I told someone I would do well in school, keep my nose clean, two months ago. I have never been more bored. When I found a link to my blog at the end of a minidoc short that will premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival, I realizedthat Traveling Show had to live again. This blog is about to get perfectly good publicity. Why let it go to waste?
Generally, I like the portrayal. My voice records worse than a tuba, but I knew that. I have never liked recording. My forms of music are older than that, designed for the moment, not posterity. I was also wall-eyed, flat. I was sick that weekend. I considered trying to postpone filming but decided against it. I was dealing with someone from New York, vaguely important, certainly more than a street musician, student, denizen of dicey stretches of Internet. Besides, there is apparently a stereotype of autistics being erratic or shy. I was not giving anyone the wrong idea. I will accept a flawed performance before I risk the show. Esteban captured the salient things.
Since then, I have had a busy few months. Aside from my usual obligations, I got a decent car, took the LSAT, changed jobs, and saw my tolerance for Internet drama evaporate. I will blog some but need to go my own way. If you like war metaphors, equating words with violence, screaming DIE [oppressor group] SCUM!!!, I will join the rest of the world in not taking you seriously. I may parody you if you become obnoxious. If you like eugenics, or prefer autistics who never disagree, I still grade hate mail. What I can do with this blog remains to be seen, but acknowledging nuance will probably be part of it.
Thanksgiving has always felt artificial, but I am grateful for the good in my life, especially friends, bandmates, and instruments, family, and caffeine. Internet that was not supposed to work generally has, which is important because the sources for my papers are mainly online. Most of all, thank God, I am thankful that the roster of autistic murder victims has barely grown this year. This will probably be a January without ink.
School is an opportunity. I should be grateful for it, but I already know what I want to do. Anything between my plans and me feels like a nuisance. A delay, no matter how enriching, is a delay. I want to do something more useful than writing essays.
As the Autism Society asks for compromise and common goals, a lawyer in my intended field is ranting in my inbox. Two days ago, I politely asked someone she likely follows to provide evidence for a sweeping generalization he made about autistics. I did not call it a sweeping generalization, nor did I say it was stereotyping. I was careful to keep judgmental language out of my inquiries. I wanted to learn something if I was wrong, correct misconceptions if I was right. I asked if he had data. Now, I have a shower of tweets, an email in excess of two hundred words, and a second whose length I do not know because I have not yet opened it. Choice quotes from the first include:
I am not sure how obesity comes into it. She may have been trying to use it as an example to support a point I cannot find.
The conflicts of autism politics have reached a level at which a seasoned professional is sends incoherent hate mail over a stranger’s mild disagreement with an acquaintance. It is ugly, unproductive, and avoidable. These things will stop happening to me the day I give up reaching across the autism world’s borders.
I try to treat Autism Speaks supporters, anti-vaccine ideologues, and people whose words on autism sting as reasonable people even as I unequivocally disagree with what they say. I reach out to them. I look for willingness to learn, try for common ground, work through substantive differences. They say disagreement means unconcern over dead autistics who should be alive. I hear that I care nothing for anyone more visibly impaired than myself. There are just enough attempts at rational discourse to keep me trying. There are also the Internet’s potential observers. It is never bad to look calm, sensible, polite through someone’s inexplicable rage. There is Brenda Rothman. There is a mother I know IRL. We can have a conversation. My faith in the autism community is never extinguished. I know people in every segment of it who want autistics, and everyone, to have access to the makings of a good life. Dialogue is key. Regardless of other differences of opinion, I am glad to have it with anyone who can accept the following:
However, I will be here less if I can get people together. I want to do good in my own community. I have burned through a laptop keyboard striving and arguing. I would rather raise funds for assistive technology in schools or keep Atlanta’s ongoing transit debate conscious of non-drivers with disabilities. I will spend more time working parallel to the other side, less engaging them. I will not miss the incessant fury when I am with it less. Fewer outlandish accusations will make for better days. However, I will be sorry to see less of rare moments of connection in the space between entrenched lines with others who wanted more than a shouting match.
I say my work* schedule is six months on to three days off. If anything, it is an understatement. I will now take a break. I will stay on Tumblr for now. My faith in this community is shaken. I wonder how many more such shocks it can survive. I am disturbed that anyone here purports that dissent is shaming. Couching disagreement in non-judgmental terms is not shaming, especially when the disagreement is not particularly directed. There were no names. There was no harshness. Invalidating any dissent with such terms is Soviet/Reformation-era-European-religious-purge level dogmatism. It stifles valid concerns, legitimate debate. It makes pointing out problems risky. I hope good can happen here.
See you soon.
*I mean productive, meaningful, necessary tasks and commitments over and above household chores. Some are paid, others not.
I am considering my options. Twice in as many weeks, I have been accused of not caring about the cause. An antivax blogger has shown more civility in disagreement than some fellow autistics. I am tired of subscribing to ninety percent of the unwritten Autism Activist ᵀᴹ code and being a bad person for the other ten percent no matter how much I attempt and accomplish. I have done good on Tumblr. I have advised parents, assuaged the panic of people and families dealing with a new diagnosis, found protesters, helped build a community.
I like the social nature of things, the connection, without fitting in. My rules are different. I err on the side of restraint. The cross around my neck is a muzzle. I could do good with less drama. Wordpress and ASAN involvement might suit me. I could keep this account open for tuba memes and contacting some people. Why am I here? Is there a reason I maintain a significant presence here besides the sunk cost fallacy?
I hope something is going to happen. I like the rumblings on the tags. We lose ground every day we do not gain it. There is never a better time to make trouble than now. Until something fizzles or occurs, I will work. I need to front-load the week because our house will be invaded by children on Thursday. I will enjoy my new desk, pictures to come, and the combination of natural amphitheater down the street from this house and tuba. At the mountain house, I am not limited to bothering one neighborhood. People can hear me for miles. I will kayak, wander into town, and lounge in coffee shops. If I want to be productive, I can replace the notebook that stands in for the working memory I lost to sleep deprivation.