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An After-Christmas Smorgasbord: Rhetorical Questions, Political Correctness & Tone Deafness: Rejecting the Angry Places

December 26, 2010

Twitter, facebook, various blog directories, Yahoo and Google news alerts are all familiar ways to most readers to get caught up with the world, and specifically for us, the autism-related world. This morning I read Susan Senators’ serious post about the way the world views her two oldest sons and Autism and Oughtism’s piece on when it’s okay to laugh and when it’s not. These are heavy pieces and speak to our human frailties, tendencies to inaction or covert action. They both speak to the pain we can feel as parents and to our darker moments. They’re not light reading, but they’re thought-provoking and worth the effort. It was not a bad way to start the morning, just a serious way to start it.

What came next in my things to read  this morning came through Wrong Planet’s twitter feed: “Asperger vs NT war.: Who would win?Why? Assume that the Neurotypicals and ASD in the war are both equal in terms….There are a few answers to the thread, most saying NTs would, and one saying whoever had the most money. And all I could think is what the heck kind of question is that to ask the morning after Christmas, any day for that matter?

What is with this way of framing the world two dimensionally that we all do it? The haves and the have-nots, the in-group and the out-group, the disabled and the non-disabled. It’s not that cut and dried. It’s not that black and white. And as long as we focus on false dichotomies, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to build a truly supportive, inclusive community.

The personality traits (when we remove aspects of crippling disability that are involved on the severe end of autism) that are involved in autism are spread throughout all of humanity; there is no clear dividing line between a fictional neurotypicality and Asperger’s, and neither state of being is superior or more worthy. I look at my children and see my husband, my parents, my brothers, and myself reflected back from them. I see shared personality traits and quirks and issues that make us the complex, interesting people that we are. I see the adversities that my children work to overcome, some of which I’ve had to overcome as well. The idea, the very notion, of positing a war with Asperger’s and NTs is absurdity. 

I get that my kids are literal thinkers; so many who are not on the spectrum are literal thinkers as well. That isn’t something the ASD has the corner on. I get that many on the spectrum have difficulty with theory of mind. So do a whole lot of folks who are not on the spectrum; drive through a school parking lot and you’ll see lots of evidence that most folks aren’t using their theory of mind. There is a tremendous overlap of traits, attitudes, and behaviors between all people, so that we have more in common that not. We must focus on these areas of commonality in order to build community. We must see the humanity in others and recognize that it is the same humanity within ourselves.

We must be willing to join our friends in their darker, sadder ponderings, as I did with Susan and Autism & Oughtisms this morning, so that we can be a support, so that we can bear witness, even when we’re not quite certain what to say in response, so that we are none of us alone on this journey. 

But I think we have to reject the kind of rhetoric displayed, even if in jest, on Wrong Planet this morning. I think it’s easy, terribly easy to set ourselves up as one side in a battle against an implacable enemy, and I have no doubt that many in this community do indeed set themselves up in this way: bitter enemies on a battlefield, each certain of their mental superiority and the righteousness of their cause. 

I read them hammer down the other, time after time, day after day. There’s no exchange of ideas, no transmission of information, just an incessant, pointless hammering, with people thinking it perfectly acceptable to call pediatricians “Propaganda Prostitute for the Vaccine makers” and another to cast me as her “old foe, KWombles, hi Kim, speaking out in deception on the side of toxic vaccines…Good thing people aren’t duped by you here working to do so as most are awake now a days & those in the dark or on the fence are soon to meet reason & logic once they start paying attention.” The one thing I can say absolutely is that I’ve never considered this particular individual a foe.

Reading blogs and forums in our community can be landmines waiting to be set off, setting us up to take a tailspin if something connects too painfully, or if we read something so utterly off the deep end that we wonder at both the moral compass and sanity of some of the people we come across. And I wonder, when I read those so far entrenched, what must the weight of their burdens be to be so utterly lost and devoid of hope, of light, of reason? I do not consider them my enemy, my foe, or an outsider; I am not naive enough to think we can change those people, reason them out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place, but keeping a check on them is a good thing to do. There is an underbelly to this community and at any moment, it can reach out and try to tear us down into it.

But it is an underbelly, not the whole beast, not the entire story, and there is so much love, so much light, and so much beauty in the midst of pain and heartache that the journey of being part of this community is well worth the price of admission. Heather writes about embracing Christmas, this first one without her daughter, and I am overwhelmed by her grace. Eric writes about his son and celebrating Christmas and the issues they face with his son’s seizures, and I am honored to watch this father battle for his son’s life and well-being. Born 2b Me wishes his readers a merry Christmas, as do many of the bloggers on the directory, and there is joy and peace and love on most blogs this holiday weekend. Corina offers a lovely drawing at her blog, and Clay shares some coca-cola videos at his blog. Matt has a cartoon on Rudolph that will make you smile. 

And so this morning, I end my reading on an upnote, amazed at the grace, the fortitude, the joy, and the compassion that is out there in our community, just waiting to be found and shared. I have seen into the dusty corners where our fears lay, I’ve seen into the closet where the monsters lie in wait, and I have pulled the shades to the sides of the windows and let the sun in. All these things are a part of our world, our community. And we must face them all, ideally together, so that we are none of us alone and without hope.


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