For any of you folks that don’t know what my religious beliefs are, I’m a pagan-ish person feeling my way through a lot of partial, forgotten, misrepresented traditions in the hopes that I find something that sits right with me. I’ve been neglecting my spiritual practice lately – so much of my energy is being put into just surviving. I borrow from lots of places, meditate, feel my way through the idea, decide if it fits.
One of the core beliefs that I hold is that as human beings, we are all equally, inherently worthy. We have value and it’s defined simply by us being human beings, not by our productivity, our wealth, our appearance or our intelligence.
This week, I’ve been trawling through the lists of our dead. Autistic people who were killed at least in part because of their autism. Some of them died because their needs weren’t met by the people who should have been caring for them. Some through direct actions that were inappropriate but not intentionally abusive. Some deliberately murdered by non-autistic people.
The pain of reading through their tributes, about how one little boy loved bubbles, a man whose favourite colour was yellow, a girl who loved baking. Unimaginable. Worse than that were the lonely names. Lonely names are what I call the records that carry only a name, date of death and the story of how they died. Nothing about who they were, just what was done to them. It leaves a heavy sadness in my heart.
I might live in a metaphorical cave with very little exposure to the news, but it’s very hard to miss what’s going on in the USA. People are frightened. What nobody seems to notice is that everyone’s afraid of the same thing. They’re all afraid that the person living next door, or sitting opposite them on the bus, or standing behind them in a line for the checkout could hurt them.
There are the people who see a brown person, someone who may or may not be Muslim, and wonder if that person is dangerous. There are also the people who happen to be brown, and may or may not be Muslim, and they are afraid that the people who are afraid of them are dangerous. Fear makes us do some really unpleasant and ill-advised things. I’m speaking from experience as someone who has less control over how they respond to fear, but this applies to non-autistic people too. Fear makes us do some very silly things. It makes us do some horrible things.
Fear, I’m told by the majority of the religions I look into, is the opposite of love. To dismiss fear, we don’t need power, but love. Listen to Yoda:
Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to Anger, Anger leads to Hate, Hate leads to suffering.
What Yoda doesn’t mention is that suffering can be the driving force behind fear. You’ve got this self-perpetuating cycle. Someone causes someone else to suffer. The victim of this hurt becomes afraid, then angry, then hateful, and then turns suffering on their attacker, or on a new victim. Over and over, first one way and then the other. We’re just too short-lived to see it clearly. Abstract it away by a couple of generations and we forget how it all started, all that matters is that we’ve always been at war. We need to break the cycle, we need to make a conscious decision not to create the next generation of extremists. Not to sow the seeds of hate for another season.
Peace to you, my many brothers and sisters, no matter your faith or colour (or neurotype). I’ll finish with another wise quote from fiction, this time from a Muslim character, not a Jedi. From Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Azeem: Salaam, little one.
Girl: Did God paint you?
Azeem: Did God paint me? For certain.
Azeem: Because… Allah loves wondrous variety