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Archive for August, 2015

Listen

There are times I look at #BlackLivesMatter and I understand neither the tactics nor the intended message.  There are time I read about or listen to #BlackLivesMatter and simply cannot relate.  There are time when I see a thread on Facebook regarding #BlackLivesMatter and I am tempted to jump in and say “try this!” or “do that!” or “I really think that if you said or did it this way you would get your message across better.”

But here’s the thing.  I’m not Black.  I don’t consider myself white (less than 1/2 of my heritage is white…15/32s the be exact), but the way I look, especially as I spend less and less time getting a dark tan that generally used to last me through the winter, allows me to pass as white; that, in turn, allows me to experience the privilege White people experience in this country.  That very fact is why when I follow a conversation or social media thread that touches on #BlackLivesMatter, I tend to shut my mouth and open my ears.  When Black people speak about racial issues and #BlackLivesMatter, I don’t speak; I listen.  I truly believe that no matter how well intentioned my beliefs or opinions might be about being black in America, the experience and opinion of someone who has lived that life will trump my thoughts on the topic every, single time.  If my thoughts on the topic don’t match up with what Black people are saying, in all likelihood, the problem is mine, not theirs.

If asked directly, I will gladly give my thoughts on the topic, but in general, I will defer to my black friends for guidance.  To me, #BlackLivesMatter is a manifestation of Black people taking back control of their voice, one that has, for too long, been in the hands of people who really didn’t know what it means to be Black in America.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

My daughter is autistic.  I am not.  In a vacuum, facing her initial diagnosis, my inclination, my goal, my purpose was to make her better.  All I knew about autism was what I had seen on TV and then what I had read and heard through Autism Speaks.  I bought in and ran. I ran and ran and ran some more, raising money for Autism Speaks along the way.  They were going to fix my daughter, cure her, make her better.  Speaking with other parents of autistic kids, we found encouragement to keep doing what we were doing.  We spoke at kickoff events.  We recruited. We got others to raise money.  We had direction and purpose.

But slowly, too slowly, we began to listen to voices that questioned what we were doing.  Why were we raising money for Autism Speaks? Why were we supporting Autism Speaks?  These voices did not come from fellow parents, the people we could most relate to.  No, these were the voices of the very people we were “helping”.

At first, I thought, well, they just don’t understand.  I could not have the structure of the world I had built dismantled.  This advocating gig was what partly defined who I was.

But the voices got louder.  Jess was the first to come around.  I continued for a while to work with Autism Speaks, believing that as long as I insisted I was doing it to raise awareness, I was doing a good thing.

But these were autistic voices, speaking for autistic individuals, saying, “Hey! We’re right here! We want OUR voice heard. We want to speak for OURSELVES!”

Yes, I am a dad. I am a dad of an autistic girl.  I am not autistic.  I know what it is like to be the parent of an autistic girl.  I don’t know what it’s like to be autistic.  

In a vacuum, I will gladly speak for my girl; for both of my girls.  But if they want to, if they can advocate for themselves, and they tell me that I am not expressing their desires, their wants, their needs, perhaps I need to step back and let them speak; perhaps I need to step back and listen.  Today’s autistic advocates are the grown up versions of Brooke.  I may not understand their message all of the time or their priorities, but their message, their priorities are for Brooke, for all of the Brooke’s in the world.

If a black person is speaking about #BlackLivesMatter, and you are not black try to listen.  Don’t speak, listen.

If an autistic person is speaking about autism and what the autistic community needs, and you are not autistic, even if you are a parent, try, at least for a genuine moment, try to listen – I mean REALLY listen.  

Don’t speak, listen.

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If you’ve been here for more than a few moments, you probably know that politically I lean left – left center on some issues, far left on others.  I have to admit that not so deep down inside, a part of me has taken some glee in watching several social conservative celebrities and politicians squirm and perform figurative gymnastics in the wake of this whole Ashley Madison data dump.  That glee, of course, stems from the fact that many of these social conservative types preach and preach and preach and preach about family values, claiming that same sex marriages and working moms eat away and destroy the moral fabric of our society.

Right.

Karma…she’s a funny lady.

My gut reactions when the names of these social conservatives started popping up was, “good!  they deserve it.”  My initial reaction when some wrote asking why “conservatives were getting slammed and not the gajillion other (liberal) people on Ashley Madison?” was “well, those gajillion other people aren’t preaching conservative family values.  They aren’t condemning gay marriage because it will break up traditional families…blah, blah, blah.”

I really felt like they were getting what they deserved.

Lately though I am having a harder time with this.  My overall feelings toward those social conservatives hasn’t changed.  I think they’re dopes, especially those who are getting pregnant while swearing by abstinence, but my gut feelings toward those caught up in the Ashley Madison data dump are now tempered with a sense of uneasiness.

The Ashley Madison hack was theft, plain and simple.  Many of us, including myself, have been laughing at these social conservatives for what we say is their own stupidity or cluelessness.  They were asking for trouble, we say.

They were asking for trouble.

Here’s the thing though…they didn’t do anything illegal.  Did they do something dumb?  You betcha!  Maybe even reckless?  Sure.  Immoral?  I suppose it depends upon who you ask.  But they did nothing illegal.

But a crime was committed.  Information was stolen.  People who had no right to that information released it to the public.  I haven’t seen one post from my fellow liberal friends shaming the hackers.  How would you react if a thief broke into your house and shared every secret you may have hidden in your closet to the world?  Can you honestly say that there is nothing in your home that might be a cause of at least a little embarrassment?

Instead, we on the left have gleefully shamed the social conservatives caught in this mess because they deserved it…because they were asking for trouble.

That sounds a lot like language some of our conservative friends use to downplay the way women are treated in this country.

If you are in a monogamous relationship and you want to check on whether your spouse was on Ashley Madison or not?  Well, I suppose that is between you and your spouse, but unless that is the case, who is or isn’t on Ashley Madison is none of our business.  We don’t know the inner workings of each marriage.  Your  neighbors’ approach to marriage may well be very different from your approach to marriage, despite outward appearances and that is none of our business.

We on the left talk about keeping government out of bedrooms.  How about we keep everyone who hasn’t been invited or doesn’t live there out of them as well.

 

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