Monday, May 23, 2011
Toys R Us Devalues The Meaning Of Heroism
If you've been to Toys R Us in the past couple of years, as a parent getting something for your kids or as an adult collector getting toys for yourself, you've probably seen the Autism Speaks promotions they're doing. This pro-cure organization, the organization that takes money largely for abstract research and pharmaceutical studies** over helping actual people, asks TRU customers to donate to help "solve the puzzle". Thus, the experience of the autistic people themselves is marginalized, as we are just a puzzle to be solved, a weird disorder to be put before AS' metaphorical Dr. House so it may be cured and the normal person within us can be freed.
It always bugs the crap out of me when I'm asked to donate at the register, and since they've started doing their "be a hero for autism" advertising, it's especially aggravating. Because, as a fan of the superhero comics that have led me into the store even beyond the point when it was "age-appropriate", I tend to think that the hero label should be applied to those who undertake difficult tasks for a noble cause. Raising an autistic child, especially a severely handicapped one, is a difficult task, but it's how the parent copes with the task and treats their child that determines their heroism, not the simple fact that they have the burden. (Lord knows I've seen plenty of parents of autistic people who are assholes, as well as great parents like my own). And putting down a dollar when going to a toy store means absolutely nothing. You're not sacrificing anything by giving your pocket change to a faceless "nonprofit" so they can do the work for you while you hold onto a glimmer of self-aggrandization.
And the worst part is the fact that the cashiers who ask me these questions aren't to blame, because they're just doing their job. Otherwise I'd prepare for the inevitable "do you want to be a hero for autism" question by putting on my best Solid Snake voice, and growling, "I'm no hero. I'm just an old aspie brought out of retirement for some new transformers."
* Me being in the latter category, obviously.
** Yeah, I'm getting vibes from the third X-Men movie here. I SAY WE ARE THE CURE!!!!