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Is Peace Possible?

  • Posted on September 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Peace is an elusive concept in contemporary society. On the one hand, we fight wars abroad and we’re so comfortable in our lives that many seem to forget that we’ve been continuously at war for over a decade. On the other hand, we fight different kinds of wars on our streets—wars against immigrants, against drugs, against gangs, and against each other. If we had yet a third hand, we could count the verbal wars that take place in our political bodies, in our dialogues about significant matters, and even in our dialogues about trivial matters. And if we had yet a forth hand, we could count the wars that rage within each of us between what our conscience dictates and the weakness of our flesh—wars for our very souls. So, it seems self-evident that peace really isn’t possible.

There are powers within this world that would have us believe that is true, that peace isn’t possible; if we give up on peace, then we give those who want war power over us. Yet peace is a choice. We can make peace with ourselves, both between our spiritual potential and our earthly present. We can make peace with those we disagree with and even cooperate and collaborate with them. We can bridge the divides that separate us and make peace on our streets. We can even make peace in the world. So, contrary to the obvious, peace is possible.

The autism community is fractured. There is a side—a loud, squeaky-wheel, powerful side—that wants to do anything and everything to cure autism. There is a side—a loud, squeaky-wheel, growing side—that wants to do anything and everything to protect people with autism. There are various factions interspersed among these two sides that prove that our reality cannot be defined and delimited as a dichotomy. The autism community is at war.

There are some among us that will never choose peace. This is not due to their convictions that they are 100% right and the others are 100% wrong, as it may seem. It is because they want war, because they thrive on controversy, because they choose to grasp for power, to exert their control, to have their say, and to get their way. For some, war is a way of life, but these people are only a small percentage of the autism community. They succeed only because we let them.

Most of us want peace. We want cooperation. We want collaboration. We want things to get better. And we’re willing to work for it. But we feel overwhelmed and overwrought. It can be so hard simply getting through the day that we leave ourselves little energy for peacemaking. It seems easier to fight for the specific things we believe in and want than to make a peace that will provide those things. Besides, we have few contemporary examples on how to bridge such divisive issues into workable, cooperative, collaborative solutions. Is peace possible? Perhaps, perhaps not. The answer lies within us. We have to choose.

Weight of the World

  • Posted on April 11, 2012 at 8:09 AM

Sometimes I wish Rachel had never drawn my attention to the incendiary issue of Autism and Empathy.  It’s not that I actually prefer ignorance.  It’s just that I have enough to grapple with in trying to understand the ludicrous human phenomena known as prejudice in its most general sense.

How can anyone think that the set “people with autism” fits inside the set “people who lack empathy?”  Why should they come in to the arena with this assumption?  Why should they work so hard to try to prove themselves right through science?  Obviously, they never met my son Willy.

He’s thirteen years old and he carries the weight of the world on his bony little shoulders.  The “autists lack empathy” camp would have you believe that because he is atypical in his social and communication development that he lacks empathy.  Yet, he feels so strongly for others that, if anything, his reactions are inappropriately grand.  Willy’s quick to apologize for the slightest wrong he does, even if that “wrong” was not of his doing nor his responsibility to do.

On the other hand, there’s our fifteen-year-old.  It’s not that he’s not empathetic, but he tends toward the irresponsible.  In short, he’s a teenager.  He lives so much in the moment that he doesn’t consider the consequences until they catch up with him.  By the time they do, he’s often at a loss for how problems got so big while he wasn’t paying attention.  We have to lay it out for him.

Easter Sunday, after a week of blowing off his family and his responsibilities in order to spend time with a friend (or complain about being bored when he wasn’t), things came to a head when our fifteen-year-old announced he was going over to the friend’s house—that he had to.  On Easter Sunday.

Mark’s reaction was explosive.  Brandon’s counter-reaction was equally explosive.  I was downstairs with headphones on when Willy came running to tell me, with tears streaming down his face and sobs heaving his chest, that “Daddy and Brandon are fighting.”

So, I go upstairs, assess the situation, and help put things into perspective for Brandon.  Tears and repentance and forgiveness followed.  All’s well that ends well, right?

Except that wasn’t the end.  Not for Willy.  Willy carried that fight with him throughout the long day, bursting into tears any time the memory flitted through his mind.  He took the guilt for what Brandon had left undone on to himself—“If only I had helped Brandon…”

The toxicity of a relatively brief fight stuck itself inside Willy’s mind and heart.  The memory itself was enough for him to feel how badly upset his father and his brother had been as if it were still happening.  And it hurt him and he bore the guilt of it, even though none of what happened had been his doing or his responsibility.

Now, for us, the lesson is that we really need to do better about the fighting.  Beyond that, though, this makes me wonder anew how anyone could claim Willy lacks empathy for any reason, let alone because he’s autistic?  I find the claim completely unfathomable.

Welcome to Spring Break!

  • Posted on March 21, 2011 at 9:02 AM

So, the boys have this whole week off from school.

What does this mean?  Well, it means that all usual weekday schedules are disrupted (both mine and theirs) and that Alex and Ben will be spending more time together than they usually do.  Have I mentioned lately that Alex and Ben don’t really get along?  See, they both persist with their aggressive behaviors and they both are usually interested in the same activities.  So, they fight.  A LOT.  I mean, they physically fight with each other—pinching, biting, pushing, hitting, kicking, tripping and so on.  It’s not pretty and I don’t like it.

I also have one new client with a fairly big project (Web site copy) in the works and more work available if this goes well.  Very exciting for me!  Plus, I have a prospective client coming to meet me today.  At my house; in my home.  This usually wouldn’t be a problem, because I schedule these meetings during school hours.  But there’s no school, thus no school hours.

It should be an interesting week.  In years past, the transition from school to no school to back to school has been rough, but this winter break went very well.  So, I’m hopeful that they boys will make the necessary adjustments with little fanfare.  But, then there’s that whole fighting thing and the fact that my success in obtaining a new client may depend on how well my children behave in the background.  It’s a fact of life, sure.  I’m used to it, yeah.  But…there’s still that anxiety humming just loud enough to distract me.

Wish me luck!