Mar. 21st, 2011

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On the way from Brain Damage and the Mind to Linguistic Anthropology, I noticed a curious phenomenon: it was snowing over the buildings, and raining over the walkways. (Admittedly, this isn't generalizable to anywhere other than where I happened to walk, but for there, it was true.) Then, in the middle of Linguistic Anthropology, IT STARTED TO SNOW. A LOT. I mean, quite a lot—like, if I were in New Hampshire, I would be relatively happy with the level of precipitation; in Rhode Island, I am practically ecstatic. So that is quite exciting. The I'm-solid-no-just-kidding! puddles won't be very exciting, but alas—the snow is worth it.

On a completely unrelated note, I am having trouble deciding whether to inform my Linguistic Anthropology professor that I found some her comments in class today to be a little insulting. It's kind of ironic, given that we have been studying racism and racist language, and in particular how European Americans can be unaware that their use of a particular term is insulting to a particular group of people—the example we've been using is s***w. (I am ambivalent about using this notation here, as I do not want to use an offensive term, but anyone who reads this should be able to figure out what I meant anyway; hence, the best thing to do would be to not even mention this at all, except that then that raises the problem of ignoring racism ... so basically it's a big vicious circle that I don't know how to get around. But this seems like the best option.) European Americans don't realize that Native Americans are insulted by use of this term, even in geographic names where it isn't referring to a specific person; but that ignorance is no excuse for it, at least not after the insult has been pointed out.

So ... I can't decide whether to tell my Linguistic Anthropology professor that I find saying "the weather is bipolar in Providence" is insulting. As far as I'm concerned, it is; it is meant to be funny, but anyone who has bipolar disorder or knows someone with bipolar disorder doesn't find it funny. At least, I don't. I also don't find it funny when someone says something like "coffee makes me go all ADD" or "that was a real ADD moment." It's not funny. End of story. ADHD has its funny times, but it is not a joke, and it has very serious consequences for those who have it. I don't appreciate jokes about ADHD, or bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, or psychopathy, or depression, or anxiety, or OCD, or any of the mental illnesses that seem to be "funny" to people who don't have direct experience with them. (I do not have direct experience with all of the above disorders, but with a few.)

I am ashamed to admit that in the beginning, I found the TV show Monk to be rather funny—he is pitched as "the obsessive-compulsive detective," for those not in love with USA network. I still find it funny, or at least parts of it; but a lot of it makes me wince. I do appreciate that typically Monk would (temporarily) overcome the Phobia of the Episode, in the interests of solving the case and apprehending the murderer; it is a great act of courage to do so. However, the fact that it is only temporary always bothered me, and it bothers me even more now.

Anyway, the point is, my Linguistic Anthropology professor, and the rest of the class, found the idea of "bipolar weather" to be hilarious. I did not, but I smiled along with everyone else, and thought about how ironic it was that we were saying ten minutes before that to say "I'm going to do homework mañana" is insulting to Spanish speakers but no one seemed to think that "bipolar weather" was even remotely off-color. We're talking in class about how European Americans say that to be angry at the name "S***w Peak" meant that Native Americans were being too sensitive, that they shouldn't care that much about a name, blah, blah blah. And I caught myself thinking, well, maybe I shouldn't tell my Linguistic Anthropology professor that I was bothered by that comment because she'll just say that I'm being too sensitive and that it was meant as a joke—


I'm not really sure whether it's fair to compare racism with mental illness-ism (is there a better term?); I will have to think more on that. For instance, while I don't find it odd to write "s***w*", I do find it quite odd to write "b*****r weather", and it's not like I mind the use of the word "bipolar" or "ADD" or "schizophrenia," just when they are used humorously with no recognition that THESE ARE SERIOUS ILLNESSES. I think most people probably recognize that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are serious, but "I'm being ADD right now" really bothers me. YOU AREN'T ADD RIGHT NOW, YOU ARE ALWAYS ADHD. THAT'S THE POINT OF CALLING IT A SEPARATE NAME. YOU SHOULD SAY "I'M GETTING DISTRACTED RIGHT NOW" IF YOU WANT TO INDICATE A TEMPORARY CHARACTERISTIC OF YOUR BEHAVIOR. It is true that ADHD symptoms can be better or worse on different days, and that medication can greatly reduce symptoms, BUT IT IS ALWAYS THERE. ADHD doesn't have to define who you are, but it is something that you'll always have to manage; some people have it worse than others; but saying that you are "ADD right now" is just insulting to those who have ADHD, because it makes it sound like you can either choose to engage in ADHD symptoms or that ADHD only occurs some of the time or that ADHD is funny because you'll get over it in an hour or two.

And when people literally write articles titled things like "Our ADD culture" or "How we're creating ADD in our kids," I see something fundamentally wrong about the way society discusses ADHD. Given that ~5% of the population (children AND adults) have ADHD, meaning that everyone knows someone with ADHD if they don't have it themselves, it is ridiculous to treat ADHD as a joke. I will confess that, in some ways at least, ADHD might not be as serious as schizophrenia, that doesn't mean that ADHD is a joke, and it doesn't mean that ADHD can be cured, and it doesn't mean that ADHD turns on or off, or that it doesn't profoundly influence the lives of those who have it. Some moments might be funny, but to treat it as a joke is just downright insulting; and in particular, while some people with ADHD might laugh at the moments that seem so absurd in retrospect, not everyone with ADHD does so. It can be profoundly disabling, in a different way than something like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, but should not be mocked because most people sometimes exhibit some of the symptoms.

Okay, rant over.

(PS: In the time that I have taken to write this, the snow has turned to hail.)


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