Thursday, March 09, 2006

A RETURN TO CIVILITY

I apologize for being away for so long; it’s been a little hectic at work. In the time I’ve been away from blogging, I’ve been thinking a lot about a post ballastexistenz did around the time we were having a somewhat strained conversation going on here a couple of weeks ago.

I became a regular reader of ballastexistenz a couple of months back after I arrogantly pointed out that I included links on this page to blogs expressing various points of view in the autism world. Anne Bevington very sagely pointed out that all of the blogs I linked to were by parents, with none by adult autistics. So I went on a search to find some good ones, and I did. The best of them is by ballastexistenz. It’s not always a feel-good read, and I sometimes see things that strike a little too close to home. But she writes very well ⎯ a compliment that would be the same if she was neurotypical by the way ⎯ and I like a good challenge to my psyche and opinions every now and then.

In any event, a couple of weeks ago, ballastexistenz posted a piece entitled Pretty social illusions that struck a nerve:
There’s a group of people out there, fairly amorphous to me because I do not keep track easily of who is who (so I hope I don't get asked who it is), who seem to believe something like this: “If we are nice to autistic people, and we make appropriate ritualized gestures of ‘respect’ towards autistic people, and we get along socially with autistic people, and we meet them halfway, then it does not matter what we do to our children in the name of helping them, because our children are all individuals, and we are meeting these autistic adults halfway by deigning to at least talk to them.”

Some autistic people have been okay with this, encouraged by it. I have been mostly mystified by it.

There are some who have accused me from time to time of using politeness as a shield to hide behind as I spread a message of hate. So my first thought, in light of what was going on over here at the time, was that this was directed at me. Then I heard the voice of Carly Simon in my head, singing “You’re so vain; I bet you think this song is about you . . .”

Regardless of who ballastexistenz was referring to, her words prompted me to examine my actions and motives. The message I got from her post (and I would encourage anyone who is interested to read it as anybody’s interpretation of another’s words cannot perfectly capture the intent), is that some of us use the trappings of manners and respect to hide a dangerous mindset. I hope that’s not the impression I give anyone, although some comments to my pasts posts indicate that impression is out there.

I’m still relatively new to the world of autism, and I’m trying to find some answers. Part of my process for doing that is to talk with people ⎯ including people who agree with me and those who don’t. But I cannot listen to what someone else is saying if I’m shouting. So I try to maintain an air of civility.

I have written before of the lessons of respect I learned from my father. He also taught my brothers and me lessons in manners. For him, and for us, politeness was never a veneer to hide ugliness. Politeness was, and is a means of showing respect.

As an attorney, I am guided by certain rules when making an argument. For example, when I write an appellate brief, I must comply with the following:
The language used in the brief shall be courteous, free from vile, obscene, obnoxious, or offensive expressions, and free from insulting, abusive, discourteous, or irrelevant matter or criticism of any person, class of persons or association of persons, or any court, or judge or other officer thereof, or of any institution. Any violation of this Rule shall subject the author, or authors, of the brief to punishment for contempt of court, and to having such brief returned.

Uniform Rule 2-12.4, Louisiana Courts of Appeal

The reason for that rule is not just to keep things pleasant. The idea is to keep everyone’s focus on what really matters.

Yes, I tend to be polite and respectful. It’s how I was raised; it’s a part of who I am. Respect, however, does not mean an agreement with everything someone else says. Respect means understanding that someone else just might be correct about something. So I try to listen. Sometimes, I go back and reexamine an issue. Lately, I’ve been reexamining some of the things that were said a couple of weeks ago, and who knows where that will lead.

Civility and respect are not silly veneers intended to mask anything deceitful. They are important means of helping to build a better society in a pluralistic ⎯ a diverse, if you will ⎯ world. These are the lessons I try to pass on to my children.

7 Comments:

Blogger MOM-NOS said...

It's good to have you back in the conversation, Wade! I appreciate and admire your civility and respect.

3/9/06, 9:53 PM  
Blogger Kristina Chew said...

To write about things that matter to all of us so deeply in the heart and in the gut, and in language that is always civil and courteous, is a daunting task, and your posts go a long way towards accomplishing this (and reminding the rest of us, too, of what we might do).

I think a lot about the issue of "representation" because so much of what we do everyday is precisely that, representing Charlie to the world. It goes without saying, we would more than love that he could do this for himself. Bloggers like Ballastexistenz and Processing in Parts are essential for we who are called to "represent the unrepresented"---with the hope, indeed, that we will one day not be so necessary.

But for now, it's our daily work and I think you're creating a real forum--an open space for ideas and discussion--in the truest sense of the word.

3/10/06, 2:59 PM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Hi Wade
Very good have you back blogging.
I did not read the post you mentioned in particular, Although I have been reading that blog because I appreciated the words and the personal view- that seemed to me very sincere.
I have also tried to develop a certain personal style of exchange of opinions, but always as a signal of consideration , respect and open mind to hear and to learn, never as a "strategy" or something like an argument to justify my decissions about my son.
I never thought that it can be considered the way you mentioned that was posted, honestly. Unfortunately, the situation is such that it seems that it does not matter what effort a person do to have a real and civilized exchange of opinions, almost always the intentions are consider
twisted. I suppose that the only way is to continue the style you have, because is part of your personality and in this sense honest and real. As my style is part of mine because my education was strongly based in the respect and consideration of others. Is the way I am.
I will do my best to continue being the most considered I can because I think is the only space from where we can really talk and learn. As I told you once, your blog is the kind of safe space for me to read opinions-even different- that it was almost impossible to find around the web. Thank you for this.
María Luján

3/10/06, 7:23 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

And you can get much, much further with the big dawgs that run the systems in this society by using the language of civility to rip them to shreds than you can by raining down f-bombs on them. I might be thinking in those kinds of terms, but I don't blurt them out when dealing with the people I'm attempting to persuade. Now, I may cuss up a most uncivil storm in private, but that's another matter.

3/11/06, 10:58 AM  
Blogger María Luján said...

Hi Randy
The point is that I do not want to persuade nobody, I want to explain my ideas and to share them to analyze them under different points of view. This is possible only when civil exchange of ideas is present, when both parts consider that can learn.For me, to begin posting about a so personal issue involved a lot of understanding about people thinking different , in advance. My question was why and in what basis.I have always been prone to analysis, and to the idea that I can be wrong. I consider have enough basis to think the way I think about ASD in my son and in general, but I am not the owner of the truth, I am searching for.
For me, there are so many ideas about ASD as parents and all autisms are different. And I do my best to respect all.
María Luján

3/11/06, 12:36 PM  
Anonymous Shawn said...

Welcome back to the dialogue. I've never even considered that your polite and respectful tone could be a veneer for anything else but politeness and respectfullness. Your civility and sincerity is too consistent to be faka.

I haven't read Ballastexistenz's blog in a while. I'll have to add it to new set of feeds.

3/11/06, 2:45 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. Just to clarify, I don't think ballastexistenz's post actually accused me personally of anything. Although some of her writing is very direct, I consider hers to be a very civil voice; she adds a lot to the dialog and I value her views. What he post did was remind me that I have been on the receiving end of those accusations from others, and I felt it a good time to emphasize the importance I plave on civility and respect. What must be understood is that respect is not dependent upon agreement.

3/11/06, 3:23 PM  

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