seemed to really blossom. Sure there were some minor rough spots, but overall it was shaping up to be a stellar year.

Oh how quickly things can change. If things don't turn around very quickly, he'll be expelled from his school within a week or so, and I won't really blame them.

But let's get back to the good. Buddy Boy made his First Communion the Sunday after Easter. He was having some anxiety and a few outbursts in school running up to that day, but we figured it was related to the upcoming ceremony. Other than a short crying jag in the procession coming into the church, he did a great job. I was really proud of him.

About a week and a half after that, he bit his teacher. He hasn't lashed out like that in over a year. His teachers this year have been great. They believe in him, see the positive, and support him as well as just about anyone. But Buddy Boy got upset about something, and just lost it. The teacher had to go to the Emergency Room. Two years ago he would have been immediately suspended. Liz took him home when he couldn't be consoled at the school, but not only wasn't he suspended, we never received any official action taken at all by the school.

The subsequent 3 weeks or so have been escalating hell. Promising him grand rewards has no effect, and neither does confiscating his beloved stuffed dinosaurs. Buddy Boy has gotten violent with Liz at home, and she is covered with bruises. The police have been called 3 or 4 times by Liz when Buddy Boy has bolted from the house and she couldn't find him. Once he was found by the police running thru the underbrush in a park about a half mile from our house. His face was all scratched up from that.

We've had an emergency appointment with his psychiatrist, and took him off one of his meds (Prozac-which had in the past seemed to help with anxiety), which he felt may have been causing an idiosyncratic reaction. Two days later he erupted in class when he found out that after the chicks hatch from the eggs they're incubating in class, the chicks have to go back to the farm. He was yelling, swearing at the teachers, spitting at them, telling the teachers he was going to kill them, and for a grand finale dropped his drawers and peed all over the classroom. Liz kept him home the next day, which was yesterday.

Liz, meanwhile, is at the end of her rope. She's stressed to the max, and cries inconsolably at night. When she gets stressed she pushes people away, so it's been hard for me to try to get her back from the edge. She doesn't feel like she can home school Buddy Boy. She says that it will suck every last bit of energy out of her, and that she will not survive. I try to point out how perhaps whatever is bothering him will settle down if he gets out of school, but she is not in any kind of receptive mood right now.

Buddy Boy, for his part, is not willing or able to talk about what's bugging him. He's still perfectly verbal overall, and just says that he gets angry, and that it's all our fault. But he's adamant that he wants to stay in his school. I really don't think he's trying to get kicked out.

I have been largely protected, as I get to go to work. I've cut back on all non-urgent things so I can be home as much as possible, and have tried to manage things on the weekends, but it's not enough for Liz to rebound. She feels lost, and out of options. I have no idea where Buddy Boy will go to school if he gets kicked out of his present placement. And if he does, we'll also have to find another school for Sweet Pea. Sweet Pea has been allowed to attend the same school as Buddy Boy, which is not our home school. The school is overcrowded, and they won't let her stay if Buddy Boy leaves. We won't put her back in her home school, where the Wicked Witch of the West is the prinicipal (she's the one we spent thousands of dollars and over a year fighting with).

I keep it together because we are in the middle of a crisis, but I feel lost, alone, and frustrated as all get out. We've gone from having our best year yet, to being back at square one. I'm fairly sure that we've used up all the good will that we're going to get from the school. Liz volunteers there, which I'm sure has helped. But I know that they've got to be near their limit of tolerance. Buddy Boy went back to school today and made it thru the day without any serious incident. His regular teacher wasn't there. The substitute basically let them watch movies and play games today. Liz got to hear the retelling by his classmates of Buddy Boy's meltdown, over and over.

That's about it for now. All prayers will be gladly accepted.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Kathleen Slapped-Blogs Slap Back

photo credit-azrainman
creative commons license

I had heard of SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) before in the context of lawsuits against environmental groups, but had never really paid much attention to them. Evidently the whole purpose of them is to harass people who are speaking out by costing them great deals of money to defend themselves.

I'm sure that most everyone has heard about the ridiculous subpoena that Kathleen Seidel has been served with. While it appears that she has not been sued, this subpoena is pretty much an all encompassing fishing expedition meant to pursue one purpose, and one alone-silencing Kathleen Seidel.

No one could reasonably believe that there was some grand conspiracy that involved paying off Kathleen to write her blog on I do not know Kathleen personally, but there is absolutely no indication that she is being put up to write the things she does. How do I know this? Because there is no way anyone could ever write so elegantly, so powerfully, and so honestly if they were being paid.

Paid product pushers and plants on blogs make themselves known over time. They can't help themselves. They post obviously false things that support certain products or positions, in contradiction to all the evidence that there is to be found.

Kathleen is the polar opposite of someone who is paid to write from a certain perspective. When I found out that there was a name for why my son was having so much difficulty with peers and at home, and that that name was autism, I went searching for information on the web. I first found a local listserve where parents had an ongoing pity party, and most were in search of a holy grail cure. I continued to search, and rapidly came across three different sites on the web that greatly influenced me. These were Kristina Chew's AutismVox, The Autism Hub, and I loved these sites for different reasons. Kristina for her personal touch, The Hub for its diversity of opinions, and for its obviously well researched list of resources and readings on autism. I spent days delving through the articles and resources linked from the site. I felt like I had discovered a cave full of jewels, and I marveled how each one of them sparkled as it was held up to the light. Such sites are not put together by those who are paid to push a certain viewpoint (If she were being paid, there would be much less content, and a lot more "splash" to the site). The beauty of is in the layers upon layers of painstaking research that went into putting it all together.

Kathleen's blog has always been top notch. She doesn't push vague conspiracy theories with no facts behind them. Instead she publishes extremely well researched, well annotated (a rarity on the web), and well written treatises on subjects related to autism. A victim of her own success, the existence of this precedent setting subpoena speaks to how well Kathleen's voice is being heard. Evidently she must be silenced.

Many bloggers have stepped up to symbolically link arms with Kathleen. In whatever small way I can, I am proud to join them. Kathleen's voice is one that we cannot allow to be silenced.

Many (including probably myself) would have been intimidated by such harassment. To her credit, Kathleen didn't even flinch, and has fired back a motion to quash the subpoena. You go, girl. They've SLAPPED the wrong woman.