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AWOLNATION’s “Sail” Capitalizes Off of Learning Disabilities and Stereotypes

As alternative rock band AWOLNATION has caught the public eye (or should I say ear) for their unique sound and catchy songs, their hit “Sail” left many individuals with learning disabilities feeling misrepresented, offended, and upset. The lyrics of the song depict a depressed and dark outlook on a failing relationship and continuously express this with the controversial line, “Blame it on my ADD baby”. Naturally, as AWOLNATION has grown in popularity, many fans are beginning to sport band shirts reading “Blame it on my ADD”, regardless of whether they have the condition or not. Many individuals with neurological conditions and disabilities, including myself, already have an extremely difficult time getting neurotypical people to take them seriously. When someone exclaims, “Wow! I’m so ADD!”, after being briefly distracted, it diminishes the real struggles that individuals with ADD face on a daily basis. So as AWOLNATION capitalizes off of trying to make ADD seem ‘edgy’ and ‘trendy’, thousands of people with the condition are struggling to make enough money to pay for the sometimes necessary medication to curb symptoms.

In addition to the appropriation of the condition within the lyrics of “Sail”, lead singer, Aaron Bruno, has gone on to express some incredibly ignorant and ableist opinions regarding ADD. When stating his opinion regarding medicine designed to help individuals with ADD, Bruno inferred that “it’s another means for the powers that be to dumb down our kids and get them addicted to something.” This statement both pushes the stereotype that individuals with learning disabilities are all put on highly addictive substances and that any difficulty that someone could experience as a result of ADD is somehow invalid. However, what stuck out to me the most about this statement was the implication that all people taking medicine for ADD are somehow “dumb”. This could not be further from the truth. ADD can appear at many levels of severity, some requiring medication and some not. Regardless, with a few adjustments along the way, individuals with ADD can lead highly productive and successful lives.

The fact that AWOLNATION has the audacity to use ADD as a “cool” way to make money and seem ‘more alternative’ and then go on to use ableist slurs to discuss people who actually have the condition is simply pathetic. There is nothing wrong with disabled artists using their disability to tell a story and creating art inspired by it. However, disabilities should not ever be capitalized off of at the expense of the disabled.

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Rebekah Harding is an aspiring journalist from the Washington D.C. area with a passion for disability advocacy, social justice, and goldfish.

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