Monthly Archives: February 2016

“Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You, but What You Can Do for Hillary”

I first heard of the way Hillary Clinton’s top female supporters were talking about young women who supported Bernie Sanders from my 23-year old daughter.

madeleine-albright-quoteA strong Bernie supporter, she was steamed that Gloria Steinem had said on Bill Maher’s show that young women were flocking to Bernie’s rallies because that was where the boys were. Steinem doubled-down by adding that women become more “activist,” (I believe that was the word used) as they grow older, because they “lose power.” There is no other way but to interpret that statement as “When you’re young and hot, like me, you’re powerful!” You’re where the boys are, honey. Burn your bra so they can see your titties better!

My biggest memory of Steinem was that she was a Playboy Bunny. I thought for real, but I was told no — she’d gone “undercover” to expose the dark underside of Hef’s Playboy palace of pulchritude. That’s some play-literation. When I’m not showing my titties and ass to old men in my dating age range (85-95, like Sumner Redstone) sometimes I like to play around with words. When I turn 54 next month, I’m anticipating I’ll be limited to dating gentlemen in the Willard Scott birthday age range (100+). And how lucky I’ll be! Why hardly any woman my age even goes out in public any more, much less has any “power.” Not Hillary-type-power, anyway. Not Gloria Steinem level muscle.

Then, out came the public information that at many of Hillary’s rallies, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was lecturing audiences that women, especially young women, should vote for Hillary because, and I quote, “There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women.”

She prefaced this by saying, “We can tell our story about how we climbed the ladder and young women — you think it’s been done — it’s not done.”

Here’s the thing, Ms. Albright — there’s not a young woman in the audience for Bernie or in my classrooms who thinks it’s “been done.” And, dear lady, even in my powerless age range — hardly any of us think it’s “been done,” either. If you, or your candidate, had taken even five minutes to listen (I do use my words carefully, – I usually do a bit of reading and writing before I wash my hair, put on my go-go boots, and go out and snag some of those older boys) to women under age 30 and especially under age 25, you would hear what is important to them. Listen. It takes time, energy and commitment to listen.

It takes time, energy, caring and commitment to engage with the American people and listen to them, not just stand up in front of audiences and repeat the same sad, tired, retread talking points about abortion, raising the minimum wage, and free birth control pills over and over again. Most Americans have respect for the first two female Secretaries of State, no question; I certainly did, but it shrinks by the day. These most recent incidents point out something glaring in our entire culture. The people we often (not always) turn to as leaders, may not be deserving of those roles.

Based on the behavior of both Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Albright in these recent events, and just looking at their demeanor at these rallies — at the vast gulf between their reality and the reality of most Americans (especially young women) — I sit here and say prayers of gratitude that we weren’t all incinerated while these women were the our country’s top diplomats.

Hillary and madeleine albright

I’m sure about 50 billion pundits will point out that if a conservative man introduced Donald Trump at a rally and hollered, “There’s a special place in HELL for men who don’t vote for Trump!” this would not only be SNL skit fodder for years, it might even surpass the “Dean Scream” moment for radio and TV replay.

Did these three women get this way because they are older? I was absolutely stunned to learn that Gloria Steinem is 81, Madeleine Albright is 78, and Mrs. Clinton, 68. I note that Mr. Sanders is 74 years old. Gloria Steinem is certainly too old for him; besides, everyone knows that powerful, rich guys like Bernie date women in their late 20s and early 30s. You know – like Sean Penn dates girls in high school.

Wait. Back to what occurred to me. See, Ms. Albright and Mrs. Clinton were both our top diplomats, serving several years each — and in fact, one of Mrs. Clinton’s top arguments against her opponent Mr. Sanders and all of the Republican opponents, is that she is the most-experienced foreign policy candidate by far.

That well may be, but it makes me feel cold and afraid, if she was the best and would still be, in representing our country among other nations, and in tense negotiations or circumstances where our troops or nation would be at-risk. Because she doesn’t seem able to even take 5 minutes out of her busy day to engage with actual young women and discern their concerns on even the most basic level. She can’t take another 2-3 minutes to determine why younger women would support Bernie Sanders.

I have now read approximately 12 interviews with Mrs. Clinton. Not once, in any of those interviews, did she use the words, “I listened,” or “I heard,” followed by a specific example of any American’s concern or interest. She certainly uses “I” a lot, but she never says, “I listened to __________________ and heard that ___________________.” She merely asserts her opinion as if it’s obvious. Just as did Madeleine Albright. I listened to what she said (ha ha ha ha ha – sorry). I can discern that she strongly believes the reason many younger women are supporting Bernie Sanders is that they think the “battles” she and Mrs. Clinton “fought” are no longer needed.

Unfortunately, neither of these two former top diplomats, nor Ms. Steinem, the Ms. Lady, seem like they are very good listeners. As I am 53, I don’t really remember any of them showing strong listening skills at any time. It isn’t for reasons of sexism, as asserted by TV performers like Lena Dunham, that many people are referring to Mrs. Clinton as “shrill.” She does raise her voice when she believes her message wasn’t heard.

I have, throughout my life, heard many people assert that their political opponents were “dumb” or “stupid,” and often “evil” when they had positions or opinions in opposition to them. Or, often – they were just their opponents, perhaps agreeing in most circumstances.

I only read part of The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump and only watched a few episodes of the many Apprentice shows. But even Donald Trump emphasizes listening skills, and discerning the other person’s interests and motivations. And I’ve seen him demonstrate this and make assessments of his observations of the people trying out to be “The Apprentice.” I’ve watched his daughter Ivanka listen acutely and think about what she says before responding. Certainly, I see these behaviors in action every day in the classroom, in the business environment, and they were the primary determining factor between success or failure in the social service programs I used to work with, raise funds for, and manage.

Not once, would I ever make any decision without consulting others, nor would I ever make any announcement or pronouncement in any class, without ensuring I had listened to people and gotten the best understanding I could of their opinions, needs, desires and concerns.

I have no doubt, since I am 53 years old and have been around the block, including volunteering for Carly Fiorina’s Senate campaign in 2010, as well as a number of local campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s –

I can’t believe I’m writing this, that it’s even a question. Does no one even question that their local mayor has better listening skills than Hillary Clinton or Madeleine Albright? This is way beyond “out of touch,” this is never in touch. Never, ever, never.

I just read an interview with Bernie Sanders where he was confronted with the problems caused by some of his male supporters with harassing women who don’t follow their “party line” about Bernie, using extreme sexist language and being jerks. So, Bernie said, and I quote, “We have heard about this.” He then expressed strongly that could not be a part of his campaign and that was not what they were about. I am sure his campaign will take steps to stop it.

So I guess there’s a special place in Hell for me. And how lucky our country is that these two top-notch listeners didn’t get us all killed by their assumptions and bullheaded forging straight ahead with whatever they want to say, just raising their voice when they experienced disagreement or others were not doing exactly what they wanted.

Leadership isn’t about yelling until people cave or just talking louder or saying the same thing over and over, or about “guessing” what people want because you find it impossible to take even a few moments to listen non-judgmentally. Really – it isn’t.

But what would I know? I’m 53. I have no power. Not like powerful people like sexy 81 year old women’s leader Gloria Steinem.

 

 

Dear Individuals on the ASD Spectrum and Others: I am Sorry

I am sorry that my manner of expression indicated to you that I do not want to understand or respect what you experience and feel, and think that people who state they are “normal” should have accommodations rather than those who have lacked them for so long. I am sorry that what I said was interpreted to mean a very direct expression that the experience of those our society commonly identifies as “normal” or “non-disabled,” have the same experiences as people who experience the vast array of barriers, disrespectful situations, assumptions and general awful behavior experienced by those with any type of disability, self-identified, or identified by others.

I also did not say what I said to indicate that those with painful physical disabilities, chronic illness, and other barriers to pain-free lives are experiencing something “good” that should be encouraged and increased.

My thought process is different to others. I thought I indicated that but obviously I did a bad job. My manner of expression that is legitimately mine, may be and apparently is, misunderstood.

I DO understand that people on the ASD spectrum are as diverse in their thoughts and experiences as those who are NOT. They may well be moreso. I understand that those on the spectrum have deep feelings and are incredibly empathetic to others. I learned that people who state they have autism, have had similar experiences to me, possibly much stronger and more intense. I did not know this before, and now I do.

That said, what goes on with me does not mean I “understand” everything, including others’ thoughts and feelings at all times. It means I am frequently overwhelmed by the thoughts, feelings, desires and motivations of others. This can include strangers encountered while shopping, but of course much more so – close family and friends.

So, people interpreted the story I told about the young autistic man who asked me if there would someday be a cure for autism. I wrote in shorthand, because as I stated in the beginning of the article, I was going to do it differently: my way, the way I am learning for my self. Obviously since people who are formally identified to be like me are no more than 1% of the population …

There ya go. Nobody understands what the fuck I say so I usually don’t say anything. For years and years I made stuff up copied from what others thought and felt.

So the statements that made autistic people angry and made them think that I thought autistic people had no feelings or empathy: those were my thoughts in my circumstance at the time. I could tell how fearful he was and I sensed he feared I would not respect him or his perspective. My mind interpreted that as the statements I wrote in the article. I thought at the time, “He won’t care your baby had Down Syndrome.” The reality of the situation, I realized over time, was – he was afraid that I would not care about what he had to say and his situation. The best I could do at the time was, “God means for people to have autism.”

Now – what I genuinely believe, and what I think, has a chance of being for real, true – is that nature and humanity does have a purpose and need for those with autism and many other cognitive differences and physical differences and what are often termed “disabilities.” People in the past have been so twisted that they called some far on one side of ASD spectrum, combined with abilities that seem “miraculous” to many, “Idiots Savants.” These words alone show the level of respect others had for Blind Tom, described in An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. To this day, some who are called “savants” sometimes “perform” for others who exclaim how miraculous they are. I just don’t like this. I’m sorry. I do not like people being viewed as performing animals. I don’t think animals should be viewed as performing animals either – but you already knew I was C*R*A*Z*Y and making shit up, right?

And that’s the case for me. I’m not a “great empath” – though I have been at times, somewhat shrewd. It isn’t just that I don’t know what to make of 90 percent of what comes in this door. It’s that it overwhelms me. Overwhelms me to the point that for most of my life, I didn’t know who I was. Like many others, I reeled from situation to situation, job to job, project to project. I took on things that I should not only never have taken on, they were things I could not change nor improve. All I could do was hurt myself and expose others I cared about to potential harm as well. One person described today they had stuck with a sociopathic college friend who treated others horribly because they didn’t want the friend to be totally alone, to the point where they almost had to drop out themselves. Like that. This person’s experience has validity, right? Mine does not.

In terms of “unwanted perceptions” or feelings from others – one aspect that’s been identified in isolation is called hypercacusis or hyper-acute hearing. Two people I am very close to experience this. I only experience it if I’m very close to either of them, and then immediately go out and hang around with others. It is terrible.

As to all the rest, the statements that people who say they are “empathetic” aren’t, and there is no problem of this nature, everything I said is a lie, they are certain of this –

I have heard many similar things, for many years. I was told, when I was raped 11 days after my 21st birthday, “Just pull yourself together. It happens to a lot of women.” I am 53 years old. I am 10-10 on the ACE scale (Adverse Childhood Experiences). I was treated to a nice web page that asserted I had murdered my baby with Down Syndrome. It was as a result of Alan Rodgers’ decade-plus custody battle, nothing to do with me, really; our family and son just caught in the nasty crossfire. Anthony died in an accident at home. He died in my arms before the ambulance, which went to a wrong location, was able to come back the right way and try to help. When I disclosed that a well-known writer had slapped my face, groped my ass, and announced “With an ass like hers, you just know she loves to be spanked!” I was told I was lying and besides, there was no independent corroboration, I hadn’t pressed charges, it could only be found anonymously told on the internet (by me): I wasn’t even saying his name!

Doesn’t this sound crazy? Oh my god, how could someone have so much go on with them? What a liar, she just wants attention.

Please tell me I do not hear other people’s thoughts.

There are far too many of these types of statements made about others who express many different truths about themselves. Each is saying “Please hear me, Please understand me.” That is 100% what I was saying. There are so, so many people whose go-to is to put somebody else down, blame them, or try to shame them for whatever cause.

My situation is that I had 10-10 on the ACE scale and that these unwanted and overwhelming perceptions of others’ thoughts and emotions  ran in my family on both sides, just as did many other things.

I teach from the book An Anthropologist on Mars by Dr. Oliver Sacks. Dr. Sacks writes, in the introduction, of realizing that the human brain, including his own, as his right arm has been injured and is immobilized, forcing him to use his left hand and even foot, was so flexible and malleable. He writes, movingly, of observations by many neurologists that individuals with “disabilities” in fact, had strong abilities as well as the deficits they faced. Current neuroscience is now discovering that theoretical “disabilities” are in fact present among nearly all people in a variety of cognitive areas. If we valued the ability to listen to others and put one’s own self aside as much as our society values those who can economically, socially, and physically exploit others, we would have a different world. Yes, that is what I am saying.

I was diagnosed with complex PTSD in June 2007 as a final result of four precipitating causes. The death of my son in my arms, the death of my stepmother where I could not help or change the course, being raped and thinking he was going to strangle me to death, and the least, last cause: the false web page accusing me, my daughter, or Alan, of killing my son.

This paints me as a “victim.”

I am not. Concurrently, reeling, confused, all unknowing, I have written all these things I have and done my best at them. There are hundreds of formerly homeless families with decent homes and good jobs that I was able to raise funds to help. There are buildings built with funds I raised, and education and economic programs employing people and improving communities in places that otherwise, might not have accessed them. Hundreds of former students have had encouragement, education and above all, respect for who they are, their voices and their words.

There are many writers I have worked with and encouraged to excel and achieve. I do not wish to draw other friends into this because my purpose was and remains to help make things better economically for other writers – in particular those who are economically and socially marginalized.

I overtly stated that in my article, right up front, that I just couldn’t do what others expected any more. I stated as clearly as I could, “I can’t express myself like what others say and you are used to reading.” It’s part of figuring out who I am and what is important to me. My cognitive situation means that is very hard for me.

So, formally, I do not believe that individuals with self-identified disabilities or medically-diagnosed disabilities are the “same” as those who do not identify as disabled or present to others as “non disabled.” I do not understand a lot of terminology used but I try to speak in ways using terms that I do understand. My understanding of reading what others have said and listening to them is that some people are working to help others to understand that there are “invisible disabilities.” I have been a college teacher since 1998 and I know there are many students with learning disabilities: they do NOT want to be visible to other class members as “the learning disabled student.” I am not writing about that, but I can understand learning disability as well as other illnesses being categorized as “invisible disabilities.”

Because I do know what I have faced and what those I love also face: I do not care if you make fun of my stating I have empathic traits or telling me those are not disabilities. I would be interested to hear why PTSD is no problem. I need education on this because it was a big shock to me when I applied for new insurance and they not only stated it was a “pre-existing condition,” it was also regarded as a permanent disability.

Yeah, I think I will definitely state publically on the internet that I was diagnosed with PTSD. It’s so helpful in obtaining medical insurance or interviewing for executive jobs. Then to make things more positive, I’ll state publically on the internet that I have empathic perceptions and even sometimes hear what seem to be “others’ thoughts” they do not intend and I might not really understand. Nobody ever diagnosed anyone with a different mental illness and gave them things like lobotomies and shock treatment because they said they heard voices – especially ones that the supposed speakers vehemently denied. Nobody many generations ago EVER burned people at the stake or gave them the drowning test due to similar statements.

I could just copy what others say and do. Then I wouldn’t have any trouble.

Like Shane.


I came to understand while learning about Tourette’s Syndrome, that Alan Rodgers, whom I loved, who died, likely had a mild form of the Syndrome. He was not aware of this, nor was he diagnosed, as he soon had other illnesses that took precedence, for which he was treated for the last three years of his life. He was not only viciously mocked for the “Touretty” things he did and said (and some of them greatly upset me in terms of echolalia and similar behaviors), part of this was used in his nightmare custody battle.

The way I was treated growing up was designed to 1) make me into someone I wasn’t, including forming and guiding my statements, movements, posture and appearance; 2) enforce my speaking, when permitted, what others wanted to hear. Because of this, I am highly attuned to others’ expectations, while at the same time, my default is to assume no one wants to see me, hear me, or even could or would. That’s part of the ACES. No I was not saying “bad things” about the young autistic man and what was important to him. It was about me.

What do you think?