Crossposted at RFID; Please note, the term dumbass is used towards the end of this post several times. In no way am I suggesting that most people are dumbasses; they are not. And even those few that are, well, they can't help it, and they undoubtedly believe we're dumbasses back. Still, I think there's lots of love to go around. Group hug? ((()))
Community, like family, has much to recommend it. When it's performing its functions well, your community rallies around you to give you support when you need it and high fives when you've done well and deserve the accolades.
But communities are built up of diverse peoples with differing ideologies and differing temperments. Sometimes communities become divided because of these warring ideologies and temperments. All of us in the autism community are well aware of the typical divides (vaccines or not?, biomed or not? any possible treatment or just those that are mainstream?). There are the curebies versus the NDs, and I've long ago grown sick of that debate as it is only the extremists on either side who are actually that hardcore about it: cure at all costs versus the do-nothings (there really do appear to be people that unreasonable).
I'd like to say a resounding screw all that. Seriously. The blog directory that Kathleen and I run is an attempt to prove just how inaccurate those dividing lines are. People really aren't, for the most part, that extreme. Most of us want to be able to vent on rough days and get support but also share our joy when our children master a new skill and get those yays and attaboys. For most of us it's about the friendship and sense of family we get from knowing that there are others out there facing similar situations.
There's nothing like it to go to a blogging buddy's latest post and see that she or he has had a bright spot in the day, something genuinely positive happen. It's wonderful and makes me smile. There's also nothing like it to go to another's blog and realize that she or he is facing something really rough and to be able to reach out and share my support, concern and caring. Somedays I'm laughing and smiling with joy one minute and crying the next, depending on what my blogging friends are sharing. It's worth it, though. So very worth it to be connected to such a diverse and wonderful group of people.
Reaching out and connecting with the international online autism community means we truly know we are not alone. Many parents face the same kinds of challenges. Reading a diverse collection of blogs, both by family members and individuals on the spectrum, provides the opportunity to both see how people face the challenges in their lives and to be of direct support to them and to get that support back. Reading adults on the spectrum gives a direct, personal view of autism from the inside. It also reminds us that we are all unique individuals and that each person is impacted differently by autism and the other medical issues he faces, along with his particular life experiences. It can't tell us what our children will be like as adults, but it can provide us with clear red flags so that we can work to avoid those kinds of situations for our children that have caused others on the spectrum problems. We can at least be better prepared for the future ahead.
Not everybody copes well. Many parent bloggers and adults on the spectrum use their blogs primarily to vent and rarely show you a bright spot or a moment of joy. I worry that this is representative of their lives as a whole and hope it is not. Many parent commenters use the chance to wander around and peak in at others' lives as the chance to spew venom. Maybe this helps them cope more adaptively in the real world? Maybe they save it for strangers only? My gods, I hope so. I really do.
Some folks like to misrepresent other people's positions. Maybe it makes them feel better. I hope it does. If it doesn't, it sure seems a waste of crapping on other people, doesn't it? Even so, they are a part of the community. Thelma and Louise have a large community of interesting and diverse people in their village of Stink Creek, and all of them, dumbasses or not, are welcomed and accepted. It's a lovely thought that community, like family, means you've always got a place at the table, no matter who you are.
We don't talk about tolerance here or at any of our blogs. There's a reason for that. Tolerance means putting up with. I really don't want people to put up with me or my children. I want them to accept me, to accept my children. That means I have to do the same: accept folks for who they are, as they are, even those I believe are dumbasses. It seems odd to some folks, but it really is possible to have compassion and acceptance for people who are dumbasses. After all, as Thelma and Louise say, even dumbasses have feelings. They do. Forgetting that they have feelings would be a mistake. It's a serious mistake to forget that they love their families, think they're right, and fight for what they believe in. No one thinks he's wrong. Nope, he's certain he's right, and if he's right and you disagree, well, then you're wrong. We all do this, and it takes a certain amount of tap-dancing to learn to look at things from a slightly different perspective of potentially more than one right way of being (not something folks who are BAPpy or on the spectrum do well); we're all, even neurotypicals more literal-minded than we need to be at times.
That doesn't mean I consider everyone who disagrees with me a dumbass, though. I don't. I absolutely don't. I also don't think I'm better than them. No, dumbasses should be reserved for a select few. We ought to use it only for those that, well, no other name will do quite so well.
Still, I accept them just the same. They still belong in the community. They have feelings and they deserve compassion and acceptance.