This piece is for the #BoycottAutismSpeaks (boycottautismspeaks.com) “Love not Fear” flashblog, and was a really hard post for me to write. It’s full of questions, a couple I can’t quite answer, and it’s filled with love, which is such an enormous thing I find it extremely difficult to write about. So, what you’re reading now is actually my 3rd attempt. Let’s hope it works or you’ll be reading my 4th.
Love v. Fear
I was going to share the definitions of love and fear from old faithful, Merriam-Webster, but the words seemed bland, lifeless. How can you make love and fear seem bland and lifeless? I don’t know, but check out Merriam-Webster, they did it beautifully. Dissatisfied, I went in search of something with a kick to it. Here’s what I found:
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is love.” - Sophocles
I just sat there and thought about it. That’s a hell of a lot for one little word to live up to. But it’s true isn’t it? When we love unconditionally, we are free whether it’s for a minute or for a lifetime. I feel that way about my kids. No matter how bad a day (or week, or month) I can look at my kids and the overwhelming love I have for them frees me of all the weight and pain in that instant.
To address fear, I consulted my friend G., who reads way too much and has the uncanny ability to pull quotes out of thin air. As usual, he did not disappoint:
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” - Bertrand Russell
Fear is a horrible feeling isn’t it? It can cause anxiety, depression, anger… Hate. Fear can stop us dead in our tracks, rendering us incapable of moving forward. Again, a hell of a lot for one little word to carry. However, I’m a relatively positive person so when Russell tells us that conquering fear is the beginning of wisdom, a knowing smile touches my lips. I couldn’t agree more.
It’s A Choice
Love and fear: two little, four-letter words with the power to sway millions. You want to be heard? You want to move the masses? Both will get the job done equally well. But you have to understand one thing first, they’re only words. Love and fear, the words themselves, are impotent. What moves millions is the life breathed into those words by a person, a group or an organization. Once brought to life by the speaker, love/fear spreads like wildfire and can rally support and build a following.
So why would one choose fear over love? If both, when activated, have the ability to motivate why would a person choose one of the main sources of cruelty over the one that sets you free? Pay close attention:
The choice exposes the speaker for who he or she really is.
Think on this: If the speaker you are listening to uses fear-mongering tactics to garner your support, what is the message? What exactly is this person (organization) trying to say that they need to scare you into following?
Fear is used to control us.
Consider this instead: Love’s message is accepting and unconditional, it doesn’t seek to control, but to support and understand.
Love is used to free us.
Which will you choose?
I speak with a lot of parents of newly diagnosed children and there are two words that come up time and again: Frightened and Devastated. And the questions that immediately run through my mind are: Where are you getting your information? Who made you feel this way? And then the biggee:
Why would you listen to anyone speak of your child in a way that leaves you filled with fear and devastation?
“Where is the LOVE?”
Seriously great question posed by the Black Eyed Peas…“Yo’, whatever happened to the values of humanity Whatever happened to the fairness and equality Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity” – “Where is the Love” by Black Eyed Peas
In addition to the many Autistic people, there are organizations out there that will show you the love in autism (and other disabilities):
- Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Affection (PACLA)
- The Golden Hat Foundation
These organizations exist to support and empower Autistic people and their families. Is that love or what?!! Their messages are positive and the underlying theme:
Isn’t that what we’re looking for anyway? To be accepted for who we are, no exceptions? Isn’t that what we want for our children? For them to know they are loved for the wonderful, beautiful human beings they are. Is it so much to ask that they be respected and included in society alongside their non-disabled peers? That they be accommodated so they can lead successful lives?
No, it is not.
Our children are not tragic, they are not burdens and anyone who says they are (e.g. Autism Speaks – I wrote about that here and here) is using fear to control how you feel. Don’t listen, it doesn’t have to be that way and it’s wrong. There is a large and continually growing autism community that I and my children belong to that refuses to listen to fear-mongering because we know better. Our community is made up of Autistic people, our families and friends, our Allies, as well as professionals and organizations that support our wants and needs. They do not silence us, they amplify our voices, our messages. They do not speak about us, or for us. They listen to us and speak with us. The autism community I belong to…
And we want you here with us. Please! We are honored to welcome your children because they are not only your future, but ours as well.
So… What’s It Gonna’ Be?
The choice is yours. You can choose to listen to those who spread messages of fear and devastation, telling you that your children are burdens and that they are tragic (and they are not)! Or you can join us instead and choose:
LOVE and #posAutivity and NEURODIVERSITY and ACCEPTANCE
“When we come to it We, this people, on this wayward, floating body Created on this earth, of this earth Have the power to fashion for this earth A climate where every man and every woman Can live freely without sanctimonious piety Without crippling fear.” – Excerpt from “A Brave and Startling Truth” by Maya Angelou
Wow. Yes. Exactly.