Between justice and genocide

“Between justice and genocide, there is, in the long run, no middle ground.”  / Lois McMaster Bujold, Brothers in Arms

content warning: injustice, abuse, othering, sterilization, genocide

Case in point:  this lovely Supreme Court ruling and bit of American history nobody seems to remember.

There is either justice (treating a group of people as equals with ourselves, actively treating them with all due rights and respect as we ourselves would claim), or a tendency to treat a group of people as “others”, as less-than, as not-equal, not-human, not-deserving of anything from us, until they are not deserving of their own way of life or even of life at all (genocide).

It is a very slippery slope.

If not justice, then destruction.  Again, make no mistake: either we seek justice for a group of people, or we seek their destruction, and destruction can be brought about by many different means.

Microaggressions are still aggressions.  Small injustices are still injustices.  They all come from the same othering, lessening, damning intent, and are no more innocent than burning a cross in someone’s front yard in the middle of the night.  A thousand tiny needles cut a person to ribbons as mortally as a broadsword.  A million casual, absent-minded blows, a million ignored calls for help, kill as effectively as an engineered and determined campaign.

Microaggressions are only smoothed over when aggression is felt to be applicable, justifiable, when it is implicitly condoned.  Escalation of that aggression is also, inherently, and in advance, condoned.  Any excuse will serve, but no excuse is necessary at all.  The judgement is already decided; justice has already been withheld, redefined in exclusionary terms-  justice is only for “us”, not “them”.  We defend our own, and destroy all others.

We spend a lot of energy denying this, on both sides of the many us/them divides.

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Autism and conformity

Re: this study/article on autism and gender conformity

Ok, first of all, here we go again, studying autistic people by asking their parents questions.  As if autistic kids can’t answer questions and autistic adults and teens don’t even exist.  (Also as if parents can read their children’s minds, especially when the parent is neurotypical and the child is not?!)

Second, I’m always disturbed by remarks about autism being primarily a male thing.  The casual and continued assumption that autism in females is rare is like perpetuating a myth and shows how little people pay attention to or understand autism in even gender-conforming women.

Third, I am also disturbed by remarks assuming that autistic people are unaware of social norms.  Not all are.  Some of us are hyperaware of them (whether we can decipher them meaningfully in realtime or not, whether or not they confuse the hell out of us).  Perhaps it has more to do with being othered by society no matter what, so why should those norms apply to us?  If we can’t pass as “normal”, if we won’t ever be accepted as part of “normal” society, then what does any “norm” have to do with us?  What allegiance could it possibly claim?

If gender conformity is learned as a way of fitting in (generally, by everybody, moreso than is usually realized), then is it any wonder autistics do not fit in? At some point, autistics have to preserve/ protect some sense of our true self,  some bits and pieces of us just as we are, unmodified.  And I’m not surprised to find that bit of ourselves is often not “normal”.

Autism and conformity, again.  People seem to be fascinated with how these two dynamics play out every time.  As if it’s somehow not the same story as before.

Language matters

Recently on the internets, someone used the word autistic to mean completely unaware of the world around them.  It touched a nerve.  Some autistic people said so. There was a resounding “oh you’re so sensitive it doesn’t matter get over it” response and I got seriously mad.  Especially when people said the word was just being used to convey a total lack of social awareness and understanding, which, they contended, is what autism is.  Again, to be clear:  This is what they said to quell the autistic people (and parents) who were taking issue with the use of the word autistic because it was being used that way.

Oi vey.

Um, many/most autistic people do have social awareness and at least some social understanding (however problematic). Being autistic doesn’t mean you’re completely unable to relate to the world or unaware of what’s going on.  It just so happens that all the autistic people I know are hypersensitive to those around them. We have to be.  Autistics are taught to please people from a very young age, and to constantly do so, or be “corrected”, abused, neglected, abandoned, or even killed.  There is a constant insistence for autistics to pass as normal and not rock the boat.

So this widespread misunderstanding hits a nerve in a big way.  How can you say autistics are completely unaware of the world around us when autistics are punished every time we don’t conform to it?  Whiplash, anyone?

The way everyone insisted that the misleading usage of the word autistic was not a big deal and that they didn’t have to understand, because implication: autistic people are not important & who cares about understanding them- that’s a huge red flag waving.  Possibly the man meant an obsolete definition of autistic, yes, but pointing out that using the word autistic in that way is problematic, at the very least, shouldn’t be dismissed so carelessly.  It shouldn’t be dismissed at all.

Using the word autistic to mean completely self-absorbed is problematic to autistics in the same way that using womanish to mean overly emotional and weak-minded is problematic to women.  The same way that using blind, deaf, lame, crazy, queer, etc in a derogatory and truly inappropriate way is problematic to those who are blind, deaf, et al.  Language matters.  It matters immensely.  It is a big deal.

The fact that this clash took place on the disability day of mourning contributed to making me so down and dark about it that I am just now posting a week later.

Language matters, people!  Lives literally hang in the balance.  Try, make some small effort, to understand.  It’s that important.  We’re important.  Words shape minds, and words make a difference.