Daily Archives: November 21, 2006

Bernie Rimland is dead.

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(If this post offends you, read this one first.)

Bernie Rimland is dead.

I’ve watched two people I know (not him) die in recent years, and watched their various eulogies transform them into people they never were to begin with. Perfect people, with their positive traits exaggerated, their negative traits eliminated, and sometimes growing (in the course of the eulogies) positive traits they never had to begin with. This bewildered and terrified me. If physical death was not enough, erasing their bodies, dishonest eulogies were erasing people’s true memories of them.

Not only that, it made me seem like a monster for remembering them as the people they actually were, who were, like everyone, a mixture of good and bad points. I don’t know what magic goes on in most people’s minds when someone they know dies. I don’t know what about death transforms the memories of the living. My memory does not transform that way, I remember dead people the same way I remember living people that I haven’t seen in awhile.

I will always remember Bernie Rimland as the guy who used his fame for publicly debunking the refrigerator mother theory, as a platform to say a lot of things that were destructive to autistic people. I will remember him as a promoter of mass institutionalization of those he regarded as severely disabled. I will not remember him as any kind of autism saint.

This is, incidentally, exactly what I thought of him yesterday, when he was alive.