Monday, October 19, 2009

Why HE sucks...a critique of a Dennis Leary book

I guess he warned me. But I am angry anyway.

Yesterday I went to a Barnes and Noble to find some light reading – something funny, something relatively short, etc.; I’ve been doing a lot of “heavy reading” this year, and I’m a bit burnt. Near the checkout line I saw a book entitled Why We Suck, by Dennis Leary. I’ve enjoyed Mr. Leary’s standup routines over the years, and the few episodes of his show Rescue Me I’ve seen have impressed me. So I thought I’d pick his book up, sure it would be good for a few laughs, and took it home. Should have flipped through the intro and Table of Contents first. I'd have saved myself some time.

In the intro of Why We Suck, Dennis Leary warns that I (or any potential reader) will get ticked off or offended sometime during the reading of this gem. He insists that it is because I have no sense of humor and because I cannot laugh at myself or some situation I find myself in. Now I know most people believe they have a sense of humor, and that a good number of those people are wrong; if you talk to anyone that knows me, they will back me up in that I DO possess a healthy ability to laugh at myself. I can do so because oftentimes I find me and my various situations quite ridiculous. And being a lifelong George Carlin fan, I figured I was immune to such things as being offended by a comedian.

However, I draw the line at ridiculing children’s ailments for the sake of comedy. Looking in the Table of Contents when I got home, I noticed a Chapter called Autism Shmautism. Here, Mr. Leary takes aim at children with autism or various autism spectrum disorders, like ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. He says something along the lines of that only people like Rain Man ought to be considered autistic, that there’s nothing wrong with these kids except their inattentive, unloving parents, and everyone ought to just get over it (my apologies for not having an exact quote).

My older son has been diagnosed in the autism spectrum; Pervasive Developmental Disorder. My wife and I knew there was something not right with him as early as when he was 6-months old and just wouldn’t be held, wouldn’t hug back, in fact struggled against it. His other symptoms manifested as he grew older – lack of interest in playing with other children, his abrupt halt of language, his coordination trouble, his inability to function at an age-appropriate level, his echolalia. You never want to admit there is something wrong with or atypical about your own child. We knew. My mom (a school nurse for 30 years) knew. My sister (a hospital nurse) knew. It was an excruciating, agonizing decision to take him to a neurologist, and horrible to have your fears confirmed that your child does in fact have a disorder, and will have issues above and beyond what other children have to deal with. With the help of therapy, medication, and the love of an understanding circle of family and friends, my son has shouldered this burden and has dealt with it beautifully. I love him and am in awe of his courage.

The idea that his struggle should have been be treated with stricter parenting, perhaps with a few good swats on the ass; that whacking him a few times would scare him into "proper behavior" ticks me off. The idea that someone would write about my son’s and our family’s struggle in the vein of “THIS is one of the reasons other countries hate us, ho-ho-ho” as comedic fodder makes me downright angry.

Yet we live in a free country and right at the beginning I WAS warned as stated above. Mr. Leary can write about anything he wishes, and there are certainly enough people in this country more than happy to shell out money for this stuff. I am against censorship in the media or marketplace and I don’t think this book ought to be banned or censored or railed against or any such nonsense; this only brings more attention to such claptrap. So in the spirit of the free market, I will fight this in the only way that matters; I will return Why We Suck and stop my money from becoming Mr. Leary’s money.

Thanks for the early warning though, Dennis – saved me from reading the rest of the book.

Pax,
Thomas

Daily Mass Readings
Memorial of St. John de Br├ębeuf and St. Isaac Jogues
Romans 4:20-25
Luke 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75
Luke 12:13-21