It is with a heavy heart that I sit in front of my computer composing this blog entry about a subject I never thought I'd ever have to address. My fear is growing by the hour since the awful tragedy in Sandy Hook Connecticut took place, as most people's have. It is the realization of one of our worst fears when someone commits heinous acts of violence against small children in a public place at random. We didn't know it was coming. We don't know why. It is senseless and without meaning. This person's actions leave behind a trail of sorrow, pain and fear. Many lives will never be the same, forever altered by the their loss, whether that loss be of a loved one, or of the the feeling of safety that was taken from them. We as humans scramble to try to make sense of this occurrence.
We are problem solvers by nature. We need to know the why, so we can feel useful in prevention for the next time. Our curiosity opens us up for speculation. In these moments of high emotion, many people are not grounded in rational thought. Many are extremely emotional, and ready to fight back against the perceived threat of something like this happening to our loved ones.
And, this emotive outpouring of anger and sadness combined with far too much time on news network's hands to talk about irrelevant matters is where the danger lies. This is where mob mentality forms it's ugly roots and begins spreading out. When the media began reporting that the perpetrator of the Connecticut slaying was identified as being autistic, Asperger's or "somewhat autistic" in a way that implied his (unconfirmed) diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder motivated, conditioned, or made him more prone to carry out the awful actions he did, mob mentality began forming. People want answers, and they will look for clues anywhere, even in false causation. The idea that he was autistic was one that stuck. No matter that most responsible media outlets added that autism is not associated with planned violence (many times even citing the exact opposite, which is very true) people did not hear it. What they heard was, the gunman was autistic, he must have been a weird, tortured soul who finally snapped. When will more autistic people snap? Just in case this is real, autistic people cannot be trusted. I am now afraid of them. All the retraction from journalists and correction from world renowned doctors is not putting this right. When there is primal fear striking the minds of humans we can and will believe many ridiculous things. One doesn't have to to look far to see evidence in that with The Salem Witch Trials, or any recent cases where a person's race was justification for vigilante type of justice. When humans get the idea that one thing causes another it is often very difficult to convince them otherwise. That association when mixed with emotion is a powerful one. The emotion in a case where several small children lost their lives is one that creates a very strong superglue bonding together beliefs with emotion that is not only false, in this case, but a harmful assumption that if not broken soon will ultimately harm people. I mean in a real physical sense. Yesterday, I came across a horrific page on Facebook calling for the prevention of Asperger people. (I won't share the name or the picture, because I don't want the focus to be on that piece of hate) The worst part was that it was calling for violence toward autistic children, by saying that they would start an autistic child on fire when they reached 50 likes. This is exactly what I was fearing might happen. We can't be sure if that person was just a troll, or if they had actual intentions of harming a child. It doesn't matter. The hate is spreading.
I urge you to share this, and other blogs, and photos that are spreading autism acceptance. Not just on autism pages, and groups, but with others that are not as familiar with what autism is, and most importantly what it is not. We need to do what we can to put a positive message out there for the public to see. We need to not spend too much time sharing, talking and fighting the ugly words, and actions that are spreading hate, but rather spend your time promoting the true definition of autism.
I will end this with some quotes that I found on this subject:
“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.” Bertrand Russel
“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity
toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” Bertrand Russel
“People are sheep. TV is the shepherd.” Jess C. Scott