This is a response to the abuse that’s going on in the disability community- A lot of horrible stuff has been making the headlines lately. Unfortunately the good stuff that’s also happening doesn’t usually make the headlines. Be assured that change for the better is taking place. One of th’ greatest strengths of telling our stories is that we realize we’re not so different from one another. Though we come from different upbringings, different races, religions, political ideas, we are all human, when we share our stories we realize that we all have the same feelings and emotions, and that we’re really all working for the same things, even if we have different ideas about how to get there- we all want the best life for our children, and when we let that be stronger than our differences real change takes place.
Ok, my thoughts, as an autism dad – I don’t like to have these kinds of conversations online- I feel that issues this deeply rooted are best talked about face to face, where we can each see the humanity, love and pain in each other’s eyes. It’s too easy to become distanced from one another online. However, i also realize this is the modern way, and it allows us to communicate with so many more people at once- a responsibility not to be taken lightly. This is a movement to end oppression, abuse, seclusion, isolation, restraint, and evils of all kinds against kids with disabilities- kids who have a hard time standing up for themselves. This is a movement to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves- My voice for their voice, I will do for you what you cannot do for yourself- and it is a movement that is gaining momentum. The things that are going on that we are fighting here need to stop, they are evil, they are heartbreaking, they go beyond my capacity to believe that they’ve actually been committed by people. But it has happened, it is happening, and it will continue to happen. And we are here to call it what it is- evil- and to do whatever we can to stop it. We all have different gifts, and if we use those gifts to the best of our ability we will make a difference. The sheer diversity of people here is amazing. When i think of all the things that we can do with this diversity, well it gives me hope. No matter what your gifts are, your greatest gift is Love, and it is the only weapon you’ve got that is going to make any real and lasting change. We have a picture of Martin Luther King hanging on our wall. If there’s one thing we should have learned from King it’s that Love is the only way to overcome hate. You cannot fight hate with hate and expect to change anything. We cannot go into this with anger and expect to make a better world for our kids. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be angry- if you’re not angry you probably shouldn’t be here- but that anger has to be channeled into Love, or we are just perpetuating the very evils we are fighting against. The teachers and leaders who’ve committed these crimes are not the enemy. What they did was wrong, and they should probably never be allowed around children unsupervised again- but the deeper issue is why they did what they did, how they even got to the point where restraining a child to death was an option. I have two kids on the autism spectrum, I’ve been at the end of my rope before, I’ve acted in ways that i would never have admitted i was capable of before they happened. I am no better than these people, but for the grace of God i could’ve been one of those people who are the very cause of this movement. So i can understand, a little, how they got to their tipping point. I cannot understand the cover ups, and the lack of responsibility at what they’ve done. As i write this I’m looking at my two week old daughter- whom i love more than anything in this world- i think about how i would feel if someone hurt her- i also think that those people who did those awful things are also someone’s two week old baby, and the tragedy that someone’s beloved child could do something so awful is just as bad as what they did. They are victims too. They are not bad people, they are people who made bad choices, but they are not beyond redemption. It is their hearts that need to change, and yet Love is the only way that will ever happen. You cannot hate, threaten or anger anyone’s heart to change. The only way is to be an example, to show Love, and let it work it’s magic. Love works in mysterious ways, but it does work. I recently saw a ted talk by a mom of one of the Columbine shooters, it’s worth taking the time to watch and think about. And one more thing, as this is a My Voice for Their Voice group, we need to speak up for those who cannot speak up, but we also need to remember that everyone does have a voice. We may not always know how to understand, but let us not fall into the trap of thinking we are speaking for someone else unless they tell us to speak for them. We need to stand up for what is right, we need to stand in solidarity with those who need our help, but we also need to remember that unless there is dialog and consent, we are actually speaking for ourselves. If we forget we may find ourselves fighting the very people we think we’re standing up for. So more autism voices need to be heard. I think part of this movement should be to bring those voices to the table, so that they are speaking for themselves. I am encouraged by the amount of people i see being willing to stand up for what is right, for what they believe. I am encouraged by the amount of people who are realizing that we don’t need to force our kids to fit into an obviously broken society. I’m encouraged by the passion, and compassion, of the people who are willing to fight the seemingly hopeless battle of changing how society looks at and treats people with disabilities. Like Kristine Barnett said in her car video, we don’t know what’s going on, but we have to work together, we have to let our love for our kids and each other be stronger than our differences. This is very much a civil rights movement, all kids have the right to be treated with love and respect, to be listened to and learned from, and i am encouraged that we have people with such amazing love in this movement, and that we have leaders like Martin Luther King to look to. If you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird recently, i would recommend you pick it up. It’s relevancy to this movement is worth a post of it’s own. I know it’s hard to read long posts on the internet, so if you’re still with me, thank you. Go out and be the change you wish to see, and may peace, mercy, and Love be your guide. In the words of my good friend and human rights advocate Danny Ricardo, Viva la Revolucion!