Monday, October 13, 2008

IT’S GETTIN’ UGLY ⎯ MAYBE WE ALL NEED TO TAKE A CHILL PILL

Yeah, I’ve been away from blogging for awhile, but I haven’t been in a cave. The news lately has been overwhelming: the economic collapse (and I don’t think that’s too strong a word), the ongoing tragedy of the war we’ve found ourselves in, and in our little corner of the human race, the continued pronouncements that all is well and there’s really nothing to all this wild theory about a connection between autism and over-vaccinations (pronouncements that are empty of true backing when the basis is critically examined). And permeating everything is the trauma our nation inflicts upon itself every four years: the presidential election.

As has increasingly become the case with each election, it’s getting ugly. The mud that has traditionally been slung by surrogates in the print media and airwaves has now moved to the internet, where it has gotten way out of control. Because there are no checks or restraints on what gets anonymously posted on the web, any rumor can take on a life of its own and quickly be magnified. Where once we rolled our eyes at half-truths being spouted about one candidate or the other, now we have to sift through outright falsehoods.

Add to that the rhetoric designed to appeal to our prejudices. When times are perilous – and surely they are perilous now – the language of the debate begins to include those little code words that impugn the “other guy” because he or she is what he/she is.

The bitterness spills from the campaigns into the community a large. Recently the on-line autism community has gotten as ugly as I have ever seen it. What usually unites us now divides us, and all based on our perceptions of who is “our guy.” We dissect their stated positions and examine their past records viewed through the lenses of our own self-interest; and we buy so deeply into one side or the other that we fail to see the big picture.

There are two things we all need to keep in mind.

First, these are perilous times (I know I said that before, but it bears repeating). The issues our country faces are many, and all of the issues will have an impact on all of our lives. As deeply as autism effects my family, the economy and healthcare issues are almost as important to that concern (and other concerns) as who will support particular research on autism. And those of us with neurotypical children at or near military age all feel the anxiety of what our foreign policy may bring next. The world is larger than our little corner.

Second, acknowledging that autism is the number one issue in my family and possibly yours as well, we have to recognize that talk is cheap and good intentions don’t always translate into reality. Nothing will be accomplished for our families without action by both the executive and legislative branches, and arguably the judicial branch as well. And the only way that will happen is if we continue to stick together, concentrate on what unites us, and make our collective voice heard by whoever is in the Oval Office, and in Congress as well. We cannot count on politicians to be advocates for our children; we must fill that role ourselves.

I can’t help but believe that whoever wins will be a huge improvement over what we’ve had the last eight years. Like everyone else, I have preferences in this election. No matter what the outcome of the election is, however, we all have to recognize that our civic rights and responsibilities do not end when we step out of the voting booth.

Our democratic process belongs to us all: those who voted for the “winner,” and those who did not.

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