I started a thread on TheologyWeb where I often post about what Barack Obama said to a plumber who is concerned about his tax plans. I won’t deny it here. I am not a fan of Obama in any way. I urge you if you are though to not stop reading now. I’m not writing this to attack him specificially. My stance is against his for another reason though. I wrote on this on TheologyWeb and a wise friend suggested I blog about it. I resisted it, but I thought eventually I might as well.
My stance was that I find what was said insulting. I don’t appreciate the idea that if I’m going to be a success, I need the help of the government. Someone responded to me and told me that some people have inequalities and it isn’t as easy for them so get over it. Now that really ticked me off and I had to respond and I am giving a longer form here of what I said there.
I’ll also say that this is something difficult to write. My wise friend would tell me that if anyone attacked me for anything I said here though, it would be their problem. I agree with her astute wisdom once again.
The truth is, I have those inequalities. My scoleosis is well-known actually though. In speaking about that, I’m not really limited. I played ultimate frisbee earlier this month at our Seminary and I was the fastest one on the field. It is interesting to go to the Y though and be at the mirror and keep trying to contort myself in every way to see the scar on my back and how it is, but I can’t. No one has ever asked me about it though, but I honestly wouldn’t mind if they did.
At an earlier age, I was diagnosed as autistic. Some people think I’m Asperger’s, so I prefer to say Aspie/Autistic these days. I’m not sure what it is entirely, but I will say life is difficult at times. If I get in a social situation, I’m not really the best. I thrive on the intellectual. I see the world through a different set of eyes. I can illustrate this with my coming into work today and a co-worker trying to engage me in a conversation. This person started the conversation.
“How are you?”
“Are you reading anything new?”
” ‘The Trinity’ by Saint Augustine.”
The other questions are the small talk questions that don’t really go over so well. I never know exactly what to say with my penchant of wanting to be honest and realizing that if I’m honest in this case and I’m feeling great, what will happen in the day when I’m not? If I’m not feeling great today, then it is not appropriate to be honest.
If anyone wants more info on this, I recommend reading a chapter of a book by a guy with Asperger’s named “John Robison” called “Look Me In The Eye.” The chapter is called “Logic and Small Talk.” I read through it at the bookstore and thought the guy was inside my head. This is a book I definitely plan to buy someday.
Let me go back to my history some though and talking about inequalities.
I remember being taken by my parents often to the Birth Defects Center as it’s believed I have some muscle disease also that limits my strength. It’s not conclusive. A muscle biopsy didn’t reveal anything as far as I know and I don’t think about it much, but the autism aspect I think was a strong reason behind my being there.
Let me be clear. My parents are very good people and very supportive. They didn’t do perfect though. They shielded me from a lot and I had to learn a lot when I got out on my own, but I did prove to them that I can handle things and with their last visit here to see me, they got to see that firsthand. It’s still hard for them of course, but they’re pleased. They are also both Christians who raised me in the church.
I also hate that kind of term though of the place I was. “Birth defects.” I may not be functioning on all cylinders like everyone else, but I am not a defective product. Could it be part of our view that tends to treat people like they’re machines? I do not socialize well. That is true. Because of my condition though, I do a lot of other things well.
As an example, I was talking to a philosopher friend of mine on Facebook recently and he was surprised when I told him I’ve never had a formal class on logic. He told me he was stunned because I seemed to have such a grasp of it. Well that’s the way my mind works. I can see a 10-digit number and memorize it. I do mathematics the way a lot of people breathe. It’s just innate.
However, many counselors seeing me growing up were quite hesitant. I was told for instance that I would never finish High School.
I was in public high school and I didn’t have special help. The only case really was when I had the scoleosis surgery and due to physical weakness then, someone else had to carry my bags for me and I had to leave class five minutes early so I wouldn’t be out in the hall during the rush when the students got let out.
Nevertheless, I finished. I would say I was a lazy student though simply because I did not need to study. I grasped ideas immediately and was able to recall them. Did I interact with students a lot though in things like dating and such? No. I had a lot of crushes, but I didn’t really act on them. My friends were few, but they were there.
I graduated though. Okay. The other side was wrong.
So I go to Bible College. I hadn’t even heard of apologetics yet, but there was a lot of stuff going on in my life and I needed to find answers and I had a natural grasp of the Bible and I had friends telling me I should be in ministry as I was already doing evangelism on the internet and actually enjoying that more than anything else.
How did I get there? My family is not rich. VOCRehab paid for my education. It’s an organization that pays for those with “disabilities.” They didn’t really like my choice though. They urged me to not go into ministry as my mind could be better put to use in something like engineering (Which I had no interest in) and I just couldn’t speak well of course.
It’d have been nice if they’d had been there when I preached my senior sermon before the faculty and student body of my Bible College which would be about 1,000 people.
I loved my college years and was increasingly educating myself. For the first time after having discovered apologetics, I was buying books and books and books. Last night, I told my roommate that I’m going to need to go and buy another bookcase. This had never happened with any interest before. Before too long, I was an authority.
Did I graduate? Yes. I am the first in my family in a long time to have a college degree. Looks like VOC Rehab was wrong.
However, I have yet to get a ministry position and in my hometown, I eventually knew that I wanted to come where I am now. I moved out on my own to a local apartment which my folks had concern about. Nevertheless, I proved to them that I can budget and in fact, they tell me that I budget better than my married sister.
VOC Rehab when they found out had offered to give me classes on living on my own. Forget it. I don’t need a class on that. I taught myself much of what I know. They also offered to have someone help me get a job. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care for my job at all. However, I also wanted to be sure of something. I plan to get a job because I’ve earned it and not because I need help due to disability.
I got accepted to the Seminary I wanted to go to and I am there now. My president knows my condition as do much of the staff. I try to be open with them about it. They don’t treat me the way they do out of pity though. They do it because they respect me and believe that I have the ability to do the things that I want to do.
I work right now in a situation where I am doing a non-intellectual job that is socially geared. It’s anathema to me. That kind of stuff just wears me out. When there’s too much activity going on and too many people talking, it wrecks my thinking. It is that time at the end of the day when I sit down and read or do something else I enjoy that I get restored.
I am especially thankful for my friends, especially my roommate. I find it amazing at times that he willingly agreed to live with me knowing all these things about me. It is thinking of a friend like him that gives me some comfort in whatever goes on in my life. Of course, this doesn’t discount my Christian faith as keeping me going, but I’m so thankful that God gave me friends.
Sometimes, those of us with Autism/Asperger’s are seen as rude and we really have a huge disadvantage. If you see someone in a wheelchair, you don’t challenge them to a footrace. If you see someone without arms, you don’t ask them to play a game of catch. When you see me though, I look like everyone else. You can’t see a social disorder like that.
My friends though are the ones that I can be open with, but even still I can be guarded. I speak more with sounds and actions. Music plays a big part as I usually have a tune or a song in my mind. I will often try to gesture to someone that I don’t know. It’s a lot easier to me than talking and frankly, I can’t tell you why. The exception is if the conversation is about something I know and it can be anything. Talking about Smallville, for instance, can get someone into my world.
Btw, that’s another reason I love Smallville. I see a lot of myself in Clark Kent. Why? Clark Kent lives with a secret and he looks like everyone else. He wrestles so much with existential struggles involving his humanity and what it means. How are people supposed to feel? Nevertheless, he’s out there trying to use his abilities to make the world a better place.
Now what about VOC Rehab also? Are they paying for my Seminary? Nope. I made something clear. I would not get my education out of pity. I would get it out of ability. I am paying for everything. If I earn a scholarship, that is different. Right now, I’m not sure how things will be paid for, but they will be. I have some dentistry bills coming. I’m not sure how it will be paid for, but it will be.
What does this have to do with Obama and his statement? Here’s the truth. I don’t want pity. I want the government to simply ensure that I can have the freedom to go out and make a success of myself. I consider Obama’s idea that I need that help an insult. Do I have an inequality? Yes I do. Don’t underestimate me though. I have overcome a lot thus far and I can rest assured any detractors out there that we’ve only just begun.