Friday, September 25, 2009

A Recent E-mail

The following is from a recent e-mail sent in response to an accusation that I lacked empathy after my attempts to explain that anti-autism hate speech is offensive to several curebie parents. I've modified it somewhat (taking out an introductory dependant clause in the first paragraph and removing a parenthetical reference to another list-member) to better fit the format of this blog and to respect the privacy of the individuals involved, respectively.

It's not so much that I'm oblivious to the idea that my words may cause pain as that I view that pain as unavoidable. "Autism" is a description of a set of neurological and psychological differences -- differences in the way our brains work when compared to yours. Setting aside the question of whether or not those differences are deficit-driven and/or pathological, how exactly do you think it makes us feel when our parents say that they hate the way we think and view the world? That is what autism is.

"Love the child, hate the autism" is impossible. You cannot separate the way someone's brain works -- the way they think, the way the feel, the way they remember things, the way they view the world, all of which are described by the reification we call autism -- from who they are.

What's more, children grow up... and an autistic twenty-five-year-old is a very, very different creature from an autistic five-year-old. When your children grow up and view these conversations, how do you think they'll feel, given what I described above? Leaving aside the question of whether or not vaccines "cause autism", how do you think that your children will feel when they see you advising people to risk their child dying rather than growing up to be like them? Is that not saying that a life like theirs is worse than death? How do you think any child would feel, growing up to read their mother's public and published accounts of how raising them was a "nightmare"? We've lived through that.

This, not merely the quackery (although that is awful), is the worst aspect of the whole DAN-and-Generation Rescue phenomenon... and I sincerely doubt that anyone on this list wants their child to go through this sort of pain.

I am painfully aware of what this sort of thing does to a person. I have had the unfortunate experience of seeing people go through this. It is not pleasant. This is a major understatement.

So -- when given the choice of trying to prevent this, and causing pain to parents as they mourn the loss of a "normal" child who was never born, or staying quiet and watching as countless children grow up to experience the same unspeakable heartache that countless friends of ours have lived through... what would you do? When confronted with the memory of someone's tear-filled face as they ask why their (loving, but misguided) parents hate them, what would you do?

(For the record, the last question above is the result of my attempt to translate some of my own experiences into neurotypical terms. Distraught expressions play a role in neurotypical cognition that they do not in most autistics' emotional processes. I've never physically been there when asked that question... but that doesn't matter to me; the emotions would have been exactly the same.)

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