It isn't just the autism community where people divide and conquer and group memberships shift as the issues shift. It's politics, religion, even whether you like Big Bang or not or think American Idol is improved with the new sets of hosts. It's whether you think Glee is great or How I Met Your Mother has gone on five seasons too long and for gods' sake, how long does it take to tell the story of how you met your wife?
I would even be willing to take wagers that if there is an online scrapbooking community, even it manages to do what we do in the online autism community all the time: make lines in the sand. Lines in the sand.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about lines in the sand over the years, what principles are so important that I can't work with another person if they don't share that principle. I've spent serious thought on how I form my larger in-group (the directory, where even people who have serious issues with me personally are represented) and my smaller, personal friendship group. What things are so important to me that the two groups can't be the same?
Part of that is sheer size. There are only so many people we can know well and communicate regularly with in order to maintain friendships. Part of it is the level of willingness to allow differences of opinions and beliefs. Part of it is chemistry--how much do we have in common, how much do we share the same likes or perspectives. And part of it is the lines in the sand--lines in the sand that we all inevitably draw, even when we don't want to.
So, yes, of course, the following is written over the latest brouhaha (which managed to bring out a person almost all of is autism land can agree is uniformly disagreeable) in autism land concerning Amy Lutz's piece in Slate, but the reality is it also isn't (and shouldn't be construed as being directed at any specific piece or person, as it is not), because this is the way we all are, in so many different things: the need to define who are by who we associate with, and perhaps most importantly, who is on the other side of the line.
Let us first be outraged. Let us mull on it, swap ideas with our friends, then all agree to take the person to task.
Let us show our moral superiority by the severity of our attack, our censure on the other person.
Let us seek to spread our beliefs and how they are right as we use this person as an example of what not to dare to speak aloud or about.
And then let us slap each other on our backs, proud of what we have accomplished with our dogpile, assured that we are the purveyors of what is right, what is good, what is essential.
No matter what the topic, no matter what the agenda, this is how we do things. We circle our wagons. We make sure that we have no traitors amongst us. We cleanse our in-group by who writes with us and who stays silent. Mea culpas once we've dogpiled are welcomed and expected and allow us to let the interloper back into our exclusive club.
But fail to be sorry, fail to change your opinion to match and you are a pariah.
It doesn't matter who you are, what your neurological wiring is, and whether you think you are a minority, the underdog, or a majority, the clear victor. The dance is the same.
Divide and conquer. Slam down the doors on any kind of calm, rational discourse and push as hard as you can false dilemmas so that others feel forced to choose their side of the line in the sand.
It's all about inclusion until it's not. And the lines in the sand have crossed all over each other so that we inevitably are left alone, standing in the ever-increasingly tiny space, knowing that it is inevitable that those sharp, cutting lines in the sand are going to slice us into ever smaller pieces until nothing is left at all, and everyone is the loser in the game of life.
There's comfort here, though, familiarity: it is a dance we all do. To pretend otherwise isn't noble, and this isn't about who is right and who is wrong. This ought to be about who we want to be and what we want for ourselves, for our children, for our community.
No, the reality is we don't all want the same things, and that's got to be okay. It has to be, or we really will be islands, standing alone, because eventually our need to be right, to create sides, will mean that it extends into every possible area of our lives, and we will be forced to realize that we are all so drastically different that if disagreement signals the enemy, then we are all enemies.
And seriously, if Kathleen and I can accept that she thinks fruit should never, ever be dessert, and I think it should in general be dessert, and not let that divide us, then isn't there hope for all of us?
Lutz's piece was bound to and no doubt meant to piss people off. Specific people, as she named them. She tied people she decided were out-and-out frauds and people who are facilitated to the neurodiversity movement and she flatly said that ND was hurting her son. In Lutz's perspective, and in Allison Singer's, it's a zero-sum game with only so many slices of the pie to go around and any that goes to higher functioning takes away from lower functioning. Lutz drew lines in the sand and the community responded in kind. It certainly doesn't help her that B*** joins in, backing her, although it would be completely unfair to lump them together.
Is it a zero sum game, though? Does research that benefits the "higher functioning" like my girls take away from those like my son? Are there only so many dollars out there?
Is that relevant? I'm not sure, at this point, how any research is actually, directly, helping my three kids. So much of the research is poorly done, with small samples that don't extrapolate out to the autistic population. But it's not just about my kids and whether current research or future research will benefit them. How will it benefit future autistics? Who defines benefit?
I don't care what caused my kids' autism. Research, if I were allocating the dollars, would be to what mediations would help both my children and the larger community they live in to work together so that they have a place in the larger community, so that they were valued members of the community. Jobs, housing, supports: those things matter to me, to my kids. To all our kids. Will there be a place for them? Will there be support? Will they have good, meaningful, valued lives? Will they have friends, family, and community?
Look, that's my in-group: do you give a damn about making the world a better place for our kids, all of them? That's my final and only real line in the sand, the only one that really matters: do you work to make things better for you and yours and everyone else? The rest is window dressing.