We live in a time when renewable energy is on the rise and electric vehicles are becoming so mainstream that they are in the news daily. It’s an exciting time to be alive. Last weekend, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, hosted “Saturday Night Live.” His talented partner, Grimes, appeared in a sweet cameo as well.
Tesla isn’t just a leader in electric mobility, but it is the loudest voice for sustainability. Led by Elon Musk, his heart can be felt in every aspect of the company, whether it’s the sleek designs of the vehicles or the passion behind Tesla’s mission. Yet, many often criticize him for being “weird” or “awkward,” which are traits of something that he just revealed to the world: He has Asperger’s.
So, to mock him for being those adjectives I just mentioned is, well, not nice. Mocking people, in general, isn’t nice, but mocking people for something they have no control over is just plain cruel. The constant onslaught of hatred, criticism, and snarkiness that Elon endures daily doesn’t stop him, and that in itself is empowering to witness.
And this is incredibly inspiring. For those who have any form of autism, the fact that one of the world’s most successful people in history has Asperger’s, was able to take the stage in a widely viewed live broadcast, and not only came forward with that but embraced what others may perceive to be flaws is something that everyone — whether on the spectrum or not — can take inspiration from.
With all of this in mind, I want to share some thoughts I had while watching the episode and later thoughts that arose the next day.
Clean Energy & EV Advertising
For decades, at least from what I’ve seen growing up here in Louisiana, which is an oil state, clean energy was something akin to a myth with a little cynical giggle attached. It was the pie-in-the-sky fantasy that could never really happen and silly to dwell on. It would be great to have clean air, but we can’t, so let’s not worry about what we can’t have. Stop hugging the trees. That sort of mentality. As a product of my own environment, I too once laughed alongside those mocking the treehuggers. However, as an intelligent human being with a good heart, I learned that my actions were wrong in that sense and have adjusted my mindset to be more open and hopeful while daring to speak out against those with whom I once laughed.
Fast forward to last night’s episode and you have one of the world’s most powerful and outspoken people walk onto the stage of SNL. As he walked on the stage, he gave his thanks and appreciation for hosting the show. After his announcement of being the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL, alongside a few jokes, he shared his vision for the future, which, despite sharing it on the comedic stage of SNL, is in fact not a joke.
“I’d first like to share with you my vision for the future. I believe in a renewable energy future. I believe that humanity must become a multi-planet, spacefaring civilization. Those seem like exciting goals, don’t they?”
Renewable energy and love for our planet went from being a yearly Earth Day thing to something that brought a serious moment to an international comedic stage. Comedy is often meant to be fun, joyous, and entertaining, while also a means to make fun of pain and hurt. This stage may not be taken seriously by many, but this one moment will be one that is taken seriously — and not just by those of us who are doing our best to contribute towards a better future.
One of the world’s most powerful people went on a comedy set and shared his dreams and goals. And then pointed out how exciting those dreams and goals are — in a playful setting with a passionate and serious undertone. As you laugh with him, he will continue to pursue those dreams. And while many may move on and collectively forget this part of the episode, Elon Musk will be working hard at making this world a better place for humans. We can take a lesson from him on how to be better humans just by observing.
Asperger’s in Context
I don’t know that much about autism or Aspergers, but I know what it’s like to be ridiculed for having something that you can’t control. I have asthma and was heavily bullied during high school for it. Unlike Elon, I stopped living. I was too scared to walk the stairs or to even work out. I had to overcome PTSD and, due to the bullying, I failed two years of classes — graduating 2 years later than planned. I was even encouraged by school counselors to give up and drop out. Somehow, I didn’t.
I bring up a glimpse of this because I see Elon Musk as very, very brave. He went onto that stage and told the world that he had Asperger’s — something that is defined as a condition on the autism spectrum with generally higher functioning. One major aspect of this condition is that many are not that social or have trouble with social skills. They also have a tendency to obsessively focus on a topic.
I wonder how he felt as he stood on that stage knowing that many of his critics would scoff and accuse him of faking, or knowing that many in the media will mock him despite his admission of something that can not be helped. For me, I’d probably be terrified. This is why I find him brave. And yes, critics are claiming that he’s faking it.
Triggered? No. I simply know what a Cluster B personality disorder looks like. And it doesn’t look like Aspergers. If you re-read what I wrote, it is not anti-Aspergers in the least. It is anti-Elon Musk pretending to be human.
— Jennifer Korey (@JenniferKorey) May 9, 2021
An anonymous writer penned something in Vanity Fair that mocked him as “not relatable,” “simply a weird teen,” and even went as far to insinuate that he was faking having Asperger’s. “He even began the show with a note of vulnerability, identifying himself as someone with Asperger’s, which he has apparently never done before, and then declaring himself the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL. This last part isn’t true, but it sounds so great, and garners so much empathy, that it’s difficult not to see it as part of Musk’s arsenal of reliability.”
It’s no wonder this person wanted to remain anonymous.
I’d like to declutter that last statement. What Elon Musk actually said in terms of being the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL was this:
“I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Aspergers to Host SNL. Or at least the first to admit it.”
In that above statement, it should be noted that it was probably pre-written by the SNL staff. If not, it was most definitely approved by the staff. The New York Post noted that a former cast member, Dan Aykroyd, “likely nabbed that title 18 years ago.” So, in essence, Elon was wrong in the first part of that statement, but he added that last part which was conveniently overlooked. We’ve seen this type of cherry-picking before in relation to Elon Musk. In any case, his statement — which, again, was approved by SNL writers and producers — doesn’t give media outlets or critics to the green light to mock him, or to claim he was faking it.
The latter is something I can relate to. When I had asthma, my high school English teacher claimed I faked it to get attention. In reality, I was suffering from PTSD from literally dying. My mother told me I was dead for around 3 minutes and that they had to use defibrillators to bring me back. The onset of asthma was torturous and the ensuing bullying was even worse. I also remember being in church and choking on a peppermint. The pastor thought I was “faking to get attention” and it wasn’t until I passed out and stopped breathing that they realized it wasn’t fake.
So, yes, I can relate to the hurt and anguish from the bullying of others for something you have no control over. And Elon’s bravery on that stage is an inspiration not just to anyone anywhere on the autistic spectrum, but for anyone enduring the hatred and bullying of others.
Elon Musk’s ability to keep on going no matter how tough it is is something that many can learn from. It’s really hard to develop a tough skin and endure things. Many people fail and some take their own lives. I think that in the face of all the negativity, the FUD from media outlets regarding Tesla, and the constant bashing of his name, Elon’s ability to keep going is a gift.
This gift of Elon’s is also a lesson for those who are interested in becoming better humans. We can take strength from his endurance through his own challenging moments. And we can learn through those moments how not to be. Don’t be like those who senselessly hate. For me, one lesson was to learn to look beyond the headline. I used to think that all media outlets reported only the facts. Today, I look beyond the headline and into the bias of the writer or outlet — why are they writing this and what do they stand to gain from writing it?
As a writer myself, and for this article specifically, I stand to gain a space to share my thoughts. However, the lessons I’ve learned are to be as truthful as possible while not hiding my own truth and values. I believe in and support Elon Musk, and everyone who reads my work here knows this. Writing helps me to be a better human, as well.