Eulogy for the Ableist

I know all of you religious folk are expecting me to read a verse from the Bible. As much as I would love to read such words of inspiration written by the hands of God, today I would like read a quote from a whole different source and explain why I chose such a quote for your dearly departed Suzanne as theologically as possible.

“Darkness sleeps in every heart, no matter how pure. Given the chance, the smallest drop can spread and swallow the heart.”
Anybody wanna guess where this quote came from? Anyone?
Since no one has the slightest clue who said this, I will tell you that the philosopher who wrote this originated from a work of fiction. Not a novel, but rather a video game produced by none other than Disney and Square Enix, called Kingdom Hearts. One of the main characters, Ansem, is the fictional philosopher in question who wrote the same words I recited to you earlier in one of his reports regarding his studies of the darkness of the heart.

Suzanne Werner-Wright, like most people, was born with a pure heart–a heart that saw no imperfections in anyone, even if they saw themselves or others as imperfect in any way. But as soon as one of her grandchildren became autistic, Wright struggled to prevent darkness from unleashing itself inside her heart. The more imperfections she saw in her grandson, the more darkness had taken hold of her heart and drove her to stomp out people with the neurology under the guise of charity.

Instead of providing us autistic people the supports and accommodations we felt were appropriate, Suzanne did us a grave disservice by stigmatizing our neurology through advertisements claiming that autism is a disease that spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; that we contribute to the 50% divorce rate in this country; and that our behaviors, intentional or otherwise, bring shame and embarrassment to our families in public places.

Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of autism–high IQs, intense focus on fields interesting to us (be it STEM, arts and literature, video games, music, or even history), enhanced vocabularies–Suzanne scrutinized the complications autism brings–anxiety, meltdowns, and speech impairments–and referred our families to mental facilities notorious for abusive practices, like applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and electric shock therapy, she believes are designed to eliminate our behaviors and, ultimately, cure autism.

Despite her best intentions, Suzanne NEVER advocated for the acceptance of autistic people. All she’s done in her last 11 years of life was encourage the wider society to tell us over and over again that being autistic is not okay, therefore we should be punished, or even killed if need be.

Eulogy for the Ableist caption
Black and red grunge texture wallpaper bearing the sentence, “Suzanne did us a grave disservice by stigmatizing our neurology through advertisements claiming that autism is a disease that spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; that we contribute to the 50% divorce rate in this country; and that our behaviors, intentional or otherwise, bring shame and embarrassment to our families in public places.”

Take a look at me. I’ve been autistic for most of my 22 years on this earth, and I know a lot about the life of an autistic person ten times better than Suzanne has. Did I cause my parents’ divorce when I was almost 2? No. Have I ever embarrassed my family in public in any way? Maybe, but I don’t remember exactly what I did to embarrass them. Does the fact that I received speech and language therapy and acquired social skills from pre-K to 8th Grade mean that I’m no longer autistic? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I only attended one Autism Speaks walk in my sophomore year of high school, and I never went back. Suzanne’s “Call to Action” speech in Washington, D.C. two years later confirmed my decision to not walk for the organization since she deemed us and our families “not living.” Upon hearing this from John Elder Robison, who resigned from the Autism Speaks Board of Science, I plucked the two puzzle piece bracelets I got from the Autism Speaks walk out of my purse and threw them in the trash, ultimately renouncing my support for the organization.

I’m proud to be autistic, and I’m glad that I’ve met people who are on the same boat as me. Together, we are working and/or have worked to defeat every demeaning autism stereotype in Suzanne’s book. She said that we will never attend college and graduate with a degree; we are, and we have–because we have every right to an education. She said we will never leave our parents’ homes and find jobs we’ll be successful in; we are, and we have–because we have every right to live independently. She said we’ll never find love, get married, and raise children (if we so choose); we are, and we have–because we have every right to be in loving relationships.

About Suzanne’s claim that autism is like cancer–the joke’s on her. Darkness had spread everywhere in her body and consumed her before she even had the slightest decency to apologize to all of us for saying such lies about us. I understand that where she will go from here depends on the Lord’s judgment, but because she has promoted ableism against us all these years, I believe she does not deserve to spend eternity in Heaven.

If I ever have children and any of them turn out to be autistic–which is likely due to genetics–I will treat them with bountiful love and respect, and raise them to advocate for their human rights if anyone ever tells them their lives and their contributions to society don’t matter. I will never subject them to any abusive therapies and treatments Suzanne and other so-called “autism warrior parents” swear by to change them. Don’t agree with me? Then I have a special guest here to sing a song dedicated to you and all those who have supported Suzanne’s ableist endeavors.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Disturbed performing “Who Taught You How to Hate” from their latest album, Immortalized.

Good night, everybody.

 

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At the Very Beginning with Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ [chi]

At the Very Beginning with Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ [chi]

I spent at least two hours trying to free up as much storage space on my phone as possible–deleting songs I don’t seem to care much about anymore, the Facebook app (though I still use the browser version), etc.–and upgrade to a new version of Galaxy S5 in order to accommodate Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ [chi] last week Thursday. It was painful, but as a Kingdom Hearts fan of nearly a decade, I say it was worth it.

A prequel to the entire Kingdom Hearts series in general, KHUχ features wonderfully drawn 2D character models and a battle system that most claim slightly resembles that of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Players can also customize their avatars by choosing the hairstyles, their eye and skin colors, and the outfits similar to the ones worn by Disney and Square Enix characters (by “Square Enix characters” I mean Final Fantasy characters).

At the start of the game, young Kairi listens to her grandmother tell the story of the battle between Light and Darkness known as the Keyblade War, which is the focal point that created the present-day structure of the Kingdom Hearts universe. Rewind to the very distant past, and in the Dive to the Heart, five unions are presented to the player character you customized: Angius, Leopardos, Unicornis, Ursus, and Vulpes. Once you commit your loyalty to one of these unions, Darkness moves to envelop you, until you summon a Keyblade to drive it away and are enveloped in Light. Upon arrival in Daybreak Town, your home base you meet a feline figure named Chirithy, who informs you that someone is trying to seek out the Light for themselves, and that your purpose as a Keyblade wielder is to defeat the Darkness that is rapidly covering the worlds it has spread to in the form of Heartless.

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Courtesy: Square Enix-Disney

So far, I have visited the Dwarf Woodlands, Wonderland, and Agrabah to fight off the Heartless and I noticed something peculiar. With the exception of the third world mentioned above–oh look, a pun!–the timelines for Dwarf Woodlands and Wonderland are looped. In other words, the two Disney worlds started off from the beginning scenes of their respective movies. Not to mention, they’re repeating the events of Birth by Sleep–which I didn’t finish because I had to give the PSP back to Jack for technical repair a couple years ago and I haven’t gotten it back since, so I don’t know which character started off at Snow White’s castle–and the first Kingdom Hearts installment. It’s kinda weird that history sort of repeated itself. Then again, each Disney film featured in the Kingdom Hearts series is set in their own time period in accordance to the era in which each original literary work was published or orated, so the Keyblade Wielders are basically time-travelling.

To fight the enemies, you either swipe your finger across the screen to swing the Keyblade at every Heartless at once, or you can use Medals that can cause minimal to maximum damage, depending on the Disney or Square Enix character that’s featured on the Medal, and the attributes that come with them–Speed (green), Magic (blue), and/or Power (red). You start off with using three Medals on your deck during your turn, plus a fourth Medal from a friend in case the Heartless proves too powerful for you to handle yourself. The further you advance in your quests, you’ll be able to unlock the last two slots for any new Medal you have earned, which gives you a sixth friend Medal. One warning: they use up your AP gauge, so use them wisely. I’m close to quest #40, and the last two slots on my Medal deck still haven’t opened up yet.

Tetsuya Nomura said that KHUχ will most certainly lead up to Kingdom Hearts III, whenever that will be released. I guess he might be right–he did create the series.

Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ now available for Android and iOS devices.

One more thing. Will Kairi’s KHII dress come in red when it appears on my Avatar Board?

GameStop and Autism Speaks: An Unholy Union 2.0

It’s times like this when I wish I didn’t have to go on the Internet on my phone every ten minutes, with or without Wi-Fi, like everybody else.

GameStop has become the second video game company after Activision to form an alliance with Autism Speaks to raise funds for their Light It Up Blue campaign during Autism Awareness Month. At point-of-sale, employees at GameStop and it’s subsidiaries Think Geek, Spring Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Simply Mac will ask customers if they wish to donate $1 to the organization, most specifically their Family Services iPad Grant program, in which autistic children and adults living in poverty receive iPads. Only 4,000 iPads have been donated throughout the U.S. since 2012. (Really?)

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Courtesy: Gamespot

Upon hearing this news on Twitter yesterday, my anxiety levels shot through the roof. My stomach was in flames, and I felt like my heart and brain were gonna explode on me. I was too pissed off to even write about it.

I’ve been shopping in GameStop for as long as I can remember–playing demos, reading Game Informer, even talking to some employees about the latest games (mostly Sonic the Hedgehog, Kingdom Hearts, and recently Pokémon). Funny enough, I wanted to talk to some of the GameStop employees I know at the mall about this damning partnership, but they were either off or too busy stocking up on the new games that came out this week, so I left them to their devices until next time.

Aside from books, video games have always been a safe haven for me to run away from all the bullying I was subjected to in both elementary and middle school (and at some points in high school). The characters from every game I have played assured me that I can accomplish anything I want regardless of what offensive bullshit other people say to me, even if I take such bullshit to heart. Playing in the worlds of both Sonic and Sora (since Kingdom Hearts II) made me feel loved, accepted, and that I could beat all the odds. GameStop and other retailers, i.e. Walmart, Target and Best Buy, provided all that. Now, to have my favorite video game retailer associate themselves with an organization that dehumanizes the very group of people who call the virtual world a safe haven [without even so much as to conduct research on them and their cruel objective]…

I just want to scream loud enough to rip a hole in the space-time continuum. I’m heartbroken times ten.

Autism Speaks has hit WAAYYY TOO CLOSE to home this time. I won’t have it.

 

Utada Hikaru: Queen of J-Pop

Utada Hikaru: Queen of J-Pop

Utada’s 33rd birthday may have already passed, but I think it’s only fitting that I write a tribute to her about my love for her music that started in my latter days of elementary school and continues to this day.

I’ve always had an exquisite taste in music since I was very young. I did listen to pop songs by Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and *NSYNC like everyone else in the late 90s, but my mother gave me a wonderful opportunity to hear pop music from the greatest (and often controversial) musicians of her time–Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, the Eagles, UB40 (the band most people confuse with Bob Marley because their voices sound the same), Sade, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, and even Alejandro Fernandez. English and Spanish were my primary languages in regards to music, as I’m of Spanish descent from my mother’s side of the family. At the age of 11, I would discover Japanese music in the form of none other than Utada Hikaru.
At the start of 5th Grade, my after-care counselor introduced to a new girl named Rebecca, who transferred to my school after moving to South Florida from New York. Rebecca had a lot in common with me–we both played Sonic video games frequently, loved to read, and watched the most complex cartoon shows at that time. One day, some time before my father died of liver cancer, Rebecca popped her headphones onto my ears and played something peculiar on her CD player. The singer’s voice was angelic, but the language she was singing in was too foreign for my tongue to decipher, yet the background music sounded familiar.
“Rebecca, what song was that, and what language is it in?” I asked after the song was over.
“It’s the Japanese version of ‘Simple and Clean’ from Kingdom Hearts,” Rebecca said matter-of-factly.
In that instant, my mind flashed back to watching the TV ads for both Kingdom Hearts and its Game Boy Advanced sequel Chain of Memories with the English version of the same song playing for 30 seconds. I didn’t know the name of the artist at the time Rebecca introduced me to her. It was only weeks, months even, before I set foot in middle school that I would find her name on Barnes & Noble’s music search network in its music department: Utada Hikaru (or Hikaru Utada per the Japanese naming custom).
I discovered her English album Exodus at the Virgin Megastore in Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs with the Virgin Megastore replaced by a bowling alley) and I begged my parents to get it for me. They did, on the condition that we all listen to it in the car on the way back to the Ramada Hotel. I loved it, but my mom expressed some concern about the content contained in all the lyrics of the Exodus album despite that there was no PARENTAL ADVISORY disclaimer on the cover. Sure, Utada wrote some pretty suggestive stuff, but I only cared about the beats in the songs, not very much for the lyrics–such is the innocence of childhood. My mom even went so far as to read some of the lyrics to our friends to get their opinion and, on the second day of 6th Grade, impound the CD from me. I was six months shy of 13, yet I got really upset about the fact that my parents decided right off the bat that Utada’s music isn’t appropriate for a 12-year-old girl. Ironically, a lot of kids my age were listening to raunchy rap music on the radio.
What my family didn’t know, Utada lent her musical talents by recording a new theme song for the North American release of Kingdom Hearts II called “Sanctuary” (“Passion” in the prior Japanese release). Kingdom Hearts II was released for the PlayStation 2, as was the first game [that I never played], in March 2006, but I was one of those gamers who acquired the game on Christmas. “Sanctuary” fit so beautifully with the opening sequence for KHII, for every word in that song described Sora’s goal to achieve peace, harmony and justice for his friends. If the fact that Utada sang for the Kingdom Hearts series didn’t convince my mother to accept my interest in her music, I don’t know what did.

During my teenage years, as I was listening to songs from her old and recent albums on YouTube, such as Distance (2001) and Ultra Blue (2006), Utada released a lot of interesting new music. In 2007, in addition to providing the ending song Beautiful World for the 2007 anime film Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, she sang a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)”, lengthening the song by one minute by adding an extra verse of her own at the beginning. I appreciate the original song my mother introduced me to, but Utada’s version was even better. The next year, she released Heart Station with three out of six popular singles that I loved: “Heart Station”, “Beautiful World”, and “Kiss & Cry”. As much as I liked hearing Japanese music, I wondered when Utada would make another English-language album. The answer came one lazy January day in my 8th Grade Language Arts class.
My teacher allowed us to use the school’s laptops to goof off for some reason, so on a whim I logged on to the website for Island Def Jam Records, the record label Exodus was released under. I typed Utada’s name in the search box and, sure enough, there was a new English single called “Come Back to Me” for a new album in the works. I plugged in my earphones to take a listen and, oh, my God, “Come Back to Me” was the best song since Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River”! The way she played the piano from a decrescendo to a crescendo in the beginning was genius! I mentally thanked my Language Arts teacher for giving me the rare opportunity to discover Utada’s new English song during class. The physical copy of This Is The One was released May 12, 2009, and though I would’ve loved to go out with my mom to buy it, I figured I wouldn’t find it at any music store in South Florida, so I couldn’t. Thank God LimeWire still existed long enough for me to download at least a few songs from the album that I liked (I’m not telling which ones they are).

My sophomore year of high school came with the announcement that Utada Hikaru will be taking an indefinite hiatus from music. It was shocking, considering how popular her music was with the anime community. Fortunately, Utada was nice enough to release four new singles that would be featured on her second compilation album Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2: “Goodbye Happiness”, which also came with a YouTube-esque music video where she sang to the webcam, danced like a goofball and played with puppets, “Can’t Wait ‘Til Christmas”, “Show Me Love (Not a Dream)”, and “Hymne à l’amour (Ai no Anthem)”. All of them were epic as always, except the full version of her cover of the Édith Piaf original didn’t show up anywhere on YouTube no matter how hard I tried to look for it.
I was sad to see Utada move on to other things for the duration of her hiatus, but I understood why. Life as a musician can be tedious, especially when your career begins at the tender age of 13, singing with your parents under the band name U3.
In my Chorus class, my Japanese singing practice would pay off when I decided to sing “Passion” at the year-end cabaret show. Two months before, an earthquake and tsunami hit the northeastern coast of Japan, knocking down the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and releasing radioactive chemicals into the air and the water in the process. I thought it was appropriate to dedicate the song to the people of Japan who were still recovering from the disaster and needed their spirits lifted. On the day of the show, there weren’t a lot of people in the audience, so I was a little bit discouraged. And even though no one understood a word I was saying–Japanese was not in my high school’s curriculum, such is the Latino-dominant South Florida–I still enjoyed myself onstage. I made Utada and the tragedy-stricken Japan proud. Most of all, I was proud of myself for being able to sing a popular Japanese song to the entire school (even if it was just my Chorus classmates) without fail.

Utada has experience a tidal wave of events during her hiatus. She quietly released the song “Sakura Nagashi” for the final Evangelion movie in 2012; her mother committed suicide by jumping 13 stories from her condo in Shinjuku in 2013; she married an Italian bartender in 2014; and just six months ago she gave birth to a healthy baby boy whose name she hasn’t revealed to her fans. In spite of everything, Utada has still managed to keep her honest personality intact. I can’t wait for her musical return in Kingdom Hearts III, if she decides to write a song for the highly anticipated game.

Cosplay Blues, Pt. II

Cosplay Blues, Pt. II

The first rule of cosplay is, try to make your costume look as accurate as possible to the character you’re trying to portray. So far, I got the following items for my female Sora cosplay:

  • Crown necklace
  • Blue tank top (though I may have to change it to red)
  • Black shorts
  • Cropped hoodie vest
  • Black faux-leather fingerless gloves
  • Black Mossimo shoes

The last items I’m trying to find are the yellow strappings and red pouch bags for my hips and thighs. I discovered last week that the yellow suspenders I bought at Party City won’t work for the strappings because they’re not long enough for both sides. I could try to buy another pair of yellow suspenders, but I don’t think my mom would want to spend another $10 on an accessory that the original character wears, so I would have to return them.

Here’s where the financial constraints come in. My mom and I spent almost $40 on the cropped hoodie vest Jack and I found at Justice, after which my mom said that my female Sora cosplay is the most expensive cosplay I ever undertook. On Tuesday night, I was waxing extremely desperate from trying to find the yellow strappings and red pouches for my black shorts at the mall. I talked to a girl who worked at Spencer’s about the issue, and she said to look on eBay or Amazon. When I got home, I logged onto the latter website and found exactly what I was looking for:

The leg bag accessory modified by Wing Seng, cosplay seller on Amazon.
The leg bag modified by Wing Seng, cosplay accessory seller on Amazon.

It was relief to find an accessory–er, accessories since there’s an extra leg bag–that looked exactly like it did in the drawing so that I didn’t have to go crazy looking for the materials that the crafts stores in my area might possibly not carry. When I showed my mom the leg bag(s) I needed, I thought she would be relieved, too. WRONG! She looked at the cost of the leg bags, which was $49.98 plus $7.04 shipping (because it’s coming from China, mind you), and said to me condescendingly, “Are you okay?! Only a rich person would want to wear your costume. I’m not gonna spend $50 [on that accessory]. You’re scaring me, Cristina.”

I looked up to my work-in-progress outfit hanging from my closet door and thought to myself, “Looks like the entire female Sora cosplay project is shot (unless I find an alternative to the leg bags I’ve been struggling to acquire for nearly a month).”

The next day or two at school had me convinced that maybe my own mother was right, that I am insane. Insane for taking on a cosplay project that I believed to be fun and fresh because I wanted to try something new. Insane for doing a cosplay that’s hurting my mother financially in the same manner as the unfortunate circumstances that have transpired this year–my grandfather’s death, my wisdom teeth surgery, and more recently, my brother’s non-lethal car accident.

I put in my best effort in everything I do, even if it emotionally kills me. Cosplay has become one of those things. I’m gonna try my hardest to complete my female Sora cosplay done by Halloween. I’ve always wanted to hold a Keyblade, anyway.