When someone tells me they have good news and bad news and they ask me which one I’d prefer to hear first, I usually choose the bad news.
On one hand, it’s a silly question-and-answer, because they have two pieces of news to tell me and in the end, I’m going to end up hearing both anyway. Which order they’re delivered to me probably doesn’t make much difference in the end. The end result will be the same.
But on the other hand, I take the bad news first, because I like to get it out of the way. Kind of like just ripping the band-aid off, instead of drawing out the process. Then the good news can become a consolation prize. If I did it the other way around, then I might get all hopped up on the good news, only to be dashed by the bad news. This is particularly true if the bad news is much worse than the good news is good.
OK, enough with the small talk, right? (But this gives me good practice for making some in offline life, right? Well, maybe not exactly. I’m still clueless about mainstream topics, but, whatever.)
Anyway, if you’re like me, you’re going to want the bad news first, and that is this:
A tiny–but squawkingly loud–minority of the autism spectrum community is exclusionary to/of others. Despite their self-described suffering from having been outcast throughout life, they think nothing of doing the same to other people.
When I’m perplexed in a negative way about something, my natural inclination is to try to make some sense of it. I try to brainstorm for possible rationales. What I’ve come up with are a few possibilities. One is that some of these people might do this on the account of holding an “official” Asperger’s/autism spectrum diagnosis, as opposed to other people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum who don’t. Or maybe they might shun someone because they used a marginally-“ableist” word (which, up until they learned the history thereof in university, they probably used all the time without thinking anything of it, and without getting indignant). Some of them might oust somebody because they maintain ties with people they don’t like. Some are simply snobby or elitist. Some are misogynist pricks. Or whatever.
Let’s look at exclusivity/exclusion. “Exclusive” itself is an interesting word, by the way, isn’t it? It possesses a positive connotation. To be exclusive is to be important, to be special, to be preferred. Except that there’s one problem: there’s another half of the equation one that is too easy to forget, and often forgotten…
The root word of exclusive is to exclude. Excluding, by its nature, is a deliberate action taken against someone else. It comes at the expense of someone else, implying that others aren’t so important, special, or preferred. It conveys the idea that they are somehow lesser.
That flies in the face of the sacred tenets of a community that too often finds itself marginalized, a community that endlessly and justifiably touts “Different, Not Less” as one of several trademark catch-phrases. Some of the very people who shout phrases like these with the loudest voices and beat the warrior drums the strongest are sometimes also the principal perpetrators of the exclusion of others.
I want to change that, and all change begins with oneself. Ourselves are the only ones we can control and change; we can influence others, and perhaps motivate them to change, but we can’t force the issue, of course. We can’t actually do the changing for them.
Inclusivity can be tricky in a way: most of us on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum are extreme introverts whose natural inclination is to be skeptical and drawn in. That’s understandable; after all, reaching out to the world has often bitten us in the ass. We’ve been bullied, criticized, put down, set up, laughed at, made fun of, and otherwise victimized. We might have been assaulted, beat up, stolen from, lied to, betrayed, cheated on, and a whole whack of other wrongdoings. Thus, our gut instinct screams at us to push back, push away, and give the world the stink eye.
I get it, I really do. That response becomes strongly ingrained in us as a survival mechanism that serves us well. And it’s hard to realize and remember that we don’t have to maintain that modus operandi nearly as often when interacting with members of our community. It’s hard to turn off that instinct and override it. It’s tough to remember that our established defenses don’t have to be our default position when connecting with our own (at least until/unless proven otherwise).
The good news is that so many more of us are inclusive, even if it means we’ve taken risks to become–or remain–that way. Most of us accept everyone who’s decent, genuine, and not otherwise a jackhole. We tend to be much more tolerant, respectful, and even embracing of people of different colors, walks of life, spiritual persuasions, and even political persuasions (except maybe on Twitter, regarding politics). In my experience, the numbers of inclusive people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum far outweigh and, through their gentleness and kindness, far overpower those who tend toward exclusivity.
Inclusivity is key to maintaining and expanding a vibrant, loving, and supportive community. Without it, we’re all simply lonely islands of alienation, icebergs unto ourselves. And the “iceberg” part isn’t merely a play on words, either; it really does feel emotionally colder.
Think, for a moment, if you will, what happens when water forms ice. Molecular movement has slowed. It means that the temperature has dropped below that which allows for the freest motion and energy flow. The substance congeals and solidifies. It becomes less flexible, less penetrable, less free. Essentially, it’s frozen and immovable. It can’t reach out and touch someone. It can’t interact with its environment. It can’t even defend itself against an oncoming attack. It just sits there, unchanging and likely unevolving. It merely ages and further entrenches, reinforcing, and eventually, petrifying.
Remaining warm, fluid, flexible, and connected, on the other hand, allows for greater evolution, transformation, and bond formation. It permits interaction and improvement. It allows for fulfillment and enrichment. Is that not more desirable than remaining exclusive and alone?
Personally, I love having a variety of people in my world. Each one of you brings your own enlightenment and richness to my world, and probably the worlds of many others. My friends span the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, the gender identity and sexual orientation spectra, the entire spectrum of health conditions, the vast political and spiritual spectra, the whole ethnic rainbow, every occupation (as applicable), and practically every socioeconomic walk of life. I’m proud, humbled, and honored to have each person a part of my life.
Inclusivity has been a savior of sorts for me. Because it brought me into connection with many of you. 🙂
And today, I wanted to make it very clear that I am indeed inclusive. Often, people (of any neurotype, especially neurotypical) make statements or claims and then the moment of truth comes when it’s time to back them up with action.
For me, it’s the opposite; I live my life according to my framework of internal code, and then eventually find the words to state my stances for the record.
So there you go. Y’all come. I’ll take you as you are, love you where you’re at, and interact with you whenever you want. I won’t judge you. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. If I disagree with something you say or do, I’ll remain respectful and try to clear the air first, by approaching you (usually privately), summing up the situation as I see it and directly asking you for your perspective. There will be no game-playing, passive aggression, retaliation, or hostility. I’m not going to deny or shun you because you’re this or that. I’m going to try to take everything you say and do at face value, without inferring my own opinions without your input. I’m not going to tone-police or “white”-splain, or patronize, or condescend, or anything else. I’m also not going to try to change you.
If I think you’re mistaken, the only thing I can do is explain my stance, but then it’s up to you to either take it or leave it. Whether or not I agree, I accept and respect your decision. If that means you want to disengage, I’ll respect that, too. Please don’t mistake that viewpoint for ambivalence; I’ll be greatly affected and thrown off-kilter, but aside from letting you know how I feel, I’ll keep it to myself. That’s just the way I roll. I operate from the default position of including you unless you exclude yourself or do something particularly egregious or vile to get yourself excluded. Until then, consider yourself included in my world; you’ve got an ally whenever you want it. 🙂
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(Image Credit: Karin Zeller)