Tag Archives: oppression

Compassion

i found it this way

<image is of a single blue flower resting on blue gravel. I’m not sure why I’m using this image, but somehow it seemed fitting>

I want to talk a little bit about compassion. I’m not entirely sure that it is within the scope of my blog (though Nee assures me it is), but it’s been on my mind a lot so I’m writing about it anyway.

A few things got the thoughts started. One was when a commenter called me compassionate a few posts ago (thank you, kind commenter! I very much appreciate it!) and another was some stuff on facebook that I am reluctant to elaborate on because it entirely involved other people. Basically, it was people talking about how they feel compassion, and I had thoughts that took a while to make it to words, as they do.

I think that compassion is important. I also think that compassion is work, and is frequently not at all an easy thing to do.

The type of compassion that most people seem to talk about is compassion for people who are hurting in some way. Typically the hurt is obvious and acute, and yeah, we feel for those people. It’s important to feel for people who are hurting. However, this is the easiest kind of compassion there is. I want to talk a little bit about more difficult compassion.

Compassion gets much more difficult, and it not often talked about, when it’s for a person who’s being annoying. Compassion is very difficult to give to a person who hurts us.

One I personally find incredibly tricky is compassion for a person who is hurting in a similar way that I am hurting, but distinctly less than me. For instance, Nee and I both struggle with loneliness. However, he has more people in his life than I do. Sometimes, when I am really feeling the pain of my isolation and he’s just come home from socializing without me, it can be really hard for me to feel compassion for the fact the he is lonely too.

Compassion means always assuming the best in people. It means that if someone does something that you find hurtful, ALWAYS assume that it was unintentional, and work from that baseline.

Compassion means believing that people have good reasons to do or believe whatever it is they do or believe, even if we don’t understand it or disagree with it or find it offensive. Even if they are demonstratively wrong, even if they are hurting people, compassion means trying to find the root of what is going on to address it. Compassion means approaching people with love and a belief that they are *not bad people,* whatever else is going on.

Personally, I find this profoundly difficult when it comes to issues I am passionate about, or I am personally hurt by their actions. Sometimes I just can’t do it. In fact, while I definitely think compassion is important, I also think that compassion means understanding that sometimes people need to take care of themselves first. The person who is personally hurt by racism should not have to stop and try to experience compassion for their oppressors.

Now, as much as I would like to be a compassionate person, sometimes I just can’t. Frequently, I can only manage compassion when I take a step or two back, so I am not so personally impacted by what is going on.

I do think that compassion for those are are hurting comes first, and is far more important than compassion for those who cause hurt. However, that does not mean that the latter is not important at all or should simply be forgotten. I think that changing the world for the better is going to involve lots of compassion, including the kind of compassion that is difficult or painful.

Finally, I want to point you towards an example of the kind of compassion I am talking about, that put it much better than I ever could. It is compassion without concession – it demonstrates that showing compassion does not mean giving up, or conceding defeat, or saying that the other side is correct. It is, simply, showing compassion.

You may have read it already: The Distress of the Privileged. The author uses the movie Pleasantville as an example, to show the distress of one who is privileged – in this case, the character George Parker. He enjoyed a privileged position in his society, and found himself lost and confused when suddenly the people around him started to reject society and his role in it.

“George deserves compassion, but his until-recently-ideal housewife Betty Parker (and the other characters assigned subservient roles) deserves justice. George and Betty’s claims are not equivalent, and if we treat them the same way, we do Betty an injustice.”

Sometimes I think that people fear that showing compassion means losing the opportunity for justice, but I do not believe that is the case. Compassion is still important, and can even be a tool for justice. And no, it isn’t always easy.

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Filed under opinion, personal

This is not support

There’s a lot of noise being made about Autism Speaks right now, and as usual I’m a little late to the party. I don’t follow them closely so I tend to get my information second hand, and it takes me a while for my thoughts to reach a point where I can put them into words. Especially when it’s about a thing that is provoking a strong emotional response.

Like this thing here.

This. Is. Awful. It’s fear-mongering. It’s really hurtful to autistic people (many of whom have already spoken on the matter).

Are there people and families out there like the ones they are describing? Yes, of course there are.

Do they need help? Yes, very much so.

Do I think we need to do more? Definitely.

Is that the only face of autism? Gods, no.

Is it fair or accurate to take this one segment of an incredibly broad and diverse group and claim “This is autism”? Not even a tiny little bit.

Comparing us to people going missing or falling gravely ill is fear mongering. It’s mean. It hurts.

Saying that we make our parents ill is awful.

And these children they are talking about – many of them will read those words and believe them. They will read that they are missing or gravely ill, that they make their parents ill, that they are a burden.* Is this the message we want to send? Does Autism Speaks even understand, or care, about what they are doing? About the message they are sending and the people who will receive it? This is discrimination, demonization, oppression, and it is coming from the very people who would presume to speak for us.

They’re going to DC to talk about autism, and last I heard have yet to invite a single autistic person to speak. They claim to speak for autism, but how can they do that when there is not a single autistic person in their organization? As a general rule, organizations get to speak for a group only when they are comprised entirely (or almost entirely) of the people in that group. It should be shocking to think of an advocacy group made up of a bunch of people not in the group, yet there are huge numbers of people that support Autism Speaks.

Now, once upon a time a bunch of people complained, loudly, at this lack of autistic representation. Autism Speaks did eventually respond by taking on one, and only one, autistic person and sticking him in a committee. Yeah, a committee. The token autistic. They then proceeded to ignore him. Yesterday Mr. Robison resigned in disgust, finally realizing that despite the fact that their tagline is “it’s time to listen” they, themselves, do not listen. They have had years and years to learn to listen, and have, with their most recent “call to action” proven that they have not changed a bit.

Their history of fear mongering and demonization continues into the present and it IS NOT OK.

I support helping people on the autism spectrum. I support therapies and assistance and providing us tools to be able to learn and communicate and become independent – whatever that means for any given individual.

I do not support Autism Speaks, and I feel the need to say that publicly. What they are doing is not ok. They need to stop. They need to listen. They need to learn.

Sadly, at this point I doubt they ever will.

*When a child walks up to their mother and says “Mom, do I make you ill?” because of what a “support” group said, something is seriously wrong.

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Filed under rant, that's not helping