Saturday, February 23, 2013

Onward!: Should

This was originally published at Onward!

“Should” is such a loaded word.  It carries with it the very essence of invasive moralization and judgment.  People use this word to tell each other how to act, how to think, how to feel, how to be.  It’s a tool for oppression and disempowerment that is built into the English language on a fundamental level.  I wish our culture wasn’t so prone to tossing it around so very carelessly.  Violently, even.

The troubling nature of this word becomes particularly evident when it’s typed into a Google search box.  It’s recently come to light that when the partial phrase “Autistic people should” is entered in Google’s search tool, their autocomplete feature offers some suggestions for finishing that sentence that unquestionably qualify as hate speech of the worst order.

In response to this abhorrent state of affairs, autistic people are organizing all across the Internet today to offer some more healthy search suggestions and search results on the partial phrase “Autistic people should”.  And as a card-carrying autistic self-advocate, I’m doing my part, as I should, and adding my voice to the crowd.

Autistic people should be free to live their lives.  Autistic people should be free from the fear that their inborn, natural, neurological differences will lead to sytematic neglect, or abuse, or outright murder.  Autistic people should receive the support they need to live their lives, to prosper, to thrive.  Autistic people should be given opportunities to succeed at the endeavors that bring them joy.

Autistic people should determine their own futures.  Autistic people should determine their own values, their own moral compass of right and wrong, free from the oppressive weight of what other people declare that autistic people should do.  Autistic people should speak out against injustice and mistreatment.  Autistic people should contribute their voices, their unique sensibilities, to the moral fabric of our shared culture.  Autistic people should be heard, and autistic people should be listened to.

Autistic people should trust their own instincts and judgment as to what is healthy for them, what will help or hinder their ability to function in the world.  Autistic people should follow their hearts, follow their bliss.  Autistic people should trust their own judgments, their own minds, their own feelings, their own knowledge of themselves.  Because, above all else:  Autistic people should be true to themselves.

And while we’re at it, we should all head over to today, and type “autistic people should” into their search box, and continue typing so as to finish that sentence with something far more empowering and positive and life-affirming than the horrid suggestions that their autocomplete feature follows up.  We should do this repeatedly, running searches on as many positive variations on that sentence fragment as we can think of.  We can use variations on the suggestions offered above, or draw inspiration from any of the other numerous autistic advocate blogs that are being published today.  We should use our knack for perseveration to our advantage, and see if we can turn this thing around.

We should show Google, and the Internet, and the world, that we “give a should” about how we’re talked about, how we’re viewed, and how we’re treated.

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