pollychromatic

the world through rainbow eyes


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Compromise and Compassion

Never before have politics, both social and electoral, been as engaging, enraging, and divisive as they have been this year. Not in my lifetime.

It seems clear that social media and the easy click reading of the internet is to blame for it, too.

Parts of that are fantastic. Small grass movements can become massive and up-end the status quo in a way that is both terrifying and exhilarating. It’s truly engaging to know that little voices can potentially have as much impact as big voices.

It’s a tightrope walk, though. While there is much hopeful about knowing that you are not alone in feeling like the things that you particularly care about are particularly cared about by others, it is also isolating to know that those you care about have views that are harmful to you.

When people say “unfriend me if you think/will do xyz” it’s a stark contrast line in the sand of “support me and what I say that allows no compromises, compassion, or empathy.

Which is not to say that some views or actions are not so divisive themselves as to invite a lack of compromise.

I’m not going to repeat the many things that you shouldn’t compromise yourself on. All over social media and the internet those things can be found.

Much harder to find are calls to compromise, and intense compassion. A movement is not made by a line in the sand that divides sister from sister, brother from brother, child from parent, friend from friend. Those things are more likely to be in line with self-identity.

I won’t go into self-identity and the many strong things social media and the internet have done for that, either. You can find them. Everywhere.

What a movement is made up of are thoughtful and compassionate discussions. Find the common ground and work from there. If we are to bridge the gaps that are wedging between so many of us in our lives, these discussions must happen.

The divisive memes and rants are an easy device to turn to when someone uses one that is rejecting the things you hold true and dear. Snark is an easy answer when you feel pain or fear.

Dividing yourself when someone takes an action or stand that divides you from them is easy. Much harder is to hear their thoughts and ask them why. Show your pain. Attempt to understand why someone has a different point of view, and allow yourself to consider that their point of view has merit.

Don’t abandon principles, but respect people and their experiences even if they are completely foreign to you. You don’t have to agree with them, but you don’t have to reject them, and the slow growth of healthy compromise can arise from nothing else.

Compromise is our bridge forward, and we must find it. We must make bridges between us all or the gaps will engulf us all instead.


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The Herd of Gazelles at the Bus Stop

Pi and Phi are 5 now. They attend Kindergarten (two different classes so they can both shine their stars individually as bright as possible). They both insisted that they are old enough to ride the bus to school, and because the bus is actually available to them now that they are in Kinder, I agreed. So they ride the bus to school every school day morning. 

I drop them off and watch them interact at the bus stop with the other kids. They’re the only Kinder kids in our little neighborhood, so mostly the big kids are leaving them alone and letting them run around like animals waiting for the bus. 

Run around they do, too. Every single day, they drop their packs in the bus shelter and then have races from one sign to the other. About 200 feet of a race they do over and over until the bus gets there. Squealing, rambunctious, and overall dorky. Phi runs with his hands clutched high to his sides, a bit like a T-Rex. A smile of pure happiness. His feet hit the ground with the strange, awkward, delicate gait so familiar to other parents who have children on the spectrum. Toes pointed down, still somewhat clompy somehow. Like an elephant doing ballet. So happy.

Pi’s arms are thrown back and her clomping hits whole foot down, her face also has the same smile. So happy. She is a gazelle. 

The other kids are mostly silent while Pi and Phi enact these daily races. Pi and Phi encircle them, run between them, around them, near them. You can see the other kids pull back, stare at them. I want to tell Pi and Phi to chill. Be cool. The kids are judging them. I keep my mouth shut. One kid does a mock tiptoe of Phi to his other friends, and they cover their mouths to smile behind their hands. They know better than to laugh where parents can see them. Phi doesn’t notice, just keeps running. Keeps being happy. 

I want to scream at these kids. You think it’s awesome that you can run better than him? Running is hard for him. He’s a different animal. You are gazelles, and he is an elephant. His squealing trumpet of glee comes from a differently shaped throat than your own. Is it such a point of pride that yours was shaped different? Do you work for hours to make your gazelle throat shape the sounds that all the other gazelles make? 

No he does not have grace. What he has, instead, is hard work. He has perseverance. Thank goodness that’s part of the package with Autism. The same thing that makes him line up puzzles for hours is what makes it possible for him to make words that others understand. He works past the point of wanting to stop. I am furiously proud of his words. 

I remember his testing, and them asking us for a list of his words. For a week we tried to put together even ten words that he said at the age of 18 months. Duck. Ball. … Umm.. Daddy? We struggled to find any words that he had actually said. Now, at age 5, his vocabulary is huge. He inherits the wide breadth of spoken word that his father and I use daily, and it shows. 

But the kids at the bus stop don’t see that he is a hard working elephant stuck in the land of the graceful gazelles. They see that he is not part of their herd. They close ranks. 

So he runs with Pi. Pi who doesn’t care, yet, about gazelles and elephants. All animals are different to her. She takes it in stride. 

I want the other kids at the bus stop to see what she sees. I want them to feel the pure joy that he feels. 

I’m proud of my mismatched animals, and so furious at the herd that closes them both out. I know that in their classes there are other mismatched animals, and they find them and befriend them. The herd at the bus stop is not their whole world of experience, but only a small window onto it. 

I also know that the herd at the bus stop is going to grow. That as they get bigger, it will become more and more evident how different they both are to the herds they encounter. Him for his everything, and her for her acceptance of these things and for her own differences. That the ruthlessness of peers will run their world for the next fifteen some odd years. There is not a thing I can do to change it. 

I know that they are going to spend their lives collecting their own herds of mismatched animals. I hope they do not spend too long trying to assimilate into herds that are not their own and do not accept them. I also feel sad for the limited scope of the herd of gazelles at the bus stop. They have not yet learned the value of the different animals. I hope they learn it someday. 


2 Comments

The Dude Abides

Speaking of objective, let’s look at what the word means.

3  a: expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations

(you can look at the whole definition here)

Now, let’s look at subjective.

3  a: characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind

(again, the whole definition here)

The distinctions are self evident. There’s been a great deal of equivocation in the topics of science and history. I want to say this has been lately, but the truth is that there has always been a certain amount of equivocation about the difference between subjective and objective. We have actually gotten to the point where opinion has been given as much weight as objective reasoning, though, and that’s inherently problematic.

I’ve often had a discussion with someone, or overheard a discussion, that reached an impasse with a Dude-esque “yeah well, that’s just like your opinion, man.”  Maybe it was them, and maybe it was me, but as mothers everywhere say “I don’t care who started it. I’m stopping it.” This has really got to end.

No one is asking anyone to give up their fundamental beliefs, practices, philosophies, affiliations and ideas but they’ve got to be questioned when they can’t stand up to objectivity.  We all do. Part of being a fully functioning human is questioning and evaluating. Then reevaluating, constantly. If this is contraindicated by any particular belief, affiliation, practice, philosophy or idea then all I can do is side-eye the hell out of it.

But that’s like, just my opinion, man.