Asperger's / Autism Toolbox
I Am a Human BeingA Post by Monkey Pliers
on July 22, 2013
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Trayvon Martin, Robert Saylor, both dead, their murderers walking free; Marissa Alexander, sentenced to 20 years in prison after not having actually harmed anyone. Outrage follows, but no one is really surprised. The problem is widespread and longstanding, but the news lately seems to be coming from a particular area of concentration: Florida. All eyes turn towards the state as anger and, for many of us, fear build in response to what has transpired. The problem: If you are not white, male, and able-bodied (a term I use broadly enough to incorporate the idea that the brain is part of the physical body, in case anyone's wondering), it seems others can threaten, abuse, and kill you with impunity. Those with the power to do so will give them a pass, as has happened to the accused in the cases involving Mr Martin and Mr. Saylor. But if you defend yourself against the threat of violence, even if you don't actually injure anyone in the process, the authorities will punish you, as has been the court's decision in Ms. Alexander's case. This is not justice, and these are not isolated incidents. They are only three of so many that one wonders if they could ever all be counted. This flagrant abuse of power is not limited to cases involving people of color, women, and the disabled, but there's definitely a steep slant in that direction. And that is likely not news to anyone who cares at this point in history.
Okay, that's the part everyone's already talking about. So, what's my point in restating all this? I'm not going to go into the differences between different groups of people affected by this or discuss what it means that some of us can't help looking like obvious targets all the time, while others of us can (at least some of the time) pass as being part of the dominant group in one way or another. What I want to talk about is what it means to get news not just of the affronts but of the uproar against them. It's easy to feel hopeless or to be afraid to speak out. But these blatant denials of the basic dignity and rights of these individuals have provoked loudly and repeatedly voiced objection, far and wide, for some time now. The stories are not just fading into the background yet, lost in a sea of so may others. And I have been deeply affected by the reality of this wave of demands for justice for these individuals and others like them.
Yes, this is a post about how the political is personal for me. But it's not primarily intended as a complaint about what's happened, much as I share in those sentiments. Mainly, my point is to express a sense of relief and appreciation, which I hope to explain shortly. But first, to clarify where this is coming from: As you may know, if you've been following my blog, I've been struggling with the issues associated with having Asperger's syndrome and being a late-diagnosed adult. The situation produces unusual challenges, and dealing with them can often be tough going, especially near the beginning. Complicating things is the circumstance of getting the diagnosis during a time when Aspies have been periodically villainized and blamed for horrific acts of mass, premeditated violence. That's on top of a tradition in our culture of autistics being characterized as having low intelligence, little self-discipline, and virtually no personal worth. Those of us who are on the autism spectrum are viewed by many as being less than human, and that view has really been what's behind all the hostility we've been subjected to, regardless of whether we've been diagnosed or not. Violence against us is seen as something even the most saintly people eventually can't help, as we've simply tried their patience for too long. Our innocent attackers can't help themselves; we make them do it. If that line sounds familiar to you, think of how abusive lovers and spouses try to shift blame. Of course, they love those they isolate, control, hit, beat down emotionally, and sometimes kill. Their behavior is not their own fault. Why do their partners make them act this way? Especially after having been loved, considering how unlovable those weak, selfish, aggravating ungratefuls are and how much less anyone else would tolerate them? Haven't the abusers been good to them by loving them so much when no one else ever will? You know the drill.
During the years I spent undiagnosed, I periodically danced awkwardly between the insults and the hiding of the difficulties that would have earned me further ridicule, had they been known to others (or had I claimed them and been disbelieved by others). This was all the more true during my earlier years, when I covered my errors less smoothly and compensated for my various struggles less well. Even as I fought for self-esteem in my adulthood, applying every technique I thought might reasonably work for me, I still felt strange, less than, other. I could never fully escape the feeling that, "People like me shouldn't live." I didn't know why, but I always felt that, somehow, I could eventually force the nicest people in the world turn against me, even in spite of themselves, purely by existing, as I am, in their vicinity. Under everything I built, during even the best times of my life, this hidden self-hatred lurked. Only now is it being revealed in a clear light, as I'm finally getting the support and assistance I need to explore it from a professional who actually knows what's going on and is not only qualified to help but trustworthy enough for me to allow the attempt to take place. But even that's not necessarily quite enough somehow, nor is the current support from family and friends, now that they're aware of what's been happening with me. It's very important to me, but somehow it's all been dismissed by my deepest self as empty platitudes and undeserved encouragement on their part, unjustified demands and self-assertion on my part. Who do I think I am, anyway? A public talk of the talk has been one thing, but I'll admit the private walk of the walk has been quite another, even as I've refused to admit it to myself. Some self-advocate there, huh?
And here we are at the point where that experience connects with the unconscionable tragedies listed above in a way that goes a bit beyond identifying with the victims. The people these terrible things have befallen, as well as all the others who've been subjected to prejudice and oppression in its multitude of forms, were/are human beings. Being perfect is not a requirement for this; it would, in fact, contradict the notion. This should go without saying. Obviously, sadly, frighteningly, it all too frequently does not. And so the need for this sort of thing to be overtly stated has clearly continued long past the days of the original Civil Rights Movement and other historical efforts towards change for the better. But when masses of people stand up to challenge ill treatment and failure of the justice system to rectify the damage done, the message being asserted is exactly that: These people are human beings. Trayvon Martin was young, black, and male. He was a human being. He had value. His life mattered. Robert Saylor had Down syndrome. He was a human being. He had value. His life mattered. Marissa Alexander is a black woman. She is a human being. She has value. Her life matters, and she should be allowed to live it with dignity, in freedom and without fear. The other two deserved no less, though they've been permanently robbed of that chance. And, though I'm by no means all the way there yet, here is what I've begun to absorb at last from the outcry against injustice expressed by so many others in response to these and other cases: Yes, I have Asperger's. Yes, I'm autistic. I have developmental and learning disabilities that went unrecognized for a very long time, and now they are finally known. I can be quirky and may often seem frustrating or puzzling to others. But I still have value. I have a life to live, and my life matters. I should be allowed to live it with dignity, in freedom and without fear. I am a human being.
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