In March, I'll have been blogging about autism for five years, although autism/the community/divisions posts have lessened considerably over the last few.
I've tried a lot of different approaches over the years. I started out with the certainty that my position on vaccines was THE right one and calling out anyone who differed. I started out with fire and snark and felt it was incumbent on me to call out misinformation and to deconstruct posts by anti-vaccine sites.
I realized that this approach was great for making enemies and creating page views. It changed no minds and only served to polarize the "other side." There's so much information out there that's wrong but is packaged as if it was credible. It's easy to understand how smart people can make mistakes. Wading through the information online, slogging it out, cognitive dissonance became a constant feeling. And that led to the loss of certitude and empathy for people trying to find the truth. The truth may be out there, but it doesn't mean it's easy to find or as black and white as those who live with certainty would like to believe.
And so I apologized, quit looking at those sites and decided those people had enough on their plates without adding to it posts that attacked them and mocked them and questioned their right to be parents.
So we set up the autism blogs directory several years ago, with the idea that community over cacophony was not only possible but desirable. It's grown over the years and all sorts of people and opinions and beliefs are represented. To date, there's been over 600,000 page views, so hopefully people find that it fills a need. Truthfully, though, I've come to think it's cacophony over community most of the time.
People, a fair amount, like it that way, feel it should be that way, and are able to create a group that works for them by defining themselves in contrast to other groups. If it helps them, more power to them. Some drama is group building.
It tends to come, though, at the cost of inclusion.
I see no way around that, though. We align ourselves with our in group and identify people according to whether they are part of our in group or not. That's human and that's not going to change.
It is perhaps unrealistic to hope that people would define their in group as the entire human group. And I can immediately see exceptions people would want to make. Pedophiles? No way.
So, certitude about human relationships at the macro level have to be let go of. Communities are living organisms of which the only thing that is certain is constant change and friction.
Okay, then. What about aiming for respect for all people? Treating people with dignity and cordiality?
Yup, not gonna happen when we've got an out group we've aligned ourselves against.
We're human beings and we're flawed. We are emotionally volatile concerning topics that are of vital importance to us and we believe that our way is the only way. Anyone who lives in opposition to our way is against us. We are black and white creatures.
Us versus them people. People who are certain.
Certain because uncertain is scary as hell and creates a nebulousness that we are uncomfortable with. We need our tribe. We want our tribe. We want and need to fit in somewhere. And we feel betrayed when we realize that the tribe we've chosen isn't a cohesive whole.
Why we expect our in groups to be full of certainty and solidarity when our prime in group, our family, is often divided is human beings' hopefulness transcending reality.
So we make choices. We may opt to hold onto certainty at all costs or we may surrender certainty, or ping pong back and forth. We're people, so there are as many choices there as there are people.
There's no one right answer or option, and it's okay to ping pong. We're human. That's the only thing I'm certain of.