Elise Ronan
Justice, justice, you shall pursue....

Obama to Bibi: Autism-Meme as Political Insult

Jeffrey Goldberg  of The Atlantic, has written an interesting article detailing the dysfunctional relationship between President Obama and the Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu. Within the article he tells us that he has kept a running list of names that high placed officials in the Obama White House have been calling Bibi. Here is the list:


recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and “Aspergery.” (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.)  But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a “chickenshit.”


 Now, this post is not about whether you like the PM of Israel or not. In full disclosure, I do. But it is about the use, once again in the political sphere, of denigrating someone by insulting them with an autism-meme. I have written about this insidious practice dehumanizing those with autism before.  (Autism-Meme as Political Insult at Liberty’s Spirit) And yes it had to do with right wing pundits, so no, I am not picking on Obama because he is a democrat. As I wrote:

One of the biggest issues facing punditry is how to get your point across elegantly while excoriating the “other” point of view. Sadly many in this so-called adult world of political discussion, argumentation and  debate, have taken to childhood name-calling, bullying and insult. It is not enough to simply prove your opponent incorrect you need to dispel any notion that their ideas have any merit or perspective of worth. Unfortunately in order to accomplish this goal, many otherwise highly intelligent people use insulting memes to accomplish what they think is an intelligent spin on the opposition. What occurs however is the denigration of those who through no fault of their own have been born with neurological, developmental or mental disabilities. It is highly unseemly that in the greater world these insults to people living with immense challenges goes unchallenged. 

Being the parent of two youngmen with aspergers I do not go quietly into that good night when I see that ignorance about whom aspergeans happen to be abounds. The ancienne mode of thinking and understanding disabilities, as well as mental illness, is being challenged and destroyed on a daily basis by science, advocates and civil rights laws. It is time that those in the world of intellectual debate caught up to the notion of respect, understanding and appreciation of those who live life with a different “operating system” and try as hard as they may to fit in and become productive, happy, and accepted members of society.

Shame on those that perpetuate ignorance and hate. No matter who they happen to be they should be called out for their pomposity in thinking they can denigrate other human beings and yet still consider themselves religiously observant, ethical, moral and descent. (Read the rest HERE)

And yes I put the blame on the President for the words coming out of his administration. He is responsible for the tone and tenure of his administration. He is the head of the government. He is where the buck stops. If high ranking administration persons didn’t think they had the President’s nod, they would not be using these words with a well know reporter and definitely not on the record as these conversations obviously were.

What I find so interesting is the length and breadth to which the politically-allied members of the autism community have foresworn for Obama. They rallied for Obama since afterall he has autistic persons on some disability committee, and of course in Obamacare he made it de rigueur to give persons with autism health insurance. Now don’t get me wrong here either, it was about time that person with autism wouldn’t be denied healthcare, but what people conveniently forget is that state legislatures were going in that direction for years anyway. So ensuring that persons with autism receive health insurance was simply a matter of time nationally. In other words, it was no great leap on Obama’s part, nor was it a great leap for those creating the Affordable Care Act (which afterall has turned out not to be so affordable). It was an idea politically whose time had come and the Administration didn’t have to worry about political blowback because they supported this effort.

So is it then OK for high ranking Obama officials to use “autism” as insult? Are our children, or our lives, an insult to society? Are we to allow this disrespectful and repugnant representation of our children simply because for some inexplicable reason autism-pundits think that this administration is on our side. I think not. As I wrote on Facebook:

The White House just used “aspergers” as an insult aimed at the PM of Israel. Hope u autism advocates who voted for this WH are proud of yourself. Apparently your existence is an insult.

Another interesting observation concerning the autism community, which lauded ACA, overlooks the architect of Obamacare, Ezekiel Emanuel and his denigration of persons with disabilities. In his latest oped, found also in The Atlantic,  Emanuel talks about how it is immoral for persons to live past 75. He writes here why:

It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

It is rather pathetic in my view, that a person who is supposed to be a medical ethicist, finds it repellent that those without “perfect,” “normal” faculties are allowed to live. That simply because society may look at you with disdain or condescension, then you should not live and experience what life has to offer. I wonder what Emanuel truly thinks of those born with disabilities. Should their parents have done the moral thing as the atheist provocateur Richard Dawkins said recently and have had an abortion? Should those with disabilities be put away, shunted aside and left to die as they were in the day of Sparta? Or used for killing fodder as the Nazis had done?

I find it interesting that a medical ethicist, instead of decrying how society views people with disabilities in order to change society’s views, actually takes the view that since society is ignorant about those with disabilities or with the less than “normal” expectations on life, those with disabilities should not fight back against such ignorance, but cease to exist. I find it even more interesting that he is a vaunted member of this Presidential administration, the architect of our new healthcare system and quite frankly a self-proclaimed religious individual. Ultimately Emanuel discusses the financial burden on society and families of caring for those with declining abilities, aka disabilities. Is life simply a financial issue? What does burden to society truly mean to the political Left, and should someone who needs any kind of support and care simply cease to live?

We know it is more expensive to educate, take care of and raise a child on the autism spectrum. We know that most persons on the autism spectrum will need life long care. But is living truly only about the money? If you do not fit into some cost-benefit analysis then you do not get to live? Is this the purpose and end-result of Obamacare? What truly is the purpose of the ACA? What does it eventually mean for our children and ourselves? What is the mentality of the administration that lauded, vaunted and pushed for this new healthcare system?

I find it disturbing that combined with Emanuel’s attitude towards those with disabilities is the denigrating use of  “Aspergery” to describe a political adversary by members of this same administration which lauded his view on healthcare. It is an attitude born of ideology that those with disabilities are many things, but they are not human. Is it the adherence to the idea that those with disabilities should be aborted? That they are an unnecessary drain on society? Remember 98% of all unborn children diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome are aborted. The absolute belief that this is commendable is inherent in our country and in the medical world. How soon will it also mean that once the genetic composition for autism is found that abortion will be the way in which society insists we deal with our children’s future?

Moreover, I once wrote that the movie 21 JumpStreet should be boycotted because they too used the term autistic as insult. Since the Hollywood political Left had decided, rightly I might add, that to bully someone by denigrating those with intellectual disabilities, meaning calling someone “retarded,” was repugnant, apparently the powers that be had to find some other way to name-call and bully. So they hooked onto “autistic.”

Heaven forbid that they just not use negative stereotyping, derogatory statements and obnoxious idiocy in movies. Heaven forbid that the movie studios actually have some respect for the people they market to and use these movies to not add to the atmosphere of bullying throughout the country.  Too bad that Hollywood is so self-enamored that they think they can do anything without consequence and call it freedom of speech and artistic license.

It seems that the Obama administration, its healthcare advisers as well as its political operatives, have become as childish and have proven as ignorant as those who write so-called comedy. I had hoped that those who run this country and decide international and national policy would not have the emotional disposition of middle school mean girls. I had hoped that those that run this country were, and are, actual grown ups who did not denigrate and dehumanize  others. Too bad that that obviously  is not the case.



This post also appears in Raising Asperger’s Kids




About the Author
#RenegadeJew ...Elise's specific background deals with the practical aspects of raising special needs children. She has over 20 years experience advocating for her sons and others. Her motto: Don't put off the important things. Stand up for what you believe in. Do what is right and honest. Have patience. Have self-respect. Be kind. And above all BE BRAVE. Elise is a graduate of Boston University Law School and a Certified College Transition Coach for Persons with Asperger's Syndrome. She blogs under a pen-name to protect her sons' privacy.