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Jul. 7th, 2014

Fear of disability

The fear of disability is an old fear, older than humanity itself.

If you are a wild animal, being close by to another animal that is ill or acting oddly can be dangerous. You might catch the illness, or the animal's confusion could attract a predator that might hurt you both.

So it is a natural instinct to stay away from those who are ill. It can be seen in humans most significantly in the disgust reaction. If you saw an infected wound, or a sore, or a person with a runny nose and red eyes, you would instinctively back away. That is a survival instinct and it's been around since we had backbones, possibly before that.

But we are humans, and group animals, and that changes things. Group animals will care for weak members of the group because doing that makes the whole group stronger--the weak animal may recover and protect you; or else, the weak animal will contribute despite its weakness because it has been supported by others. Humans overcome their disgust/fear reaction to illness and odd behavior when they care for a sick baby, counsel someone with a mental illness, or work in the medical profession. For us, culture and compassion balance out the tendency to reject the weak, injured, or ill, because for us, not rejecting them actually gives us a survival advantage.

If we support Grandma even though she has a bad heart, she will teach us how to grow a garden. If we support the veteran who comes back with only one leg, he may become a skilled watchmaker. If we support Van Gogh despite his mental illness, we get his artwork. Because we have the ability to cover another person's weaknesses, we've grown into a species with an instinctively compassionate reaction that often overrides the fear and disgust that come from the more primitive parts of our brains.

That doesn't mean that those fear/disgust reactions vanish, though. People still have them, and if they listen to them, they can grow into unthinking prejudice that, however illogical, leads to the same rejection of the ill or injured that would take place automatically if we were lizards instead of human beings.
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Jul. 4th, 2014

Bittersweet News

I spend some time each day monitoring the news and maintaining the Autism Memorial site, and lately, things have been unusually quiet. This year so far, 2014, I've added only seven new people, mostly children. That there should be any is bad, but that the new cases are a trickle instead of a flood is somewhat hopeful.

Recently, the killers of two autistic teenagers, guardians who were supposed to protect and teach them, were brought to justice.

Brandon White, age 15, was killed by his mother's boyfriend, who tied him up and suffocated him. Brandon's killer was sentenced to 90 years, and it will be 45 years before he'll get out. Good riddance. Justice came too late for Brandon, but at least the murderer will never do this to another boy.

The other trial was for the killer of Melissa Stoddard, the 11-year-old girl who died, after a long period of physical and emotional abuse, because she was tied to a plywood board with her mouth duct-taped shut. Melissa's stepmother was convicted of first-degree murder and given a life sentence.

These aren't the slap-on-the-wrist sentences we're used to seeing given to people who murder autistic children. I hope it's a trend that continues. Actually, I hope we never see another murder, but that's too optimistic and I know it. I just hope the new cases continue to slow down, and that when an autistic person does die, their killers are treated just the same as if their victims had been non-autistic.

May. 24th, 2014

I am not a Killer

You know that study, the one that's been in the news lately, about how lots of serial killers are autistic?

This one?

That study... Yeah, it's bad science, or bad journalism, depending on whether it's the researcher or the reporter who made the leap from "people say you have autism" to "you actually have autism".

What they did was look at news articles about serial killers and mass murderers. Then they checked to see which ones the press had speculated about having ASD traits. About a quarter had had a newspaper reporter make that assumption about them. Only one, Adam Lanza, had a pre-existing ASD diagnosis.

So, the only conclusion you can draw is, "journalists like to say that mass murderers and serial killers have autism."

In reality, autistic people can become murderers, but we are not more likely to become murderers than NTs are. If you take the whole population of people with autism, and check to see who commits crimes, there's no increased crime rate among autistics.

Here's such a study:
Pervasive developmental disorders and criminal behaviour: a case control study.

Abstract.
The prevalence and pattern of criminal behaviour in a population of 313 former child psychiatric in-patients with pervasive developmental disorders were studied. The patients were divided into three subgroups and compared with 933 matched controls from the general population. Age at follow-up was between 25 years and 59 years. An account of convictions in the nationwide Danish Register of Criminality was used as a measure of criminal behaviour. Among 113 cases with childhood autism, .9% had been convicted. In atypical autism (n=86) and Asperger's syndrome (n=114) the percentages were 8.1% and 18.4%, respectively. The corresponding rate of convictions in the comparison groups was 18.9%, 14.7%, and 19.6% respectively. Particular attention is given to arson in Asperger's syndrome (p= .0009).


So Aspies are more likely to play with fire, but for every other crime, we're either much less likely (classic autism) or no more likely (AS) to commit a crime.

The serial-killer study does not connect autism with murder. It connects murder with retroactive speculation that you may have been autistic--and that says much more about how people talk about crime, than about how autistic people actually behave.


To my fellow autistics:
Don't let this affect your behavior. Let them talk. Let them call you killers, if they want. You are still the same compassionate, caring people you always have been. You do not have to become vengeful or turn prejudice back against NTs, just because they claim that's what you want to do. Once you have set them straight and they still call you a killer, there is nothing you can do about the way they talk. The best revenge is to be the person you know you should be. When you help rather than hurting others, you don't need to have people praise you for it, or even notice it. Let them call you killers--you will know you are not; you will know the world is a little better because you are in it.

May. 1st, 2014

Autism allies

Allies are not the people who assume that they know what is best for us, and try to speak for us.

They are the people who, when we speak for ourselves, will hold up a megaphone so that the world can hear us.

Whether we speak by writing essays, by handing someone a picture card, or by biting a hated therapist, we need to be heard. Allies are the people who make sure that happens.

Apr. 16th, 2014

My Splinter Skill

Among the uninformed, autism is often associated with savant syndrome. You know--Rain Man, counting cards. Or calendar calculation, or memorizing books, or drawing something with photographic accuracy after having seen it once. It's always flashy and exotic-seeming, like savant syndrome is so hugely outside everyday experience that autistic people may as well be performing animals instead of people.

So here's the reality: Only about 10% of autistics have a savant skill, and it's a lot less flashy than Rain Man. It's just a skill that you're so naturally good at that you pick it up way more quickly than anybody else, and get way better at it than anybody else--it's like your brain is specialized for it. Neurotypicals, by that definition, can be considered to be social savants. Any NT toddler learning language has a savant-like language acquisition ability that they won't have when they're grown.

Point being: Savant skills don't define autism, and they aren't actually that weird in the first place. If you're neurotypical, you have probably had the experience of looking at somebody and just knowing how they're feeling, or following along with others' actions without having to think much about it. That's pretty much the way somebody with a savant skill learns things like that--it just feels natural to them to do it, comes easily.

Another term for a savant skill is "splinter skill", and I prefer that term because people don't associate it nearly as much with calendar-calculating, card-counting stereotypes. If I could popularize any term for it, I'd use the term "cognitive specialty", because that's basically what a savant skill or splinter skill is.

So let's talk about what a splinter skill really looks like, in everyday life. It's a very specific skill--not like a broad talent, but quite a small specialty. For example, a talent would be, "I'm good at doing math problems." A splinter skill would be, "I can prime-factor numbers very quickly and accurately." Most people with splinter skills aren't prodigious savants (a "prodigious savant" is a term for someone with the really flashy savant syndrome, like Kim Peek or Daniel Tammet). They just have this one thing that they're really good at. For example, I know of one young woman with an intellectual disability who is so hyperlexic that she learned to read at three, and in adulthood she has such natural grammar and spelling ability that she literally never makes mistakes. She's a grammar specialist. She's not a novelist; she probably doesn't study English literature; she doesn't even have any particular ability to write a good research paper. But her grammar and spelling are perfect, and have been since she was very young. Another young man had a very good spatial memory, and he worked at a warehouse. He could tell you where any product in that warehouse was located, without a map or a manifest or anything else. Those are typical examples of splinter skills.

I have a minor splinter skill. I can improvise a harmony line to any melody after hearing it once. Sometimes I can improvise the harmony during the first hearing because I am so familiar with the patterns that music takes.

I am relatively good at learning music. I play the piano passably, can sing on-key, and enjoy listening to complex classical pieces as well as the simpler, more catchy songs from musicals. My musical ability isn't a splinter skill; it's a talent. I started out with a knack for music, but I had to work to learn to play the piano, and while I've always been very good at differentiating pitches, I still had to learn how to control my voice so that the pitch I was thinking of was the one that I actually produced. (By the way, no, I don't have perfect pitch. I can guess a note within a couple of steps, and I can recognize an interval intuitively, but to me, there's nothing about a C that's distinct from a D, even though I can tell you it's the exact same difference as between an F and a G.)

I'm not actually a gifted musician in general. I'm good at music, sure, but not amazing. That's what a splinter skill is--it's very precise. It doesn't give me global ability in music; just in that one specific part of music.

Music in general, I had to learn. But the harmony thing... That came early, easily, and so naturally that I didn't realize that other people couldn't do it. I remember sitting in church as a kid, listening to a woman nearby singing harmony out of the hymnbook. I didn't realize she was following the notes. At that point in my life, I didn't know how to read music at all. I just heard that she was singing different notes that sounded good with the melody. I thought, "I can do that," and so I tried it, and I found that I learned it quickly and easily. Nowadays, I often sing an improvised harmony line to those Broadway musicals, at least when I'm alone and only my cats are there to hear me. It's just fun.

And it's not something that other people can't learn, either. It's not some hugely mysterious art. Any college music student probably knows enough about music to improvise a harmony line. It's just that I did it much younger, and it took much less learning. That's a typical splinter skill. See? It's not so intimidatingly weird after all, is it?

By the way, the idea that savant skills can't be creative--that's just bunk! Yeah, I started out with the bare mechanics of it; I liked the way sounds fit together like puzzle pieces. But as the years passed and I studied music and listened to more of it, I learned how to use that little brain quirk of mine to understand music more deeply and fully. When I listen to music, I hear all the little pieces of it, and I think about how they come together. It's like seeing all the brush strokes in a painting. If I were one of those artistic savants, I might've started out just copying from my environment, but I would've gone on to enjoy art for its own sake. For somebody with a splinter skill, the simple joy of fitting together harmonies, or playing with numbers, or drawing what they see, is entertainment enough that they generally want to learn more about it.

I am starting to wonder whether splinter skills are truly so rare. Marginal ones, like mine, are probably quite common on the autism spectrum and off it, especially among people who are neurodiverse in some way. If you think about it, savant syndrome isn't so far removed from the average person's experience at all--it's just an extreme version of what you normally see. Some people learn a subject more easily than most. Some people learn that subject more easily than they learn other things. Exaggerate that, specialize further, and you have a minor splinter skill like mine, which comes easily enough to someone who's a professional in the area and is unique mostly because they learn it so early and so quickly. Further on, you have extreme savants and then prodigious savants with multiple savant skills, whose abilities are so specialized that they would take years of training for a typical person. (The feat of memorizing a pageful of numbers in a few minutes can be performed by trained memory champions.)

When I sing a harmony line nowadays, I don't want people to look at me and think, "Wow, that's amazing!", as though I were a performing animal jumping through a hoop. I want them to think, "Wow, isn't the human brain interesting?" Because it is. And because I'm as human as they are. (Thankfully, now that I'm thirty, it's no longer odd for me to sing a harmony line in church. Plenty of people learn them from each other and read them from the hymnbooks. But when I was a kid... I used to get people turning around in their seats and complimenting me after the hymn ended.)

It's the strangest thing--the more extreme a person's savant skills, the less human they seem to be to others. I don't like that. I think Daniel Tammet is very lucky to still be thought of as human, because he's also so very articulate and is interested in brain science, and so scientists have to see him as a person instead of a test subject. Not all savants are that lucky. Savant syndrome is associated with brain damage, with developmental delay. In the worst case, a person could be seen as nothing but a mobile unit for transporting his savant skills. The person gets swallowed up by those flashy abilities, and nobody cares about what he likes and thinks and feels, what his ambitions are, who he loves. He's just "the savant". And that's scary.

Just like a disabled person might be seen as merely the sum of their disabilities, a person can also be seen as only the sum of their talents. That gifted kid is "that gifted kid"--everybody talks about his being able to take calculus at age twelve, but nobody really thinks about who he is as a person. Say he wants to become a paramedic, and loves baking cookies with Grandma, and sneaks his dog onto his bed every night even though he knows Mom hates the way the dog hair gets on the sheets... Nobody thinks about that stuff. It's all about the calculus. But what's with that? The dog-loving, cookie-baking kid with ambitions of riding in an ambulance for a living is just as real as the kid who juggles integrals.

And if you're both talented and disabled... oh, then you're really in for it! Either you're disabled, and it's "just a splinter skill" and you're not truly talented or truly creative; or you're gifted, and you should just "overcome your disability" and go be Stephen Hawking or something. (Nothing against Hawking, by the way. He does have a real talent for making physics accessible to high-schoolers, and for that I'll be forever grateful. But do they really have to constantly point out that he has ALS? We knew that after the first time they covered it; can we get to the physics now?)

People are just too complex to distill down like that. When a person has a highly visible or unusual trait like a savant skill, there's always the risk that other people will see that trait as fully defining them, as though there's nothing else to them. In reality, though, every person is so extremely complicated that even a hundred traits couldn't define them, let alone one. Perhaps that's why I like studying psychology so much--it constantly reminds me that even when you think you know what "human being" means, there's always more to learn.

Apr. 11th, 2014

Cats have shorter lifespans.

We're all aware that our cats don't live as long as we usually do, and most of the time we just think of it as something sad.

But lately I've been thinking that there's more to it than the sadness of saying goodbye when a cat is old and you're not.

Cats grow up faster, age faster, live faster than we do. When I first adopted Tiny, he was a gangly street cat, the equivalent of a teenager in human terms, and he didn't trust anyone. I was twenty-three, and I was older than Tiny. I taught him how to trust. I taught him how to deal with his fear of thunderstorms and how to tolerate having his claws clipped. I showed him that the world was interesting, and that it was safe to explore because the world was no longer going to chase him away for being a mangy stray. I taught him that he could ask me for things, and I'd give them to him. Well, mostly. Some things just don't fare well between the inquisitive paws of a cat.

And then Tiny started passing me in age. He started to learn about me, just the way I was learning about him. He learned how to get me out of bed in the morning with gentle pats of the paw. He learned that when I'm overloaded and stuck, he can nudge me out of it. He learned how to lead me, his tail straight up, to his food bowl or his water dish. He even learned how to remind me to do things when I forgot them and he noticed the break in routine. He'll come to me and look at me, then walk away, look back at me, as though saying, "You should be doing something else, not this. Follow me, I'll show you." Or, "You're stuck again, aren't you? Here, human, I'll reset you."

Now Tiny is seven years old, and I am thirty. In cat years, he is older than me, middle-aged, and he is starting to take care of me. When he was young, living with Tiny felt like I was raising a child. Now it feels like living with an older brother. When he's old and grand and wise, I'll still have to look hard in the mirror to find my first wrinkles.

It's not as simple as shorter lifespans, is it? It's like my cat is on a faster timeline than I am. Things just don't take them as long as they take us. A whole lifetime, for a cat, can be fifteen years--and it's just as whole a lifetime as a human's seventy-five.
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Mar. 30th, 2014

Equality

Nobody's superior to anybody else. Everybody should be equally valued.

Some people say that statements like that are naive and stupid and only made by people who have blinded themselves to the reality of the world. Obviously, the average person can't match the performance of an Olympic athlete or the brilliance of a famous scientist or the compassion of a saint. Obviously, some people are disabled and, in the area of their disability they can't match the performance of the average person. Therefore, it's silly to say people are equal, silly to pretend these differences don't exist.

But equality isn't about ignoring differences. It's true that people have different skills. Some people are disabled; that doesn't mean they can't have useful skills. Some people are not disabled; that doesn't mean that all of their skills will be better than those who do have a disability. It's okay to value and celebrate your skills. But it is not okay to declare yourself superior because of them.

Say you are an Aspie and you are really (and stereotypically) good at math. You like being good at math. You want to become a mathematician. You are aware that most NTs stop at algebra, while you are happily playing with proofs. This makes you better at math than most NTs. It does NOT make you superior; it makes you a better mathematician.

Say you're an NT and you are really good at communication. You're an extrovert. You like interacting with others. You have a large circle of friends and you're making connections for a career in business. You understand that autistic people are socially awkward and sometimes have trouble even using language at all. This makes you better at communication than autistic people. It does NOT make you superior; it makes you a better communicator.

And if being really good at something does not make you superior, then neither should an impairment make you inferior.

"Equal" does not mean "equal in skill" or "equal in talent" or even equal in social status, wealth, or opportunity. It means that every person is worth as much as every other person, and should have the same rights, and should be protected just as much as everyone else. It means that every person should have the opportunity to use their skills and to become the best they can become at the things they choose to pursue. It means working toward equal treatment and equal rights for everyone--and it means acknowledging that "equal treatment" is not the same thing as "being treated the same", because people have different needs. It means that no one has to bow to anyone else, but everyone has to respect everyone else.

Mar. 23rd, 2014

Who is "Neurotypical"?

"Neurodiverse" and "Neurotypical" are words we had to invent because there were no words for "People who have brains that work in a way that's close enough to average to be called average by the general observer," and, "People whose brains are demonstrably not average." You can't say "cognitively disabled", because some atypical conditions like synesthesia and giftedness aren't disabilities. You can't say "abnormal", because that implies disease and is rather pejorative anyhow. Thus we use the word "Neurodiverse" to cover a huge range of atypical brains, starting with autism but covering everything from intellectual disability, post-stroke, TBI, and developmental brain issues, to savant syndrome, synesthesia, and giftedness.

"Neurotypical" is not just a word for people who are not autistic. It's a word for people who fall roughly in the (statistical)  normal range for cognitive functioning and neurology. It started in the autism community, but it's a word that is useful for other groups, too.

If you want to say, "People with ADHD are not (usually) on the autism spectrum", you may say, "People with ADHD are (usually) non-autistic."
"Not autistic" covers neurotypicals, as well as people with atypical brains who do not have autism; we didn't need to make a new word to cover people who weren't autistic, because we already had an easy way of saying that. But to talk about people whose brains weren't remarkably unusual, without using the term "normal" (the connotations of "normal" and "abnormal" carry too much baggage to be used as neutral terms), we needed a new word. So we use "Neurotypical."

We're not the only group that does this. For example: Cisgender (opposite of transgender); heterosexual (opposite of homosexual); able-bodied (opposite of physically disabled); sighted (opposite of blind); hearing (opposite of deaf/Deaf); people of color (opposite of white); indigenous (a group of people who already lived in a place when another group invaded or settled there). Some words are adapted from words that already exist. Some words are invented. They're often ways to talk about things without using the term "normal", because "normal" implies quite a lot of things that we don't mean when we talk about the majority as opposed to the minority.

Because the human brain is so unique and so different from person to person, even "neurotypical" is a rather broad range. Neurotypicals may become artists, surgeons, politicians, or soldiers; their brains are flexible and can train to deal with all of those things. They have widely varying personalities, from the introverted bookworm to the charismatic cult leader, the impulsive adrenaline-addicted extreme athlete and the careful, detail-oriented archeologist. So we can't say they're all the same (that would be silly, nonsensical, and more than a little offensive)--but they all think in a way that's close enough to average that they fit into the way the world works without having to make major adjustments. They are also valuable as communicators and connections for the neurodiverse, because their cognitive flexibility and social talents allow them to--if they desire to do so--communicate with people who are very different from themselves. This allows the neurodiverse to contribute to their societies, when neurotypicals accept and include them, and strengthens the whole society as a result.
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Mar. 19th, 2014

"Overcoming Autism" is not on my To Do list

I am autistic, and my autism is not separate from my identity. "Autistic" is part of what defines me, just like "college student" and "American" and "short". If it's okay for me to say that being female is part of who I am, then why can't I say that about autism? Or is it because disability is something that's so terrible that we need to reject it and pretend it doesn't exist?

Obviously, I'm not some kind of walking blob of autism, because autism doesn't come in blobs; it comes with people.

One of the most patronizing and pitying things people think about disabled people is that our one and only goal in life should be to become non-disabled, or to hide our disabilities as much as possible, or to make up for the disability by doing something amazing and justifying our existence. We can't just live our lives; we can't have goals and dreams completely unrelated to our disabilities. In fact, we can't have "real" lives at all as long as we remain disabled.

It's as though we're written down, like stories in a book, and the only possible happy ending is to become non-disabled or somehow approximate being non-disabled. And you know what? Those stories aren't the ones we write. They're written for us. They're pushed on us, expected of us.

I say we have the right to write our own stories. In my story, I am autistic, and I am fine with that. I want to become the person I know I can be, the person I am meant to be. I determine what my identity is, and I determine what my goals are, and spending my life becoming some kind of neurotic faux-neurotypical is not among them.

Mar. 11th, 2014

What's been going on with me lately

I feel like I have to talk about personal stuff today. If you're here for autism-related rants, I guess this qualifies, but it's much more personal and less theoretical.

So... let's see. You probably know I am a college student and that I'm an incredibly nerdy person who loves learning just about anything. Recently I went to a social psychology class whose professor happened to be my academic advisor. I'd never gotten to know him before, but this time I met with him a few times to discuss the subject, and he even gave me some interesting journal articles and let me summarize them instead of doing the boring book chapter summaries that the others in the class had to do. Anyway, last time I met with him, I learned that I had maybe five or six classes left until I graduated, finally, with a bachelor's degree in psychology. He says that I am likely to do well in graduate school.

So this sounds like good news, which is because it is good news, but it made the following events feel even worse. In January, I ran out of financial aid, and I thought I was going to have to drop out of school, but they hired me at the disability services department technology center--a student job, and what I earn can go straight to my school bill. I've always had trouble working, but this is different because the job itself is within my area of interest (disability accommodation and technology), and my supervisor is willing to tailor the job to my abilities. I took to the job right away and by all accounts was performing quite well. I was even becoming a particularly useful worker because I understand math and science and speak German, which is necessary if, for example, you're going to turn a statistics book into a format which can be read by text-to-speech software.

Enter the villain, WSU financial aid bureaucracy, stage left. I had been unable to make the first payment for winter semester and had accepted that I was going to end up paying a late fee. But that's not what happened. My first paycheck came too late to pay the first payment, and instead of a late fee, I found myself completely kicked out of school, dropped from registration. And because I was no longer a student, I could no longer have a student job.

The upshot is that I'm now once again unemployed, unenrolled, and living on disability payments, which are enough for rent but not enough for utilities. (I am not in danger of having said utilities shut off because that's illegal in winter, and I'm on food stamps, so I won't go hungry. No immediate danger here. But it is frustrating and frightening nevertheless.)

(I may be unemployed, but I'm not unoccupied. The technology center still lets me work on a volunteer basis, which is what I'm doing now. They need me--they have a shortage of math/science-savvy students. I'm working on a discrete math textbook right now, which is cool because it's a subject I've never had, so I am actually learning discrete math for free. And as always I am turning out blankets for the women's center blanket project. So you needn't worry that I am getting depressed and feeling useless; it's not that bad.)

Well, here's the plan... I just have to hold on until May. In May, I'll be able to register again. And I'll be able to work again. Well, for pay, anyhow. I'll be able to slowly pay off my utilities. I'll be able to get my degree.

BTW, if you guys are wondering, here's how the job thing works: I have what they call a PASS plan, which is an exemption that lets people who are on disability put aside money that they can use only for education or job training that will eventually get them off disability--never for personal needs, just for school or work. It's not very well known, but if it's available in your area, look into it; it might be your ticket off welfare. But naturally, it's no good if you can't work.

My greatest fear right now is that I won't be able to stay in my apartment. My lease lasts until April, so I can't really move without losing money I haven't got, and if I move I'll be too far away from school to make it feasible to get to class, because I'd either have to walk for two hours, or use the bus system regularly, which would cause overload and eventually shutdown (I know this because I've tried the bus thing before, and it doesn't work... at one point I was banging my head against the bus window, and I'm not even much of  a head-banger).  Losing my apartment would mean losing my chance at schooling, probably for good.

So yeah, that's what's been going on. I'm scared. On the other hand, I've gotten through a lot of crap in my life. I survived abuse and bullying, got myself out of a cult, survived a summer without a home (but not without a couch to sleep on), recovered from depression multiple times, and adopted two wonderful cats. I have friends who have literally told me I can sleep on their couch if I need to.

I'm always aware of just how close I have come to ending up on my own memorial. I recently added Mark Wood, a man who starved to death after his benefits were cut. He had Asperger's. When they found his body, they discovered a stack of unopened mail, just like what tends to pile up in my own mailbox when my executive functioning starts to slip. He didn't have help; I do. Without the people who are helping me, I'd be in the exact same situation he was in. Maybe I might survive it, since I've got stored body fat, a willingness to scrounge, and no particular tendency toward eating disorders. But that's just luck, isn't it? I've been hungry before. Not recently, but it's happened.

People keep helping me. I'm a cat who lands on her feet. Maybe that's part of why the memorial is so important to me--because I feel like it's just luck that I'm not in the same situations that many of those people found themselves in; that because I'm at risk, too, I can understand how important it is that they are remembered, how important it is that we keep such things from happening.

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