Tag Archives: Newtown

Where Fear Leads Us…

I used to work at an ad agency.  One of the first things I learned was that there is one emotion that motivates people more reliably than any other.  Fear.  Fear compels people to do a great many things they might not otherwise do.

Once we’ve become convinced that something is worth fearing it is extremely difficult to reverse.  When we speak of Autism using words and phrases that cause us to fear Autistic people, we are doing tremendous harm in the short and long-term to that population, harm that will be very difficult to reverse.   Convincing people to feel fearful about something or someone is one of the easiest things to do.  Convincing them, once they are convinced, that it was all a “false alarm” is extremely hard.  So when those first news reports came out linking Aspergers with the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it only took an unethical few to do tremendous damage to an entire population of people.  Despite the fact that if you google “Aspergers and violence” the first dozen pages that come up are articles stating that there is absolutely NO connection between Aspergers and violence.  And yet, my Autistic friends and I are terrified.

I am frightened for my Autistic daughter and for those I love and care about who are Autistic.  I am frightened by what people will assume and how they will then treat those they assume are Autistic.  I am frightened for my friends who are Autistic, will they be safe?  Will a non autistic person hurt them, say cruel things to them, treat them differently because they fear “autism” and therefore “Autistics”?  I am frightened even though the truth is neurotypical people are far more likely to commit acts of violence than Autistics.  Watch these videos on Youtube ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.  Videos showing Autistic and disabled people being tortured by others.  Read these reports ‘here’, ‘here‘, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘ about the systematic abuse of Autistic people, abuse that continues unabated all the time.

It is WRONG to condemn a group of people, people who have suffered at the hands of those who now accuse them, a people who have been marginalized, some of whom cannot defend themselves because they do not speak and have not been given the means to communicate effectively through any other means.  It is important that you know.  It is important that you understand the ramifications of connecting autism with murder.   I want you, no, I need you to understand why the words we use, the constant stream of negativity in relation to autism is causing untold damage to my daughter, to your daughter, your son, your Autistic child, to their futures, to the people I love, to my friends, to all who are Autistic and have had to deal with exactly this kind of prejudice their entire lives.  It has to stop.  It has to stop.

Children were killed, murdered.  The horror is unbearable.  But to add to an already heinous act by targeting a group of people and making it about them instead of what has happened, is adding more pain and agony to more children’s and people’s lives.  Innocent people.  Innocent children.  Don’t we see that?  Can’t people see we’re making it worse?   We aren’t ensuring our children will be safe with these beliefs.  We aren’t making the world a better place with more prejudice, bigotry, false assumptions, and our fear.  Our fear is what drives us to conclude that we are fighting a false enemy.  Our fear is what compels us to hurt, lock up, institutionalize, condemn and torture.  Our fear is what causes us to commit acts of violence against those we’ve deemed violent.  Our fear…

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The Art of Breathing and Just Being: Lessons From my Daughter

One of the single most difficult things I have had to practice in life is the art of being present.  Simply being shouldn’t be so hard, yet I have found it is.  It is something I have to practice, something, I have come to understand, that is much like breathing, I will never be “done with it”.   Doing nothing is surprisingly difficult.  Doing nothing in the face of horror is even harder.  When I have a great many feelings, sitting still and being present is all the more difficult.  The last thing I want to do is sit and actually feel.  Why would I want to do that?  Now’s the time for action (!) and yet, it is during these times that it is vitally important for me to practice being still.  Every fiber of my being is screaming at me to move, to make sense of, to understand, to find the thing, the motive, something or someone I can blame, something that allows me to say, oh yes, of course it was that, that’s why this has happened.

Yet, it is an illusion.  The feelings remain no matter what is said.  No matter what has been written, the feelings remain.  Feelings – grief, fear, horror, sadness, confusion, pain, suffering, outrage and anger.  Feelings.  Lean into them.  Do nothing.  Breathe.  

Emma, unlike me, does not need to practice the art of being.  She does this without trying.  It seems to me, as I watch her, that she comes to this idea of “being present” naturally.  It is not an “idea” for her, it is simply life.  Emma just “is”.  Emma is one of the happiest, most joyful beings I have ever come into contact with.  Her median state is one of happiness.   She is without judgement or blame.  She does not hold onto resentments or grudges.  Emma does not talk about people behind their backs, she does not condemn or bully.  Emma is not dishonest or cruel.  And yes, Emma is Autistic, which must not to be confused with “mental illness”.   In fact, Emma is the opposite of “mentally ill”.  Perhaps because of her neurology she is able to be present in a way that I do not come to as easily.  I must work hard at something she does not think about.

People say all kinds of things in anger, in grief that have little to do with anything.  People say things while trying to make sense of something that is senseless.  They latch on to an idea, they offer a reason, a cause, it’s because of this, or that they say.  Oh, that person did that because of __________.  We talk and reason and blame.  People say and do things we find offensive, things that will hurt us and our children.  When people are scared they say and do things they would not, upon deeper reflection, say and do.  So don’t do anything, I keep telling myself. Sit and be still.  But it hurts to do so.

Don’t say anything, just sit and be present.  And it feels unbearable.

Don’t move, just be present.  Look around.  What do you see?  What do you hear?  What do you smell.  What are you feeling?   I don’t want to feel.  

Close your eyes.

Breathe.   Fear.

Be present.  I can’t!

Breathe.   Anger.

Breathe.  More fear.

Breathe.

Breathe and just be.

Emma performing for us, Saturday evening

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