Archive for August, 2013

Society and the Problem of “Otherness”

August 26, 2013

I read an article a few days ago about a woman in Canada who received a horrible, hate-filled letter about her autistic son. In this ignorant missive, she was urged to “do the right thing” and either move to the backwoods or euthanize him. She said that the “whaling” (I assume she meant wailing) noises he made were scaring her “normal” children.

She could have taken many different approaches to this family, but she chose to anonymously attack them. She could have gone to visit to find out what the problem with the child was. She could then have explained to her children about the autistic child next door.

I have to wonder how this woman copes with the other disabilities or otherness that she sees. How does she explain the man in the wheelchair, the woman who walks with a cane, the blind man with a guide dog, or the deaf woman who only communicates well in sign language but is otherwise difficult to understand?

Many people have trouble getting along with those who are not “normal”. Difference in color, religion, ability and even sexual orientation are things that have been fair game for persecution in my lifetime. Why? Why do we seem to feel the need to feel somehow superior to other people?

Right now, in the United States, 2.9% of the adult population were under correction supervision. That’s 29 out of every thousand adults in jail, prison, on probation or on parole. It’s fairly likely that someone you know is in that group, maybe even someone you’re related to. You might even be related to someone on the sex offender registry. That number, the last I checked, was about 750,000 people. You might know someone on it. After all, that’s about 10% of the number of people currently in adult prisons, jail or on probation or parole. Whether you do or not, ponder this:

Do you classify them the same way that woman in Ontario classified the autistic child? As a waste of space, as “other”, as unworthy of being called human?

I have said it before, and will likely say it again: ALL have sinned. I have sinned and so have you. If your sin was not bad enough to go to jail (or you think it wasn’t), it makes you no different from that prisoner, probationer or parolee. It is merely a matter of degree, not of kind.

If you feel that the woman who wrote that letter was right about the autistic child, perhaps you should examine the ways in which you are not “normal”, for no one is completely normal, either. Too tall, too short, too fat, too thin. No one is perfect. No one is entitled to say that another person is worthless just because they are not like YOU.

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