I saw your post making the rounds of Facebook today. I’m sure you know the one I mean. It’s the one in which you refer to autistic people as “monsters” who “need to be locked up… ALL OF THEM.”
I realize that you’re scared. I realize that we live in a country in which 20 little children were just murdered while sitting in their classrooms. I realize that you want to somehow solve it, that you want to somehow feel safe, that you want to somehow cast this evil out of our midst.
I understand how you feel. I feel scared, too. I want to solve it, and I want to feel safe, and I want to cast this evil out of our midst so that no one ever has to bury a loved one again after such a horror.
But calling for all to be punished for the evil done by one person — that is its own violence.
It is prejudice. To decide that, because one member of a group did a despicable thing, all members of that group are suspect is the very definition of prejudice.
It is scapegoating. The person who did that despicable act didn’t do it because he was autistic. I don’t know why he did it, but autism wasn’t the cause.
It is verbal violence. It engenders hatred. It has the potential to put innocent people at risk. I have friends who are fearful for their safety right now. I know parents who are afraid for the safety of their children right now. Innocent people. Good people.
People like me.
I am on the autism spectrum. Let me show you who I am.
This is a picture of me with my husband Bob. It was taken at my kid’s high school graduation in 2011. I look distinctly like a full-fledged human being, don’t I?
That’s because I am. I’m a human being with a husband and a kid who love me, and who rely on me, and who can’t imagine their lives without me.
I’m a human being with friends both near and far.
I’m a human being who loves to write and to think and to create things of beauty.
I’m a human being who becomes upset at injustice, and who sometimes can’t sleep at night because she feels the suffering of other human beings so deeply.
I’m a human being who walks into any situation just wanting to help and to extend a kindness.
I’m a human being whom other human beings implicitly trust, because they know that I would never use anything they tell me against them, and that I would never break a confidence, and that I would never willingly hurt a living soul.
That is who I am.
Autism doesn’t make monsters. The monster is the fear that evil creates.
Don’t let the evil win. Don’t let it make you see monsters in the place that human beings are standing. Because if you do, evil wins. And after the events of last Friday, none of us wants to see that happen.
© 2012 by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg