Free Passes

I am sure, no matter who you are and what you believe, dozens of times a day you come across things you disagree with, but the chances are you move by most of them without expressing that disagreement. If you're a parent to a kid on the spectrum, you've probably witnessed your child's inability to do that. I know have, and do deal with that, often, and when you have three, ah, well, that's fun. Sometimes you just have to laugh. 

So I have a little bit of that. Whatever you do, don't call a lecturn a podium. I know usage has changed and that's a hopeless battle, but damnit, the line must be drawn here! Okay, maybe not. At any rate, part of the work I do with my three is teaching them to be able to think without vocalizing. Ah, and to hold back on the certainty that they are right until they've checked. Not an easy task, and not one I've  succeeded at entirely.

I struggle to get the right balance of pointing out when I disagree and when to leave it alone. I try not to mess with folks on facebook, and I'd like to hope that the fact that I have friends who believe vaccines caused autism, that facilitated communication works, that reiki is totally legitimate and that not once do I go onto their walls and berate them shows I've figured out a balance there; I move on from those posts, leaving no response other than an internal shrug. The goal of facebook for me is support. 

My blog, though, is to mix pointing out inaccuracies, fallacies, and woo along with providing support. I take the time to admit when I've screwed the pooch because it's important to remember that we're all fallible. I freely admit how little I know in the grand scheme of things and am careful to admit when something is above my paygrade. But I'm not perfect, and I'm not claiming to be. I'm not even, despite someone's assertions, claiming I have something like a moral high ground. 

Age of Autism let contrary postings on their screed yesterday; now Kathleen and I figure we all gave them exactly what they were looking for: page hits and ad dollars. One loyalist over there asked one of the commenters why they bothered: "If it's 'completely baseless' Daniel, why did you feel the need to venture over here at all? If it has no merit why waste your time?"

Why indeed? The loyalists aren't interested in an exchange of ideas; their turning on their own who disagreed with them shows that, as does this simple question. What they want is an echo chamber that reinforces their beliefs.

Don't we all, though? Dissent is hard to deal with. It feels like an attack on our ego, and that feels like crap. We don't want to be wrong, and if someone disagrees with us, it can be hard not to feel threatened. 

It's a wonder we establish relationships at all! If we want to stay in a relationship, we quickly realize we have to give some, cut some slack, and accept that differences of opinion don't have to mean derision or disrespect for the other person. We learn to truly accept. There's a huge difference between tolerating our partner, for example, and accepting our partner. One we put up with, and often just barely, and the other we embrace wholeheartedly, without reserve.

Some of us bother to point when AoA goes beyond the pale because silence is often seen as consent. Yes, I think ultimately that AoA is on the fringe, growing smaller, but it does so because the shenanigans they engage in are exposed for what they are. For the most part, they can and should be ignored, and I hope that they are not where I spend most of my internal energy. 

They should not ever get a free pass, though. No one should; free speech isn't free from consequences, not for any of us. 


kathleen said...

Yeah..the "silence appearing as consent" is a biggie. But sometimes being silent is the best thing. It is hard when you are thrown a bone-as in AoA's post yesterday. The thing of it is-had everyone ignored it-we would not have the absolutely horrifying threads that are going on over there. The people that we rallied around are being publicly skewered...more so because we made a big issue of it.
No-no one gets a free pass...but sometimes, you have to sit back and let the consequences happen. In other words-give them enough rope..

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Kathleen. It *is* about giving them enough rope. The article itself was ludicrous enough, but the more they talk and deride, the deeper in they dig themselves. I know this is naive but I'd like to believe that there were people who were just starting to look at and get into AoA, who see all of this awful behavior and move on. And if that happens, it's because we stirred the pot a little, yanno?


Autism Mom Rising said...

That has been a challenge for me. I was laughing the other day about how "Do Unto Others" doesn't seem to work for me because it is almost impossible to tick me off just by diagreeing with a point I make or something I post, as long as it is done in a way that is respectful and not snarky. Someone can do it on my blog, on my Facebook wall and I call it lively discussion. So, I tended to assume others felt that way. But a lot of people feel like if you disagree with them you are not being supportive and certainly we all have the right to define the rules on our personal spaces like blogs and Facebook walls. It may sound like I'm trying to improve on Jesus, but "Do one to others as you think THEY would want to be treated" seems to work better for me. That's kind of hard when you have like 450 Facebook friends and everyone has different rules but I've learned when in doubt keep your mouth shut works pretty well too. May mean I get less opportunies for lively discussion but that's life I guess.

Kim Wombles said...

Yes, and the ways in which we do that, what battles we choose to fight, what we choose to let on by, well, that's a balancing act, and one we'll keep doing. I think the fact that we care enough to look back and ask was it handled well, was it the right way to do it is a good thing. I think that we did play into their hands, but that we needed to stand in support of Bonnie Offit and Sullivan.

I think it's important to notice that AoAer supporters who wrote blogs pointing out that Handley was wrong missed the point; no, it shouldn't have been done to Sullivan, but it really shouldn't have been done to Bonnie Offit.


I had hoped I'd made clear that I wasn't talking about discussions or that there's absolutely no disagreement allowed. I very much enjoy lively, respectful exchanges. We don't have to agree on everything. I guess what I was referring to on facebook are the diehard AoA fans who also are my facebook friends; I don't comment on their links to AoA. I figure, if they haven't hidden my feed, they see my blog entries about AoA and they don't badmouth those. I think we're demonstrating a respect for each other not to engage on those particular issues so that we can instead focus on mutually inclusive interests like support.

If there's play or give in one's position, then animated discussions are beneficial. If either party is firmly locked into a position, I don't see the point, as these kinds of conversations often devolve into someone calling names.

Where we're just shooting the shit or elucidating our positions in an atmosphere of warm respect and acceptance, where positions are backed by clear supports (whether we find the support compelling or not) and the goal is not to hammer another into a particular position, then I'm your gal! :-)

Roger Kulp said...

Speaking of silence as consent,and getting a free pass,as Orac pointed out the other day,it's kind of interesting that the antivax people on the left,like Bill Mahr,an Robert F. Kennedy,Jr. STILL haven't said anything yet to counter Dan Olmstead's crazy post the other day.

And speaking of "shooting the shit", as I said in a comment over at Liz's blog,whose comment started this whole mess with Sullivan,it ought to be a lesson to all of us,to dot every i,and cross every t,and be as specific as possible.You never know what casual comment someone from AoA is going to take out context,and twist fit their warped world view.

Autism Mom Rising said...

No, I definitely got that. We've had plenty of those exchanges here and several subsequent blog posts of yours have even been inspired by those. I must say, you have great readers. Not one person here has ever talked down to me or accused me of being things I'm not, which is so unlike the general forums, article comment areas, etc that it is worth mentioning.

For what it is worth, I did not like the AofA article at all. I'm not Bonnie Offit but I'm not AofA either.