Thursday, June 27, 2013

What is it that People Don't Get About Equal Rights?

The United States of America is unique in the annals of history. We are a nation forged out of disparate groups of people brought together to create a fundamentally different human being. Now don't get me wrong, people from other countries are A.O.K. (well some of them anyway). But Americans have this simple little iconoclastic flair about them that seems to broker family feuds of a rather volcanic kind (witness this past week's kerfuffles). We are anything but monolithic in our outlook and our beliefs. We are anything but a homogenous people. But what has been ignored and glossed over in this recent debate, is answering the question what is the USA all about? The answer is  a simple one: the USA is about our overarching Constitutional belief system and the allegiance we have here towards "equal rights"for all.

The concept of Equal Rights is basically the right of all peoples to be included in society at all levels. Simple enough? Yet what is it about equal rights that gets people's dander up around the world? Even here in the USA people seem to not have gotten the memo about equal rights. When someone is excluded from the mainstream of society due to a minority belief or persuasion that is discrimination. It is the purpose of the US Constitution to give voice to those that would otherwise be shut out of participation in the basic elements of our country.

The concept of equal rights is to protect the minority from the "mob rule" of the majority. Why is it that people cannot see that simply because a law or referendum  is passed does not mean it meets Constitutional or "equal rights" muster? Why is it that people cannot remove themselves from their own prejudices and listen to the voices in their communities that march to a different drummer?

Now what does this have to do with autism and special needs? Plenty. For our children do not fit into the acceptable mold and the mix. They are the minority in a majority neurotypical world. There are still too many out there in the world who view those with invisible disabilities with suspicion. They conflate extreme mental illness with developmental disabilities. They fear our children and us. They fear psychotherapy, its supports and its medications. They see the autistic as a threat to their ordered world. People fear the unknown. Frighteningly too, what people do not understand sadly, they also wish to destroy.

This is why the ruling on DOMA and equal rights is so very important, from a very selfish autism-warrior-parent point of view. The more the Supreme Court of the United States maintains a strong approach to equal rights for all, then our children (and some of us) have a better chance to be included in society as a whole. Our children can fight for their rights as Americans and be seen as equals in society. Entitled to a future and the respect of society for who they happen to be, not maligned for who they are not. Our children can fight for the equal right to marry, work and produce. They cannot be corralled as they once were for no other reason than they were different, and misunderstood.

Once society refused to allow those with special needs into its fabric and deal with who they were simply because they approached life differently. When the Supreme Court raises the specter of equal rights, (these nine persons even though they all do not agree all the time, sometimes in the most ugliest of terms too) insists that there are no "subhumans" in our world. This means then that our children are freer to be who they were meant to be without fear.

Those that think the recent Supreme Court rulings have done something to destroy the fabric of our society, need to remember society is made up of many peoples, many beliefs and many manifestations of happiness. Does it not destroy the fabric of society to alienate and deprive others of their basic rights simply because they are of a minority group? Why is it destructive to think of all human beings as equal?

Put bluntly, it is not destructive to think of all as having and maintaining equal rights and protections. It is not destructive to think of our children, and their future lives. It is important to remember that merely one generation ago, society, once by majority law and referendum, took from people their humanity simply because they were autistic.

Remember "liberty once lost is lost forever." By denying others equal rights, we deny our autistic children a future of freedom as well.