Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Same Building, Different Beliefs

Image: the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

I think of the autism community as being in one building, but with many different beliefs. I almost see the autism community as a whole almost being as divided as the people controlling the Holy Sepulchre. It's a holy site in Jerusalem that is controlled by six churches: Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Ethiopian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox. As you well may know, it's not all peace and love in Jerusalem, despite the fact the city is known to be amongst the holiest of holy places. Fights at the Holy Sepulchre happen occasionally and it is often pointed out that while these fights occur the building itself falls into disrepair.

Fortunately, in the world of autism the fights tend to be more verbal than anything but as we all know words can hurt a lot. The good news is that most people in our community have the similar interest of being concerned for the well being of a person with autism. The bad news is that is often the only similarity.

Unfortunately some people (especially in my part of the world where the word about autism is just getting out) are quite unaware as to what the different ideologies are. Hence, unknowingly, they can inadvertently offend and thus step on a 'virtual' landmine by making a comment or expressing an opinion about the following topics (that include, but are not exclusive to): vaccines, high or low functioning autism, puzzle pieces as a symbol for autism, and certain biomedical treatments.

I've seen people argue or post views about all these topics. Some people merely state their opinions, while others fully intend to be provocative. Mostly I think blogs are safe places to air personal views. Some blogs, more than others, generate comments from people who disagree with the main point(s).

Recently I've been a witness as to just how much a unsolicited personal opinion can offend. This opinion caused some distress amongst some recipients because of an adherence to an opposing point of view. During the said recent occurrence, I left one bristling at some statements made in a mass email.

Being born into an era where we are taught to accept multi-diversity and multi-culturalism, I believe in respecting most beliefs despite the religion. I also want people to respect my own thoughts, opinions and beliefs. I feel as long as the belief doesn't cause harm to others, then there is no point in being biased against someone embracing a different philosophy than one's own.

However, being human, I cannot avoid bias--either being biased or being confronted with the bias of other people. The challenge with bias arises, I suppose, when a person or group gets a little too loud while preaching certain beliefs. When this happens someone on the other side is bound to get offended and then you find "the game" beginning. The offended goes into offence mode and in response, the offending party often goes into defense mode and so on.

Oftentimes there is no winner and thus no positive outcome. One negative outcome that can occur is that a great deal of time can go into the fighting and not so much into helping the community of families who face the challenges or even the person in your home who may need help in facing a certain obstacle. The offender and/or defender may also find themselves with one less friend at the end of the battle and that is something that just seems sad and avoidable.

As some of you know, I've been writing from the perspective of something that happened on the home front. I was among a small group of people that was offended by a strongly worded message about both vaccines and high functioning autism. I tried my best to behave but had some not-so-pretty human moments behind the scenes. My wounds are now healing and the offenses are behind me. I'm also glad to say that the message writer is still a friend, despite having a different belief.


Casdok said...

Am very glad to hear you are still friends = you must have handled it well.

Its no wonder the general public get confused about autism as we do not present as a united front.
I keep away from any fighting in blogland. Even so i get quite a few hurtful comments about C - but i just deleate them. As you say its not positive and would make me dwell on it more.
I also agree with respect of others beliefs if they dont cause any harm.
Good post.

Morgan said...

I think you put this very well. Debates over contraversial issuess happen all the time on Xanga. I usually don't read a post if it will get my blood boiling, but if I reply, I try to be polite.