bookmark_borderA**hole of the day: Kevin Farzad

The above post is, seemingly, intended to be funny. However, I don’t find it the least bit funny. I find it offensive and hurtful.

The author of this post, Kevin Farzad, seems to believe that for a person to remain in their hometown and eat at Olive Garden is somehow funny.

He seems to believe that these attributes somehow make a person racist, or at least inclined to make Facebook posts containing links to racist articles. 

He seems to believe that these attributes somehow make a person ridiculous, laughable, a joke.

I don’t get what is funny about any of this.

There is nothing wrong with living in the town that one is from.

There is nothing wrong with thinking that Olive Garden is fancy.

These things do not make a person racist, nor do they have anything to do with a person’s likelihood of posting a link to a racist article. These things are not funny. These things do not make a person ridiculous. These are just normal, and perfectly okay, things that a person might do.

I don’t understand why someone would think that a Facebook friend from high school, who hasn’t left their hometown and who considers Oliver Garden fancy, is funny.

I don’t understand why someone would consider such a person to be ridiculous, to be laughable, to be a joke.

Kevin Farzad is choosing to insult and ridicule people who are doing absolutely nothing wrong but are merely living in a different way than he does.

And I just don’t get what is funny about any of this.

As an autistic person, I live in a town directly bordering the town that I am from. As an autistic person, moving from place to place in service of a series of high-powered jobs that involve slaving for 80 hours a week, is simply not doable for me. As an autistic person, I don’t enjoy constantly going to trendy restaurants and bars. And because I don’t go out to eat very often, I do kind of consider Oliver Garden to be fancy.

As an autistic person whose special interest is history, I don’t support the BLM movement, because this movement advocates for discrimination against, and intentional infliction of harm and pain on, people like me. Some of the articles that I’ve shared on social media, as part of my advocacy for my right to exist, would probably be considered racist by Farzad.

Apparently, to Kevin Farzad, the idea that a person could behave, think, and live differently than he does is laughable.


A joke.

Well, I don’t find it funny.

Sorry, Kevin, that I’m autistic and therefore can’t live with roommates and move all over the country and work at a high-powered, 80-hour-a-week job and constantly go to trendy restaurants and bars and be a black supremacist.

Sorry, Kevin, that I am different than you.

Pardon me for being offended that you consider a person like me to be funny, to be laughable, to be ridiculous.

Pardon me for being offended by the implication that because I didn’t move across the country for a fancy job, that because I don’t go to hip new restaurants, I must be racist.

Pardon me for being offended that my existence is being treated as the punchline of a joke.

Sorry to be a stick in the mud, sorry to be a Debbie downer, but I find Kevin Farzad’s post to be stuck-up, mean, judgmental, intolerant, and hurtful.

I don’t get the point of it.

I don’t find it the least bit funny.

bookmark_borderAutism Acceptance Month and Confederate History Month

April is celebrated as both Autism Acceptance Month and Confederate History Month. These things might seem completely unrelated… but for me they are not.

I am on the autism spectrum. I have always experienced the world differently from other people, seen things differently, and thought differently from those around me. Until I was an adult, I never knew that there was a word for the way my mind works. I just thought I was “weird” and “mixed up” and “wrong” for not liking the things other people liked, and for having such difficulty with things like riding a bike, tying my shoes, playing sports, participating in conversations, and making friends, which seemed to come so easily to other people. I didn’t feel that I had much in common with other kids or adults at school, or even my own family members.

I did, however, feel a sense of identity with people from history. My favorite thing to do was to read about them, look at pictures of them, and imagine what their lives were like. I gravitated towards the historical figures who were under-appreciated, misunderstood, and looked down upon, probably because I considered myself to have these characteristics as well. This included historical figures from the Confederacy. Although I am not descended from anyone who fought for the Confederacy, I have always felt a sense of kinship with them because they were underdogs and rebels. They were portrayed in history class as the “bad guys,” but as I read more about them, I realized that they had their own viewpoints, perspectives, and stories, which are too frequently ignored. As someone on the autism spectrum, this was something that I could relate to.

It is difficult to put into words how much happiness historical figures have given me, and how important they are to me. Historical figures made me feel understood, and like I wasn’t alone. Therefore, it is difficult to put into words how heartbreaking and infuriating it has been to witness the horrible things that have happened to Confederate statues over the past few years. These events have made me feel like I am being morally condemned and like I am having my greatest source of joy and meaning taken away from me. As an autistic person who has spent my life trying my best to get through the demands of each day, and to be a good student, a good friend, a good employee, and a good person, I truly don’t believe I deserve this. With so much emphasis being placed on diversity and inclusion, why do I not get to feel accepted or included? Why are people like me no longer represented in art, monuments, memorials, or media? Why does society not acknowledge my perspective, my feelings, my story, or my experiences?

Because of my own personal experiences, both autism and Confederate heritage are integral parts of my identity. Both of these things have helped to shape the person that I am and the perspective through which I see the world, a perspective that deserves to be honored and recognized just as much as anyone else’s. In honor of two important and meaningful parts of my life, I will be celebrating the month of April as both Autism Acceptance Month and Confederate History Month.

Marissa and Stonewall

bookmark_borderCoexisting with the horribleness

The past two and a half years have changed me. For reasons that I may never be able to fully comprehend, our society collectively decided that it would be a good idea to completely destroy everything that makes my life worth living. To say that it is challenging to continue with my life in such a world is an understatement.

Some days, I manage to rise to the challenge. On these days, I somehow feel okay and perhaps even happy. I try my best to honor the historical figures that I love, to be an authentic person, and to live in a way that is consistent with my values. When I am not working, handling interpersonal situations, or doing tasks that need to be done at my house, I spend as much time as possible writing and drawing. And sometimes, what I do feels like enough. I now have my Stonewall Jackson statue going through this journey by my side, which helps with all of these things.

But other days, I am unable to find an acceptable way of coexisting with all of the horribleness. On those days, I am overwhelmed by the totality of the badness that people have done. On those days, I feel demoralized, defeated, disappointed, disillusioned, disheartened, and discouraged. On those days, I feel exhausted, worn out, and beaten down.

I frequently ask myself, what makes the difference between a good day and a bad day? Given that the events that changed my life have been going on for two and a half years without pause, why such a drastic difference from one day to the next?

Some of the contributing factors are relatively mundane. Everyone has days when nothing seems to go right, and I am no exception. Sometimes a restaurant messes up my food; sometimes I try to use a coupon while buying something and it doesn’t work; sometimes my computer updates and needs to restart when I’m in the middle of a time-sensitive task; sometimes I simply don’t have enough time in the day to do all of the tasks I need to. Sometimes work is chaotic; sometimes I (gasp!) make a mistake; sometimes I am running late and arrive out of breath and discombobulated from having to speedwalk and/or run to get there on time. None of these things are catastrophically bad, but they all tip the scales towards the horribleness taking over.

Because I am on the autism spectrum, I find interpersonal situations extremely difficult. Sometimes all it takes to crush my soul is an unwanted request to get together, a friend calling to chat, a social activity that lasts longer than I was anticipating, or an acquaintance who messages me and then continues to send additional messages each time I answer one, causing a seemingly never-ending conversation that I was not expecting and had not budgeted time for.

Another trait related to my autism is sensory sensitivities. Wind, rain, light shining in my eyes, sudden loud noises, clothes that just don’t fit quite right, and multiple people talking at once all increase the odds of the evil taking over.

Another potential cause of the evil taking over is when my artwork – the primary purpose of which is to honor historical figures – gets hijacked (for lack of a better word) by other purposes. Although my plan has always been to do a mix of historical figures and less controversial subjects, my mood plummets when I spend too much time doing the artwork that I think will appeal to other people, as opposed to the artwork that I actually want to do. Between commissions (which are very flattering, don’t get me wrong!), invitations to art events that I don’t think are a good fit, and people offering unsolicited advice, there are times when the amount of difficult interpersonal situations that I have to deal with outweighs the original purpose of my artwork. At these times, I feel that my art business is being controlled by other people more than by myself. Publicly honoring the historical figures is a delicate balance, and while I sometimes feel that I’m getting it right, at other times I don’t.

Sometimes the evil will be triggered by a painful reminder of the things I’ve lost. An image of the Boston skyline, a city that I once loved but that I now feel has rejected me and everything I stand for. Or worse, an image of the trellis at Christopher Columbus Park, lit up with festive blue Christmas lights that should be beautiful but now fill me with a mixture of sadness and disgust. A hockey or basketball or baseball or football game, all things that I cannot enjoy the way I used to. Even the mere mention of a city or state is enough to fill my mind with images of the statues destroyed in that city or state.

And of course, there is always the chance that I will be attacked by another instance of society’s war on everything that makes my life worth living. Another statue taken down or vandalized, Columbus Day abolished in another city or town, an appalling article or editorial, a grotesque statement by a politician, a nasty social media comment, a “laughing face” reaction to a post that wasn’t intended to be funny. The possibilities, unfortunately, are endless.

Possibly related to being on the autism spectrum is the fact that there very rarely is a middle ground for me. I can tolerate a certain amount of stressful and upsetting things weighing on me, but once the combination of things exceeds a certain threshold (a threshold that seems to be impossible to identify ahead of time), I either psychologically collapse or explode. In other words, I am either doing fine, or I am in such excruciating pain that it feels like my soul is being eviscerated.

The excruciating pain consists of both grief and rage. Unfathomable grief for the historical figures who have been brutally obliterated from existence, the very things that make our world beautiful irretrievably ruined. And equally enormous rage at the people who chose to do this. But in addition to the grief and the rage is frustration. Frustration that no matter how hard I try, I am unable to communicate how I am feeling in a way that others can understand. I have a large vocabulary and, as both my parents and my blog readers can tell, a tendency to speak and/or write at length about the topics that interest me. But none of the words that I speak or write are enough to convey to others what I am experiencing and how the statue genocide has affected me. None of my words are enough to make others see what I see or feel what I feel.

I am certain that if I could just get others to understand how I feel, they would immediately realize that what happened was wrong. They would condemn the atrocities without hesitation. They would profusely apologize for not having done so sooner. They would fall all over each other in their haste to offer reparations and compensation. And they would go out of their way to lift up and honor, via parades, ceremonies, and public celebrations, the historical figures who have been harmed. They would jump into action to rectify the situation, ordering every statue to be returned to its rightful location and diverting millions of dollars from other government programs to build new Confederate statues and new Columbus statues instead.

Obviously, no one is doing that. Or anything even remotely resembling that. And that is why the frustration, from time to time, boils over.

bookmark_borderDear lady on the Orange Line…

Dear lady on the Orange Line on Wednesday morning who called me a “terrible person,” “self-centered,” and “oblivious” for sitting instead of offering my seat to someone else:

Your behavior was so rude that I am still upset, appalled, and shaken two days later.

Many, perhaps most, people will think that you are in the right, and our unpleasant interaction my fault. To recap the facts of the situation, I boarded the train when there were many vacant seats. At a subsequent stop, when there were no more vacant seats, what appeared to be a family with two adults and two children between the ages of three and ten boarded the train. I did not offer them a seat, and neither did anyone else. A few stops later, you boarded the train and began to loudly castigate me to everyone within earshot.

You were so busy insulting me that you probably did not stop to wonder about what my thought process might have been. I will try to explain:

  1. First of all, I dislike standing. It is difficult to get reading done and it is physically draining.
  2. Second, I also strongly dislike when people offer me their seat. It makes me feel embarrassed, self-conscious, and uncomfortable. I believe in the golden rule and therefore am reluctant to do things to other people that I would dislike if done to me.
  3. Third, I am very shy. It is difficult for me to initiate interactions with strangers, even for something as simple as offering my seat.
  4. Fourth, no one else in my row of seats was making any move to offer up their seats, and I did not think one seat would be particularly useful to a group of four. Three of the people would still have to stand, and most likely none of the four would feel comfortable being the one to take the seat.
  5. Fifth, I believe that as a general rule, whoever gets to a seat first is entitled to the seat. This rule is fair, simple, easy, and does not cause anyone to feel patronized, insulted, guilty, resentful, or embarrassed. Because I got on the train when there were many vacant seats, I think it was reasonable for me to believe that I had a right to sit.
  6. Sixth, no one asked to sit, so I assumed that no one wanted to. If someone had politely asked for my seat, I would happily have obliged.
  7. And seventh, on another occasion a while back, there was a dad holding his daughter on a crowded train, struggling to keep his balance, and no one offered their seat (I was standing so did not have the option of offering a seat). This gave me the impression that little kids are not considered a situation that requires offering one’s seat.

I am on the autism spectrum and struggle with social situations. What comes naturally to most people, I need to use reasoning and logic to figure out. Because no one is perfect, I occasionally judge social situations incorrectly. I found this particular situation very awkward and was not sure of the best thing to do, but I decided to err on the side of doing nothing as opposed to taking an action that had the potential to make the situation even more uncomfortable. Each and every day, I try my very best to navigate interpersonal interactions in a polite and socially acceptable way. To be so harshly attacked for what was at worst a minor social mistake is disturbing and demoralizing.

You are a bully. Anyone on the train could have offered their seat to a member of the family but you inexplicably singled me out for verbal abuse.

You accused me of sitting in a “handicapped seat,” but I was not. As I pointed out to you, there was no blue sign on my seat indicating “priority seating” for people with disabilities.

You yelled that I “need to reflect.” I have been reflecting on this upsetting experience, as you so nastily ordered, and the more that I do so, the more convinced I am that you were in the wrong. Perhaps, ideally, I should have offered my seat. But you are the one who went out of your way to viciously insult a stranger. Your reaction would have been appropriate if you had seen someone being raped or assaulted, or someone attempting to carry out a terrorist attack. To react in such a way to a person sitting and quietly reading the newspaper is preposterous.

I cannot comprehend the self-righteous attitude that would cause someone to interfere so aggressively in a situation that is none of his or her business. It is impossible to tell by looking at someone what is going on in his or her life, how badly he or she needs a seat, or whether he or she has a disability. It probably didn’t occur to you that I might be on the autism spectrum when you called me “self-centered” and a “terrible person.” For all you could tell, I might have had a physical disability that requires sitting, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. My mom has severe back problems that cause almost constant pain and make it impossible for her to sit or stand for any significant amount of time, but she appears perfectly healthy.

When I got off of the train (before the stop I was attempting to get to) I was so upset that I felt on the verge of either fainting or throwing up. I was so mortified and humiliated that I had trouble concentrating on my work. You went out of your way to cause this. If that doesn’t constitute being a terrible person, I’m not sure what does.

It is you who needs to reflect on what would cause someone to berate and insult an innocent person who is minding her own business.