Desperately Seeking Normal: Why Our Culture’s Demand for Sameness is Sickness
She stood rigid, her body language seemed to be speaking volumes in radiating hostility towards my young friend’s physical presence. Of course, he may have unknowingly violated her “personal space” however large that particular unseen envelope may have been.
As an autistic person, he often encounters challenges with understanding normative social boundaries and reading the differing communication “frequencies” of neurotypical persons. Also, being a minority, someone with physical disabilities in addition to being autistic, he stands out as someone who is different.
The situation was nothing new to me. I’ve seen discomfort, discombobulation demonstrated many times in my accompaniment of disabled persons in public places. In fact, I remember- not-so-fondly, one of my intellectually challenged autistic clients being openly mocked in a restaurant. I also had the pleasure of letting the perpetrators know- to their faces, their right to be known as fully human persons had been formally rejected.
Differences in bodies, differences in minds. A lack of sameness in our persons often leading to avoidance, rejection, even to the point of the ultimate expression of fear- violence against our fellow human beings.
It seems easy to observe, for me at least, this furious desperation with differences in physical, neurological presentation of other human beings. And if we could just leave it there- it might be one thing. Yet, the more I look around the landscape of our modern culture, the more I’m beginning to catch a glimpse of a deep, growing malaise. We are warping in our knowing, being known to other human beings. Our fear of differences is undoing us.
At the grim end of the spectrum- violent crimes against persons with disabilities, we know the ugly statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the United States tell us something is terribly wrong. In our nutshell, our society chews up disabled people at three times the national average of non-disabled people. Those of course, are the crimes actually reported, not the ones simply…