Is it just me, or does it seem that every time a celebrity (or politician: coughJOHNMCCAINcough) opens his or her mouth about anything related to health or parenting, they say something stupid?
I have, in recent weeks, picked on Gwyneth Paltrow and Emma Thompson for saying silly or poorly thought-out things about motherhood and the wellbeing of mothers - yes, it did make me feel better - but I had no intention of making this a theme. I mean, celebrities are always saying silly things. One could get exhausted trying to keep up. But then Denis Leary had to go and say (write) those really stupid things about autism, and I really had no choice.
In case you weren't paying attention to Mr. Leary's self-promotional efforts over the last few weeks, during which efforts certain portions of his new book, Why We Suck, were brought to light, here's what he has to say about autism:
“There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers
and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids
can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks... to get back diagnoses that help explain away the
deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you — yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”
Which basically confirms Leary as an idiot who should be ignored, but still: his stupid comment will have caused immeasurable hurt.
Imagine noticing that your child - your precious, beloved child! - is not like the others in his age group. Imagine staring up at the ceiling in bed at night with your spouse, talking about your fears and praying, just praying that you’re wrong...
Now imagine you’ve been diagnosed, and that terrible crushing numbness is just
beginning to abate, just slightly, and you’re finding resources and
help in the community and realizing that this is going to be hard, so hard, the hardest thing you’ve ever thought of doing, but you can do it, even if you have to explain autism all the time to a public that really doesn’t understand, and then….
This happens: a comedian opens his yap and dismisses - dismisses! -everything you’ve been going through.
I was thinking just now about all of the comments made by Dennis Leary
regarding Autism. First of all, he has no clue. But a lot of people
don't have a clue. Sometimes I get tired of trying to educate others
about Autism. Can't people just be a little more kind?? There are times I have taken TC out to the store, or wherever and been given some awful, nasty, mean looks. Most of the time I will tell him to behave and go on. But other times, I want to slap the person who is staring... If only Mr. Leary knew how hard it was to do simple things for an Autistic child. If he could live in my shoes, or others shoes, he may get a clue.
And from Age of Autism, an open letter to Leary from a former FDNY firefighter and stay-at-home dad caring for his autistic son:
Since you make your living off the backs of Firefighters, many of whom like myself have a child with autism which you have now chosen to make fun of, how about you be a man and come to Long Island and see my son’s school. Observe first hand my fat, lazy, stupid child suffering from autism. I bet you wouldn’t last 10 seconds with my son or on the fire floor. You wish you could walk in my shoes. I am a founding parent of the ELIJA School for children with autism spectrum disorders in Levittown, NY and a 20 year NYPD/FDNY veteran... There are many firefighters struggling with autism and all your foundation does is buy tools for the city, just more shit for them to carry. You do nothing for Firefighter’s real problems. So come on out, get your head out your ass and pry open that fat wallet of yours that was filled thanks to the real characters of the FDNY.
No word on whether Leary took him up on that invite, but the point was made, many times over, all over the blogosphere and beyond: Leary's comments HURT.
He responded by saying that his comments were taken out of context, but the damage was done - all anyone talks about is the hurtful comments, and not his clarification of those comments, such as it was.
It's been asked - as well it should be asked - why we listen to these people, these people whose voices carry because of their fame or notoriety. Denis Leary is a comic; Gwyneth Paltrow and Emma Thompson are actresses - why does it matter what they think about autism or mother-wellness or natural childbirth? I don't have an answer to that question - I've been upfront, after all, about admitting that the offhand comments of celebrities on issues that matter to me can really get under my skin, but it's still important to ask. WHY give a f*** about Leary's views on autism? Because his voice does, in fact, carry. And so no matter how silly or ill-founded his comments on anything - or Gwyneth's comments on anything, or Emma's, or John McCain's "air quotes" around "women's health" - no matter how silly it is to lend any credence to anything that they say on matters that have nothing to do with the reasons for their fame or influence - we still listen.
And then we criticize. And that makes all the difference.
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