Greta Thunberg: Environmental Body Vs. Environmental Risk Part 2 (Transcript of ep.5 Season 1 of Autism and The Human podcast)

Welcome to episode 5 of Autism and The Human. I’m Limbic Noodle. 

You can find me on Socials under this name, now including on Facebook. Last week, I finally sucked it up and set up a Facebook Page under Autism and The Human with Limbic Noodle. Glance at it when you have the chance. 

Last week I talked about the concept of Environmental Bodies versus bodies that represent Environmental Risks. I spoke about how Indigenous peoples were dispossessed of pristine wilderness environments in setting up National Parks to “Save” these environments from environmentally threatening bodies so that those with Environmental Bodies could use them to achieve transcendent experiences in nature. 

I talked about how dirty urban environments were viewed as the responsibility of women to put into order. At the same time, men should be allowed to escape the feminizing influences that prevailed in these spaces. While women were considered responsible for putting the disordered areas into order, BIPOC individuals were considered the reason urban spaces became disordered. Since BIPOC industrialists were not common, one has to conclude that their existence in these urban spaces was being blamed. 

I talked about how blaming BIPOC groups of people for Environmental Impurity was an extension of White Supremacy. 

In addition, I told you about how Indigenous people have been co-opted by Environmentalist Movements to bolster their Legitimacy through proximity because Indigenous people are viewed as inherently environmental, as per the “Environmental Indian” stereotype. 

I also talked about how the concept of a disordered person representing a disordered society was used as a justification for Eugenics, including the forced sterilization of disabled people. 

I told you about how Disabled people have been excluded from achieving transcendent experiences in nature because the Environmental Body ideal says these have to be achieved without assistance from technology or other people. 

This week, in Part Two of Environmental Body versus Environmental Risk, I will tell you a bit about Greta Thunberg, focusing specifically on how her autism is perceived concerning her Environmentalism. 

Today’s discussion will include references to ableism and racism. If you don’t have the spoons to hear about these things at this time, take care of yourself first and don’t listen. 

It is difficult to maintain a narrative flow while listing all references throughout. However, credit needs to be given. Please look on my Word Press blog, Autism and The Human with Limbic Noodle, to find the transcript, with references included.

With that, let’s get into it. 

Greta Thunberg’s story of sitting on the Swedish parliament steps with a placard about the Climate Crisis has been retold many times in many forms of media. We’ve been told how her quiet persistence slowly helped her gain notice from people who spread her message, eventually leading to the Swedish Prime Minister taking the time to find out what she had to say. This conversation increased her profile and platform, growing to the point where her name is generally recognized in the Global North. 

At some point, Thunberg’s autism diagnosis became a significant factor in the discourse. Did this happen because a newspaper mentioned her diagnosis in a biographical note included in an article about fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg winning a local newspaper essay contest in May of 2018? Did local media pay particular attention to Thunberg’s humble protest because it fit the model of disability inspirational stories? If so, I have to imagine that they did not envision her efforts to gain the momentum they did. 

Considering what I told you about the concept of Environmental Bodies versus bodies that represent Environmental Risks, does Thunberg’s emergence as a vocal representative of Climate Crisis Activism mark a sea change in how disabled people are viewed and treated in environmentalism? Or does her notoriety establish other neurodivergent climate activists to be held to unreasonable standards and expectations? 

Like many autistic women and girls, Thunberg was not diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder early in her life. Researchers Russell et al. (2010) concluded that there is a strong gender bias in the diagnosis of autism (Russell et al. 2010). They found that girls are less likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder even when their symptoms are as severe as those observed with boys identified early. Researchers have speculated that girls often are not referred for autism spectrum disorder testing or diagnosis, thus not making it into statistics concerning the gender-based ratio of diagnosis (Baron-Cohen, 2002; Ehlers & Gillberg, 1993; Russell et al., 2010). It took years of traumatic misdiagnoses before medical professionals considered autism an explanation for Thunberg’s challenges. Author Paulina Neuding described how Thunberg was hospitalized after not eating for two months. Thunberg’s low heart rate and blood pressure proved this was not some ploy for attention on her part. She was starving. Thunberg had also slipped into an extended period of selective mutism to complicate matters, only speaking to her younger sister and parents. After years of depression, anxiety attacks, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive behaviour, Thunberg’s doctors finally conceded there might be an overarching diagnosis that would explain all these symptomatic elements. Why did it take so long? The answer is simple: Thunberg is a girl, making her a minority within an already marginal group.

Thunberg didn’t acquiesce to being made an object of inspiration. Her actions and words proclaimed a different position—she was successful because of her disability, not despite it (Birrell, 2019; Howes, 2019; Mancini & Roumeliotis, 2019; Silberman, 2019). Thunberg’s message being viewed as against the grain gives us an example of how non-disabled people dominate the disability discourse. Thunberg may have thwarted the media’s attempts to turn her into an inspirational flash-in-the-pan, but that has not kept her neuro-siblings from drawing inspiration from her work. Steve Silberman (2019) wrote:

Many people with autism throughout history have been ignored and shunted to the margins of society, and condemned as weird, insane, or worse. But the idea that people like Greta Thunberg have valuable insights not in spite of their autism but because of it is gaining ground as part of a global movement to honor neurodiversity, a word based on the concept of biodiversity—the notion that in communities of living things, diversity and difference means strength and resilience. Great minds, in other words, don’t always think alike (Silberman, 2019).

If one were to ask a group of autistic people if they felt like autism was something they needed to overcome, many would respond that it is part of their identity and represents strengths more than weaknesses (Castellon, 2020; Lewis, 2020). They might point out aspects of autism they find challenging, but that does not mean they would choose to be neurotypical if such a choice were possible.

Thunberg has expressed in interviews and speeches that being autistic has directly benefited her climate activism (Birrell, 2019; Howes, 2019; Mancini & Roumeliotis, 2019; Silberman, 2019). Among these strengths is the bluntness that she wields like a weapon to cudgel members of older generations in the hopes of shaking them out of their climate change denial. Like most autistic people, Thunberg does not see the point in embroidering the truth (Hornok, 2018; Rudy, 2019). Why should she be overly concerned that those around her are forced to deal with an uncomfortable truth when discomfort is her daily fare? Author Steve Silberman (2019) wrote that autistic people experience a visceral feeling of repulsion when confronted by hypocrisy. Thunberg, like them, can’t stomach hypocrisy (Silberman, 2019). Something else that might be considered a benefit to Thunberg’s activism is that the possibility of gaining or losing popularity does not appear to factor into her choices. Like many neurodivergent people, Thunberg is used to feeling excluded (Brede et al., 2017; McKinney, 2016; Ryan & Rӓisӓnen, 2008). Thunberg’s ability to focus on a single task for extended periods, an ability many on the spectrum experience, might be said to be another aid to her climate activism provided by autism (Ashinoff & Abu-Akel, 2019; Baron-Cohen et al., 2009).

Autistic people face various types of barriers that force them to work harder for their achievements than their neurotypical peers (Cantrel, 2019; Hayward et al., 2019; Hayward et al., 2018; Scott et al., 2017). For instance, autistic people have to deal with sensory issues that make tasks more difficult (Baron-Cohen et al., 2009; Leekam et al., 2001; Kern et al., 2006; Tomchek & Dunn, 2007). Studies have shown that 90% of autistic people have sensory processing issues (Baron-Cohen et al., 2009). These amount to the creation of employment barriers for many who are not able to cope. Eye irritation caused by fluorescents and overhead lights is an example of a sensory issue that can create employment barriers. Most employees find overhead lights irritating; however, the eye irritation experienced by most neurotypical people does not compare well to how autistic people are affected. Work attire is another example of a barrier created by employment expectations. Many neurotypical people indeed find the kinds of clothes they must wear for employment to be stifling and physically constraining. These complaints look tiny next to how the fabrics, tags, and tailoring of formal clothing can make autistic people feel. For example, some autistic people do not wear shoes or socks because they need to splay and scrunch their toes. The simple expectation of wearing shoes at work can be overwhelming.

With so many challenges to employment, the idea that one could claim aspects of autism as assets rather than citing them as potential deficits would naturally be attractive. On the other hand, it would probably also feel disingenuous, considering the barriers to autistic employment. Thunberg and other autistic climate change activists are confronted by no fewer barriers in their activism work than are encountered in the workplace by the average autistic person. Why should autistic people have to work harder than neurotypical people to do something that benefits all living things on this planet? Perhaps they would not be forced to work harder than neurotypical people to achieve the same goals if neurotypical people took time to learn how to make environmental movements safe for autistic people.

Quincy Hanson, a young autistic blogger, told writer Jack Howes that the paradigm surrounding autism is negative. Quincy pointed out that autistic people are discussed in terms of their cost to society rather than anything positive they can offer. For these reasons, Hanson feels Thunberg helps shift the standard paradigm of autism, helping people see the positive over the negative. In light of the historical context and current realities for those on the spectrum, one has to wonder if Thunberg is accomplishing as much in autistic representation as she is doing for climate activism. Articles about Thunberg seem to do their best to stuff her back into the disability-inspiration box, even using the boldness of her pride about being autistic as a source of inspiration. Changing the attitudes and behaviour of majority culture frankly seems as monumental of a task as addressing the climate change crisis. Ari Ne’eman, one of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network co-founders, told author Steve Silberman that Thunberg’s open identification as autistic was noteworthy, primarily because it puts her in a high visibility leadership position as an autistic person. A person in a position such as this has the power to help transform the negative paradigm that surrounds autism, opening opportunities for other autistic people.

In 2019 Mike Kersmarki, former business journalist and current novelist, expressed in writing and on Fox News what many people think about Greta Thunberg’s rapid rise in notoriety within the climate change activism movement: 

Is Thunberg being used for publicity while shamelessly being taken advantage of by adults who use her as a human shield against any criticism of their views on radically disrupting the world’s immense energy economy? (Kersmarki, 2019, para. 11)

They are operating from a faulty premise, that claiming disability places one above criticism because of “Political Correctness” and “Cancel Culture.” Historically, this could not be further from the truth. Even now, autism is typically discussed from a “Medicalization” approach that transforms differences into symptoms of deviance that need medical intervention (Conrad, 2007; Wrenn et al., 2015). While some health issues are objectively real and require medical intervention, many characteristics of autism are unnecessarily pathologized. In 2017 writers Austin and Pisano stated in the Harvard Business Review that neurodiversity is a competitive advantage, an opinion Greta Thunberg has repeatedly suggested to less favourable reactions (Austin & Pisano, 2017). The negative paradigm around autism described by Quincy Hanson makes it far more likely autistic characteristics will be viewed as a problem than an advantage (Howes, 2019). One sees the creation of a perfect storm when the negative paradigm around autism meets the often toxic discourses around feminism, race, and climate change.

The medicalization of difference disempowers marginalized groups of people (Conrad, 1992; Link et al., 1999; Schur, 1984; Wrenn et al., 2015). Researchers Wrenn et al. (2015) wrote, “If a group can be successfully framed as physically or mentally ‘inferior’ that group can be effectively silenced in order to maintain an unequal or oppressive social hierarchy” (Wrenn et al., 2015, p. 2). Environmentalists historically have laboured against a countermovement that frames their passion as mental illness, counting on the negative paradigm around mental illness to do their dirty work (Wrenn et al., 2015). To this day, environmental movements are predominately peopled by women (Wrenn et al., 2015). Our culture has a long history of framing women who buck the status quo as mentally ill (Gilman et al., 1993; Mitchel, 2004; Wrenn et al., 2015). If one combines this with how black and brown people have their differences pathologized, one has to conclude that the ultimate “Other” would be black or brown disabled women. While Greta Thunberg identifies only as some of these, she still experiences a great deal more “Othering” than the average neurotypical man or woman. One could subsequently surmise that Greta Thunberg’s identification as autistic is about as far from being useful as a shield as a screen door would be useful on a submarine.

We see this born out in attacks made on Greta Thunberg by climate denialists. Journalist Anna North (2019) wrote about how Trump and right-wing media attacks against Thunberg expose the stigma placed on autistic women and girls in our society (North, A., 2019). Fox News commentator Michael Knowles dismissed Thunberg as a “mentally ill child” (North, 2019).

These kinds of attacks make it laughable that right-wing media pundits such as Mike Kersmarki suggest left-wing media and climate change activists use Thunberg as a human shield because of her autism. It is demonstrably untrue that political correctness or cancel culture place Thunberg above criticism. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network executive director, Julia Bascome, said, “The go-to way to dismiss what an autistic person is saying in our society is to point out that we are autistic” (North, 2019, para. 5). An example of how Greta has responded to critics such as Kersmarki can be found in one of Thunberg’s tweets where she said, “I’m not public about my diagnosis to ‘hide’ behind it, but because I know many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness,’ or something negative” (North, 2019, para. 14). People who believe that disabled people get a pass are misguided. For example, one does not have to search long to find newspaper articles about disabled protesters being tossed out of their wheelchairs by police. Author Steve Silberman says, “Being autistic does not protect these environmental advocates from the usual attacks levelled against anyone who raises the alarm about the oncoming climate catastrophe; instead, it gives the trolls another angle of attack” (Silberman, 2019).

An example of trolls looking for another angle of attack is observable in the work of Brendan O’Neill and Frankie Boy of Spiked webzine. This pair of adults have fluffed their careers by bashing Greta Thunberg. Unsurprisingly, one of the primary sources of funding for Spiked is Koch Industries, which directly influences climate change denial. Koch is known for dealing in petroleum, chemical, polymers, pulp and paper, refining, and fertilizers. Ian Birrell (2019) of The Guardian pointed out how an editor of Spiked wrote a piece that compared Greta to a brainwashed cult member, with a monotone voice and a look of dread in her eyes (Birrell, 2019). These are not very subtle dog-whistles to their followers and fans that characterizing Greta Thunberg’s autism as a “Problem” is fair-game. It permits them to use it as part of their repertoire of attacks on Thunberg.

As if it were not difficult enough for autistic climate change activists such as Greta Thunberg to deal with ableist attacks directed from outside of their movements, they have to deal with attacks from within. Social movements and their opposing countermovements often frame disability as an opponent. Wrenn et al. wrote:

When disability identity becomes a tool in the repertoire that is designed to demean and dismiss opponents in the social movement arena, the discrimination experienced by people with disabilities is reinforced and aggravated. While ableism in any form is problematic, a social movement that is based in social justice should be particularly wary of how politicizing mental disability can otherize and injure oppressed populations (Wrenn et al., 2015, p. 3).

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an example of an organization supposedly based on social justice concepts that routinely abuse ableist language to make their point. They have “Othered” autistic people in at least one of their campaigns. In 2014 PETA ran a campaign linking the consumption of dairy products to autism. The advertisement read, “got autism? Studies have shown a link between cow’s milk and autism” (Kluger, 2015). Putting aside the question of whether there was any truth in the advertisement, PETA made this claim because of the negative paradigm surrounding autism. They counted on fear of the “Other” to make people stop and question if they should be consuming dairy products.

The adoption of ableist language and actions in framing environmentalism’s “Opponent” is more likely to negatively affect autistic people within climate change activism movements than it would their neurotypical peers (Wrenn et al., 2015). There is a growing hope in some quarters that Greta Thunberg’s visibility as a proudly autistic person will lead those within climate change movements to pause and consider how they might accommodate those with “Invisible Disabilities” amongst their ranks (Birrell, 2019; Howes, 2019; Mancini & Roumeliotis, 2019; Silberman, 2019). I am concerned there are climate change activists who might look at Thunberg’s work and conclude that they need to change their expectations of autistic peers within their movements. I am not suggesting I prefer the negative paradigm around autism stay in place. However, I worry that Thunberg’s notoriety will place undue pressure on other autistic climate change activists. The shift to a more positive paradigm of autism needs to include acknowledging and accommodating challenges and barriers. Our society does not have a history of being good at acknowledging or respecting boundaries; a reality demonstrated abundantly by the “#MeToo” movement (Pazzanese & Walsh, 2017). When one is pushed to used words such as “Differently Abled” rather than “Disabled,” it feels a little like a suggestion that one should disregard the idea of disabled people having boundaries that need to be respected. It feels like the onus is being thrown onto disabled people to find a different way to do something rather than on society to respect the boundary and find a way to accommodate the need.

Like many autistic people, Greta Thunberg has a history of issues around eating. It actually was her refusal to eat that ultimately lead to her diagnosis with “Asperger’s Syndrome.” Her problems with eating continue to this day and include aversions to particular foods. Paulina Neuding (2019) wrote in Quillette about how Greta’s mother would have to prepare the same food each day for her to bring to school: pancakes filled with rice, which she would only eat if there were no sticker with her name on the container. Food aversions are not uncommon in young children. We are all likely to have met a child who refuses to eat certain foods because of the texture, taste, colour, smell, or a visually unappealing characteristic. Most neurotypical children outgrow their food aversions. For autistic children, food aversions are more pronounced, prevalent, and prolonged. 80% of autistic children experience food aversions compared to 25% of neurotypical children (Nadon et al., 2011). One needs to remember that issues with the food itself are not the only aspects of eating that people on the autism spectrum find challenging. For example, extremes in temperature can be an obstacle to an autistic person eating a meal. Another problem might be that the lights in the room hurt their eyes. The volume or number of people speaking in the room and other background noises can be jarring. The anxiety of being expected to maintain a conversation can spoil an autistic person’s appetite, as can the potential for embarrassment from not being able to manipulate eating utensils correctly or making vocalizations while chewing. All these issues can reduce the overall food intake of an autistic person.

Researchers Myles et al. (2004) said that children designated as high-functioning or diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome did not differ significantly from children designated as low-functioning in their sensory processing. On the other hand, these children did demonstrate significant differences in their socio-emotional coping strategies. Those designated “High Functioning” experienced more anxiety and depression related to their ability to mask their sensory processing issues; an expectation placed upon those within this functioning label. While I disapprove of the use of functioning labels, this information is notable because it should help disabuse people of the idea that there are significant differences between how people designated within the two functioning labels process sensory input that always favours those who are considered “High Functioning.”

Leekam et al. found in their study that there were not any significant differences for a single or total number of symptoms regarding the differences between the way “HFA” and “LFA” people experienced sensory input. Likewise, a look at the two clinical comparison groups also revealed no significant difference for either the presence of multiple features or for separate sensory domains (Leekam et al., 2006, p. 902). These findings are significant when it comes to autistic climate change activists. Those perceived as “HFA” high-functioning or having Asperger’s Syndrome will be the most likely members of the autistic community to be represented amongst the ranks of climate change activism movements. People within these movements should be aware that just because an autistic person seems to be coping with sensory input according to the neurotypical norm does not mean they do not have challenges that are not obvious on the surface level.

Although climate change movements focus heavily on food production and consumption, Greta Thunberg’s veganism has allowed her food avoidance issues to pass without heavy criticism. She would be very likely censured for hypocrisy if her food-sensory needs included consuming ham with every meal. While Thunberg has inspired many autistic people to participate in climate change activism, one has to question if these movements have given adequate consideration to creating safe spaces. Indeed, if Thunberg had needed to eat ham with every meal, would they have rejected her work entirely? One could argue that anyone participating in climate change activism might be criticized for their eating habits. However, one could also assume that the stress of such criticism would impact autistic people to a greater degree. After all, researchers White et al. (2006) found that 11% to 84% of autistic children have some degree of anxiety. Granted, this is a wide range. Researchers deBruin et al. (2006) found that more than 55% of their participants with ASD had at least one kind of anxiety disorder. Reserchers Simonoff et al. (2008) reported a 42% overall anxiety disorder rate. Researchers White et al. (2009) said that some of the most reported anxiety disorders and symptoms included separation anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and simple phobias. They stated that while anxiety disorders can be found among children across the cognitive functioning levels, “Children with Asperger’s Syndrome appear most likely to experience anxiety” (White et al., 2009, p. 14). While once again pointing out my general disdain for functioning labels, this information should help clarify the lived experiences of those designated as “HF.”

Ian Birrell (2019) gives readers a grim dose of reality, stating that we live in a society that does not respect differences. He says that our society fears and ignores those who stand apart from the crowd. Birrell (2019) wrote:

Look at how people with autism and learning disabilities are routinely abused, bullied, excluded from school, swept aside in the jobs market and shunted into the worst housing in the toughest parts of town. Hundreds suffer avoidable deaths in the National Health Service each year due to a lack of training for, or indifference of, medical staff, reflecting the insidious discrimination that corrodes our culture (Birrell, 2019).

Many autistic girls face poor outcomes when it comes to mental health. Birrell described teenage girls locked-up in secure psychiatric units, drugged and restrained, sent to solitary confinement, and fed through hatches or with food dumped on the floor like they were dogs. One of the most frightening aspects of what Birrell described was that the very traits people have praised and elevated in Greta Thunberg could put another autistic youth at risk. Birrell (2019) wrote about one mother describing her daughter’s passion for human rights issues, focusing on it with a fervour many in her life found off-putting. It resulted in the distancing of her friends and their parents’ alarm (Birrell, 2019). It is not difficult to imagine this reaction deepening into a drive to ostracize the youth or even commit them involuntarily to a psychiatric hospital.

Suicide is another of the poor mental health outcomes autistic youth face at a proportionately higher rate than their neurotypical peers. Researchers Cassidy et al. (2004) found that 66% of their study participants diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome reported suicidal ideation, with 35% already having formed a plan. They found that 31% of them had reported depression. Cassidy et al. (2004) also stated that compared to the United Kingdom’s neurotypical population, youth with Asperger’s Syndrome were more likely to think about suicide, at a ratio of nine to six. Jack Howes (2019) said the life expectancy of people on the spectrum is 16 years shorter than their neurotypical peers. In an unfortunate call-back to the tendency towards inspirational narratives, Howes calls Greta Thunberg heroic for her ability to deal with the realities autistic people face. These include a higher likelihood of being unemployed, mentally ill and socially isolated. Howes pointed out that 80% of autistic people deal with mental health issues at some point in their lives, and Greta Thunberg is not an exception (Howes, 2019). Neurotypical people within environmental movements need to be mindful of the needs of their autistic peers. For example, a neurotypical environmentalist might generally find it acceptable and even laudable to hold an environmentalist peer accountable for choices that go against their movement’s social norms. However, they need to remember that, in general, this could qualify as classist, racist and ableist. When directed explicitly at an autistic person, it could cause them to slip into a dangerous depressive state.

Where does that leave us regarding autistic people participating in climate change activism? Patty Berne (2020) wrote about how we have all been cornered into positions of vulnerability by forces of capitalism, racism, ableism, transphobia, and homophobia. However, Berne adds that we should have gained enough wisdom through the planet’s history to survive climate chaos (Wong, 2020, p. 233). Proudly claiming and proclaiming all parts of our identities is where we need to begin. Berne (2020) wrote, “In this time, people need strength models. Strength isn’t just about momentary power to jump building to building; it is also the endurance to handle what is less than ideal. It’s the gritty persistence that disabled people embody every day” (Wong, 2020, p. 235). When Greta Thunberg calls out older generations’ hypocrisy, perhaps we should read the subscript as directed towards an able-bodied, neurotypical society.

Diversity should not become equivalent to multi-culturalism in the lexicon of words that did not live up to society’s hopes. Preserving bio-diversity should not only apply to the non-anthropic world. Preserving the diversity of humanity is just as important. How often have people wondered if the person who was meant to cure AIDS never ended up existed because their grandfather was killed in the Holocaust? How many of us have wondered if the person who would have cured cancer never learned the sacred knowledge they needed from their grandmother because she was stripped of her medicine in Residential Schools? How many autistic people have been excluded from employment, pushed to the edges of society, and told they could not create change? Naturally, we should continue to make people aware of the particular needs of autistic people. With enough education and representation, we can hope society becomes a safer place for autistic people to exist. When it comes to the big-picture, it is the celebration and making of space for diversity that will create change.

Well, that’s all I have for you this week. Thank you so much for listening. Please, share my content, especially within your autistic circles. Look for me on Socials under Limbic Noodle. I even have set up a Facebook Page, which I didn’t think I would do. I immediately messed up in the process and had to spend an hour on the phone getting help to fix my mistake, which serves me right for setting it up in the first place. In any case, that Facebook page is Autism and The Human with Limbic Noodle. 

Next week I am going to be talking about causal links between gun violence and mental illness. More specifically, I am going to be discussing the lack of causal links between gun violence and mental illness. It feels like a strange topic to be discussing, in a way, because as a person from Saskatchewan, I have never seen anyone other than a police officer with a handgun and have never seen anyone with a rifle that wasn’t going hunting. If I ever saw someone with a semi-automatic gun at a Starbuck, I would probably pee my pants or puke. I don’t know how Americans make it through a day with guns all around them, to be honest. I feel like I need to talk about this topic, given how predominant the scapegoating of mentally ill people for gun violence has become.

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