A man with a dead rat on a tray walks past me; I see the man, but miss the rat on the tray.
"Autism is the devil. I realize it is a part of who my child is..."
"I feel a sense of ominous cleansing."
I've been mulling some things over in my mind, trying to understand the reactions people have to adversity. Some despair, give up, are like Droopy Dog. Learned helplessness is a very real state of being, and there are a couple bloggers/commenters for whom the world will never be a better place, who do not see that their actions play a large role in their existence, who instead blame their autism for all that has gone wrong with their lives, while at the very same time, denying that autism is a part of them. It takes some serious wrangling to make that illogical assertion, but they do it time and again. And I think of Erikson's stages of development, which are often a good conceptual tool while not a hard fast law, especially his stage of identity versus role confusion.
If you are taught that autism is a bad thing, the devil, as one parent in the quote at the top asserts, not just in one place, but in two places, with the link back to the blog (think way-back machine: even if some day you remove your stuff on your blog, your child will still be able to find these words where you have said autism is the devil and a part of your child), then you absorb that message into your identity: autism is bad, autism is a part of you, therefore you are bad. Preserving the ego requires the disconnect of somehow trying to separate that and keep it away from the core of who you are. In some, that becomes the above often tortuous logic that autism is to blame for everything bad in their life but it isn't them. Hard to make your life better then, isn't it, if you can't see where your actions are causing your problems? Impossible to make change.
Many parents out there, enough to make a strong woman cringe (one mercury related group has over 8000 members), have made the connection between autism and mercury poisoning, never mind that it isn't based on evidence. They know what they know and what others have told them, and that's good enough for them. Hey, I know I walked by a man on Friday and there was nothing in his hands either, but the other two people walking with me saw that he had a dead rat on a tray. I know what I know, though, right?
Fortunately not, because I know how faulty perception can be, that I in fact do not "see" everything going on around me, and that a fair proportion of what I do "see" is a construction of my brain based on past seeing. I was focused on weaving my way through the crowd to get to the classroom, my mind on the test ahead. I noted the man as I passed him, but I did not look directly at him. Now, did the two young women actually see a rat? Maybe. To really know for sure, we'd have had to backtrack, find the man and check. Why? After all, two people saw it and agreed. Because they saw it for a split second, and as soon as the first did an eek, well, even if she were right, suggestibility plays a large role in our perceptions. Doublechecking is key.
Perhaps if more people were aware of just how faulty memory is, of just how easily tricked perception is, of just how many shortcuts are hardwired into our brains, leading to often good decision-making, but sometimes horrendously poor decisions, as well, well, maybe folks would be more willing to wonder if they really know what they know they know. And they wouldn't be quite so certain there's a "sense of ominous cleansing" on the horizon just because it's flu season and flu shots will be given. Maybe they'd consider for a moment that there is something inherently frakked up when you write, not once but twice, that autism is the devil but is a part of your child. And maybe, they'd even allow for the possibility that a dead rat on a tray could walk right past them and they wouldn't even notice.
Quotes taken from: