I have been asked by more than one person to do a blog post on my opinion about the letter that was anonymously written and delivered to a Canadian family last weekend. I have been reluctant to do so for a few reasons. None of which are popular with the autism community, so I tend to stay out of these conflicts. I wish I could respond like everyone else, and have an emotional reaction that outweighs my logic on these sorts of events, but I don't. I've been a lot of places in my life, and seen a lot of things. More so than the average person in respects to places that most would call unpleasant, dysfunctional, and dangerous. It's these experiences that have left me with a realistic view of people. Some people are not nice. Some are sometimes. Most are most of the time, and a small fraction of people are so dark that they are devoid of any human conscience at all.
They may know right from wrong, but they don't feel it. I don't tend to address those people in any kind of way, because it is a useless thing to do.There are some of this type that it does do some good to shame them back into a corner by exposing their behavior, and cutting off their supply of people to reflect a positive image back to them, but only some.
The reason I don't get quite so worked up as most about these situations is not because I don't think the issues that are surrounding them are worthwhile to discuss. I do. I also know that a person that full of hate is not going to change. Period. I see it as pointless to write to them in an open letter kind of way. That person doesn't care about disability rights, or anyone's rights. There is no way that the person that wrote that letter is going to be so moved by anything I write here that they will suddenly change their ways. This is someone who looks at a special needs child everyday, and feels nothing but contempt that his imperfections (as they would view it) are clouding up her perfect world. After all, she is so awesome, and deserving that she shouldn't have to deal with such atrocities. Her family is entitled to live in a place that doesn't have his kind near. I know that it's hard to understand that amount of lack in empathy, but it does exist, and I truly believe that person that wrote that letter is unchangeable. You can't squeeze remorse from someone who doesn't feel guilt, at least in the same sense you, or I do. All you can do is manage them.
So, how do you do you manage a narcissistic, possibly psychopathic person who has no regard for other's feelings, or rights?
First of all, as unpopular as this statement is going to be.... I am gonna make it anyway. As far as I can tell the nasty neighbor didn't break any laws. She was rude, and she was hateful, but she didn't threaten anyone, and she doesn't constantly put notes under their door, or harass the family, as far as I know. Should there be a law against this sort of hate speech? Maybe, but there isn't one now, so the police cannot do anything. It sucks, but we can't charge a person with an offense if the offense isn't a crime. The most that I can see coming out of this would be filing a restraining order, which would possibly force the writer to move. Problem solved. Or, a civil suit, but that is only if the police can positively identify the person who wrote the letter, and so far this hasn't happened, but I am holding out hope it might.
Secondly, I am glad that there has been a lot of support given to the family, and the autistic young man, Max. This needs to happen for a variety of reasons. For one, the obvious reason is that the family needs as much support as they can get, because bullies only win when the victim has no power. This family has the attention of the entire nation, and then some. We are all ready to help in any way we can. There are strength in numbers.
Thirdly, this type of narcissistic behavior can be very contagious. That is how narcissistic bullies work their way around people. They believe they must be better than others, but they can't truly feel comfortable just thinking about it. They must rally others around them to support their assertions. They have to feel reinforced, and validated in their superiority. In order for them to feel better than other people, they have to get rid of anything in their environment that might suggest otherwise. Sometimes, it's just the presence of other's weakness that makes them uncomfortable, because it reminds them of their own deeply, deeply buried vulnerabilities, and they can't face that in themselves, so they have to get rid of it from every angle. That is when they begin rallying others around them to join in. Their life is like a carefully constructed movie that they choose the characters, and the plot. It all centers around them, because they have to be the center of everything, all the time. They don't care what others think, feel or do. They only care about how any of it reflects on them, the main character in their fantasy world. The boy next door is not "normal" to the letter writer. She lives in a prestigious neighborhood, and he doesn't fit into her fantasy life of awesomeness. Her world is not perfect, and that means she may not be perfect, and she cannot accept that. So, she sets out to fix it. She speaks to the other neighbors about Max.(This is in reference to the part of the letter where she cites other people feeling the same way, but not having the guts to speak up) She carefully, maliciously, and calculatingly convinces a small (or large) group of people that people like Max are not welcome in their neighborhood. There are some people that are easily influenced, and charmed. The letter writer is a very astute manipulator. She wields a long tale of 'us' vs 'them' that some of the people in the neighborhood buy. Though, they never would have thought that way if left alone, without influence. This is where it is important for us to publicly, and emphatically stand behind Max, and his family. The rest of the neighborhood is likely not inherently devoid of human conscience. They will do the right thing, most of the time. We have to steal away the supply of people willing to support the letter writer. Without anyone to stand behind her she is powerless. She isn't going to change her ways. She is who she is, but she can just keep her hate to herself. If she is not met with approval, and possibly even persecuted for her behavior socially she will probably go away, and leave Max, and his family alone. Not because she feels guilty, but because she isn't getting her way, and her image is tarnished. This is what I am striving for. There will always be the hateful bullies, but they can't get as far if the rest of us stand against them.