The Destructiveness of Fear

So. Boycott Autism Speaks is sponsoring a flash blog with the theme of “Love, not Fear.” It got me thinking.

I was trying to come up with something snappy to say – something intelligent and witty, something quotable. But in the end, I kept coming back to the same thing: that we all, allistic and autistic, neurotypical and not, need to adopt this as a mantra, for a happier world.

Fear breeds divisiveness. From both ends of neurology.

Neurotypical people fear for us – good parents and allies fear society’s ignorance and cruelty. But some neurotypicals also fear us. I’ve seen it firsthand. Coworkers and potential friends and distant family members would view me like a bomb. How do I talk to her? Is she going to start screaming over something? What if she snaps and hurts me? Why does she flap her hands like that? She’s not normal.

It’s hurtful, and it’s dehumanizing to hear out loud. To hear fear in someone’s voice when you’ve done nothing to deserve it except be born and live your life. I hear fear in Suzanne Wright’s appalling words when she talks about autism like an epidemic – but it’s not fear for us. It’s fear of us. And I console myself with how empty her life must be – how much fuller and brighter it would be if she chose to love who we are instead of fear what we could be.

There is another side of the coin, though. Some autistics definitely fear some neurotypicals. Even when their neurotypicality is the only thing that connects them to the monsters of childhood, of young adulthood.

Some of our fears are absolutely justified. Some allistics – some fellow students, some coworkers, some caregivers, some parents – will abuse us, or “snap” and harm us. And be lionized, martyred and cast like Joan of Arc being saved from the stake in a disgusting display not seen when it’s a neurotypical child suffering.

But others – others do good. Some fellow students stand up for us. Some coworkers love to work with us. Some caregivers want the best for us. Some parents will fight to the death for us. It’s sometimes hard for me to remember that, with all that we see in the news, in internet comments, in our own families.

But I try to love, and not fear.

I want neurotypicals to love, and not fear.

The biggest myth I encounter as an autistic is that we are not capable of emotion or empathy. If you put aside your terror and your sadness, you might see that we are capable of great love. And in this day and age, we have to be fearless to give it.

I urge anyone reading – be as fearless as we are. Don’t be afraid of what we deal with or how we think. Love the person we can become.