So I got into a kind of pointless Twitter fight with a well known Houston area ASD activist and radio host who had commented on his Twitter feed how he would re-tweet more political activist calls to action if the emphasis wasn’t always on “calling” because there are many ASD people who “just can’t” do that.
I responded, by way of explanation, that the emphasis on calling is there because that’s objectively the most effective form of activism; that congressional staffs prioritize phone calls over any other form of communication.
At first the host pushed back and said calling wasn’t effective for certain segments of our community and why shouldn’t they communicate by other means that they were more comfortable with? I responded that by all means writing or faxing or emailing was better than doing nothing at all, but reiterated that CALLING was what mattered because TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE right now.
I guess I was growing short with this radio personality because try as I might, I’m a political liberal under a lot of stress right now and kind of an asshole in spite of myself, and because I feel passionately the urgency of the present moment.
And because frankly sometimes my patience wears a little thin for the perpetual “victim” identity we ASD people sometimes cloak ourselves in from time to time. Unless you’re LITERALLY NONVERBAL, calling is something YOU CAN DO. Does it suck? Yes. Do I hate it personally? Yes. Does it trigger severe anxiety for ME? Yes!! But does my life and the other lives of autistics literally depend on it!? GODDAMN YES IT DOES. I need every autistic who is NOT NONVERBAL to reach deep within themselves, overcome their fear and anxiety, USE A PRE-PRINTED SCRIPT IF AVAILABLE(!) and goddamn call your political representatives in Washington and Austin. Write a letter if you want to (it will arrive too late to be effective and you’ll get a polite form letter back), email if you want to (will be deleted unread) or FAX THEM (will get tossed in the trash)….they CAN’T ignore your calls. If you can’t bear to talk to another human, call them AFTER HOURS AND LEAVE A VOICEMAIL at the very least. That’s literally the least you could do.
Twitter is a shitty forum for intimate communications, and the 140 character limit was getting old fast, and because both the radio host and myself are stubborn Aspies, we both wanted to get in the last word and prove our respective points. I realized we were talking past each other and not really in fundamental disagreement. Our main point of disagreement was over the whole “I can’t call” argument. In the words of Barack Obama, YES WE CAN. Unless you’re literally NONVERBAL I’m not particularly interested in excuses not to. In normal times I’d have a lot more empathy for this kind of reticence and fear…but these are not normal times and COURAGE is needed. COURAGE is not FEARLESSNESS. It’s acknowledging your fear and terror, BUT GOING AHEAD AND DOING THE THING ANYWAY. I feel like a Russian commissar at Stalingrad jabbing a PPSH in the back of a frightened, unarmed Soviet private without a rifle and urging him to charge the Nazis…because if he doesn’t were potentially all dead.
I’ve also been going back and forth about the whole “punch a Nazi” debate. While I don’t think I could ever do it unless in physical defense of my own person in reaction to a punch thrown at me, I’m not unsympathetic to the antifa activist position. The NeoNazis use what are arguably “fighting words” then act all shocked and surprised that people want to fight them. And I’m very moved the the words of philosopher Karl Popper who once wrote:
“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”
–Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies Vol. 1. (1945)
I do believe there are certain kinds of speech, based on content, that are simply beyond the pale. And while it may be correct for the government to refrain from an outright prohibition on such speech, I can’t fault activists for responding to such horrific speech with catcalls, rotten tomatoes, creampies to the face, seltzer water sprays to the speaker’s groin, etc. and for such “offenders” to have an affirmative defense against prosecution by the democratic state on the grounds that they were provoked/incited to violence by the “fighting words” of the speakers. I might shy away from outright punching Nazis myself, but I might cram a cream pie in their face or hit them with a harmless water balloon from a distance. I also think it’s non-controversial to state that actual Nazis enacting actual Nazi policies ought to be shot with tanks, just like in the bad old days in the early 1940s.
Maybe I should be more forgiving of fellow ASD people who just can’t bring themselves to make that phone call to congress, and I apologize for being offensive as fuck and insensitive on this point. If you’re NONVERBAL I’m not talking about you. Do what you can. I’m an asshole, even when I try not to be. But what I am saying is, you are capable of more than you might think possible, and if you can in any way at all, please reach deep down inside yourself, get outside your comfort zone and do something amazing as if your life depended on it BECAUSE GODDAMN IT FUCKING DOES.
To all ASD People who are out there being active online and on the phone and fighting for your rights, bless you and thank you. I wish I was more like you myself. And I’m under no illusion that part of the anger in this post is anger at my own impotence and inaction heretofore. More than usual, these times we live in make me want to crawl under a rock and die of embarrassment. Japanese anime is a lifeline but also a distraction. It keeps me distracted and entertained but is also a modality of self-care. I hate the times we’re in because of the added stress and anxiety it causes and makes me even get into heated arguments with friends and allies over strategy and approaches.
All I can do is urge people to #RESIST , by whatever means they can.