I’m going to go out on a limb here (hah) and say that there are great many people who don’t get the concept of disagreement without hostility. I know, it’s so handy to be able to sort people into groups: the in-group and the out-group. There’s obviously an evolutionary advantage to quickly indentifying your tribe and we’re hardwired to do this.
It’s not a surprise then, that it gets quickly hostile in the autism community. Rigidity of thought and black-and-white thinking are the norm not just for people on the spectrum. It comes naturally to most people. Right is right and wrong is wrong and if I’m right and you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong. Easy, isn’t it?
It’s been one of those weekends. A mother who joined our facebook group and posted a nice link to it on her facebook page got a fair amount of grief over that link and lost some facebook friends over it. I also got some facebook mail over how the facebook group’s name and my blog are trashing AoA and that I ought to change the name:
“I see on your Countering Age of Autism group that you are considering changing the name. I highly suggest you do that! You are IMMEDIATELY turning people off that otherwise might find your group a safe place to fall. Why would anyone want to be part of a group that suggests in it's NAME that it will be a place to trash others? And that's what it suggests. Plain and simple. Divisive and derisive. Whether you think so or not.”
This was followed by an additional message:
“you say on your page: ‘Breathe and imagine that someone else was saying that to you.’ Well, breathe, and imagine someone set up a Countering Kim Wombles Facebook page. Actually, let's call it the Anti-Kim Wombles FB page. Whoa! How does that feel? Nice? Not at all. Can't you see my point? Would that be helpful, or would that be divisive? I'd really like to know what you'd think of that.”
I responded to the message with this:
If you read closely my wall comment on the facebook group page where I said I had been considering a name change, you'd realize you are the reason I will not change the name of my group. We are countering misinformation. We do not trash others, and if you feel that's what we are doing, you have not read us well. If you are turned off by the group, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to change it because it irks you.
And, since I have been resoundingly attacked by commenters on AoA and by **** (see list of names I've been called on my blog), I fail to see your point. No, it's not "nice"; I would not particularly consider your messages nice, for that matter. And yet, you would still be welcome at Raising Autism and the facebook group, which is completely counter to what AoA does, where I am not welcome.
That, ****, is what I think of that.
Please note that I have nothing to hide, and I will not consider these messages to be personal; they may be used in a blog or on the group. I will, however, not speak ill of you or trash you in any way.If you feel our group has nothing to offer you, I am sorry. I wish you well.
I’m used to my words not really being read and understood by folks who come in with preconceived ideas. This response earned the following from a person I’m going to guess isn’t going to be friends with me anytime soon:
“I am the reason? You ARE trashing others by the nature of tha name of your group! Which is the ONLY point I've ever tried to make to you at all! If people like your group, I am happy for them, but you're name implies judgment of others. You not changing the name because of me is hilarious! And SO illogical! Good luck being so ugly kim. Really.”
I tried again, and perhaps made some progress:
No, I am not being ugly or trashing any one. You can disagree without trashing and without being ugly or strident. There's nothing illogical about standing firm in your convictions, especially when there's not one thing on the facebook group or Raising Autism that is ugly or trashing.
The only one approaching ugliness here would be you. If my group and forum have nothing to offer you, then I'm sorry, and again I wish you well.
Perhaps some deep cleansing breaths? Why do you feel Countering AoA is trashing? The name doesn't say Trashing, tearing down or destroying. It says countering. The definition of countering:
transitive verb, intransitive verb
1.to act, do, move, etc. counter to (a person or thing); oppose or check
2.to say or do (something) in reply, defense, or retaliation
You apparently have decided to look at it as retaliation, which is obviously not our mission. We oppose faulty science, anger and hostility towards parents who do not subscribe to AoA's set of beliefs, and maladaptive coping mechanisms. I can see that if you love AoA and agree with them down the line, that this would be a problem for you. That's fine; you've got a place where you're welcome: AoA. You also would be welcome at our group. Do you see the difference?
-end of message-
I received one more response, and I hope that it means we can agree to disagree on causation without the need to trash each other:
“You know what, I went about this is the wrong way. I see now what's going on here. I'm really happy for you. Happy that you have a job and a purpose. Good for you. Many like you won't fare so well. Good luck.”
Progress, I hope, in helping those who would be initially put off by the name perhaps look deeper. Maybe not, but it was at least a good exercise in defending my choice for a name for both my blog and the facebook group. I get that we’re not all going to agree on everything, and I don’t have a problem with that. Our forum Raising Autism is for parents of individuals on the spectrum and autistic adults to come together to learn from each other and be supportive. I hope the facebook group does the same, and perhaps we may want to open a Raising Autism facebook group at some point. While I share the admin duties with four other lovely ladies, and our facebook group has six officers, I did start it as an extension of this blog. I don’t think of myself as the leader, but as a co-founder, and I think that if we took a vote and decided to open another facebook page with Raising Autism with the name, I’d be happy with that.
I’m not sure we need to, though. Many of our members are NOT welcomed by AoA, Generation Rescue, etc. Our name makes sense, to me at least, as a counter to that exclusivity, to that certitude, and what ultimately comes down to a bullying arrogance by many AoAers. Not by all, and I think I make it as clear as I can to those who are willing to read me that I’m a fairly inclusive gal. I like people and I want to make the world a nicer place. Sometimes that means calling out folks on what Thelma and Louise would be quick to label dumbass behavior. I like their style and I appreciate their bluntness. Some folks are dumbasses.
I don’t believe most people are, though. Nor do I believe most to be dumb. And I think it would be arrogant to say I think they’re wrong. For the most part. Unless I’m pretty damn sure they are. But even then, 99% of the time, I can try to do it without overt or even hidden hostility. Sometimes, I don’t and I won’t pretend I’m a saint. Piss me off and I’m gonna go after you pretty fiercely, but it takes a lot to really piss me off. Stir me up, sure, no prob, most times I’m going to stop and remember you’ve got some issues, too and think on it before I take offense.
In other words, I’m saying most of the time, in many ways, I’m perfectly willing to entertain the idea that I might be wrong and you might be right. And even where I’m not, I’m still willing to consider that you are doing the best you can and cut some slack. And avoid feeling or reacting to you with hostility.
If I think you are a bully. Nope. I might feel bad for the situation that led to you being an ass, of course, but I’m not going to stand by and tolerate the bullying.
If I think you are trying to take advantage of people who are feeling desperate. Nope.
If I think you are intentionally spreading inaccurate and dangerous information around. I’m going to reflect for a minute, consider what your intentions are and decide carefully on an approach.
I closed my correspondence with this person, who struck me as neither a dumbass nor as dumb, but as a mother doing the best she can, with this:
I'm not certain I understand what you mean by others like me won't fare so well. Why will they not? We all have choices to make on how we handle what life has dealt us. I have a beautiful son, my bright boy, who is not leaving home to live an independent life, ever. He'll be 20 this year. I could be mad at the world and at other parents who think differently about autism's causes, or I can work to make the world a more accepting place for him and my two daughters, who are not as severely impaired. (see www.kwombles.blogspot.com for stories on my children).
AoA has no place for me or for others who disagree with them on ANYTHING. None. They have no room for anyone who does not agree on the vaccine/big pharma conspiracy. Doesn't matter where you are on that, what you're willing to consider; you either buy into their view completely or you aren't welcome. Some of the ugliest attacks I have ever dealt with have come from AoAers. Think about that. The ugliest attacks. Countering came into existence because of those attacks.
Countering offers a place for everyone. FOR everyone. I don't care what you think caused autism in your child, and I won't argue about it, either. What matter to me is how can I help others on this journey. If our name stands in the way, then the chances are those were the people who rejected me and some of our members in the first place. And that's why I won't change the name; your comment on ***'s was the first that really made me decide not to; others followed after you and made it even more clear that the name serves a purpose.
Again, we'd be happy to have you at the facebook group or our forum Raising Autism. You don't have to view the causes in the same way and no one will give you a hard time. We're there to support.
-end of message-
Names replaced with **** because this isn’t about who wrote it, and I don’t use the messages with malicious intent, but because I think they work to allow me the opportunity to reflect on why the blog is still Countering Age of Autism and the group is still Countering AoA, as well as why it’s going to stay that way for now. Until a counter isn’t needed.
Disagreement without hostility is possible on most issues. So why is there so much ugliness out there?