*I’m not making fun of autistic people. I whole-heartedly believe that I could very well be on the spectrum myself based on what I’ve studied and several tests/quizzes I’ve taken online because those are totally accurate. So if I offend you, keep in mind that someone who could clinically be considered “special needs” offended you. Weird how that changes your outlook, doesn’t it?
Well, the election is over and by all accounts the world has not ended. What a shocker.
I’ve been doing a lot of studying about autism and different identifying characteristics in people on the spectrum. Since then, I’ve begun to notice patterns in how Americans overreact to tragedy, the most mundane comments on social media, and everything in between (I cover this in my book as well, so you should check that out). If you pay close attention, the general reaction to anything remotely controversial is outrage and taking offense. Usually these are in response to both tragedies and people spewing their opinion on social media. Neither response is very appropriate, hence why I think the majority of Americans might be autistic. I shall explain.
Characteristic 1: We Now Have a Limited Understanding of Communication
With the increased use in handheld electronic devices, a lot of teens and millennials are having difficulty picking up on non-verbal cues, which is one of the identifying characteristics of individuals on the autism spectrum. Millennials also have difficulty recognizing sarcasm and understanding jokes, especially in written form. If you’re the kind of person who always takes offense when someone is sarcastic around you, gets offended or tries to fight back when someone shares their opinion on social media, or you immediately begin pressing your morals on someone who lives a different life than you do, then you might be a little autistic. At the very least, you’re way too sensitive, care too much, and definitely don’t need to tell other people how to live their life when you’re clearly doing sooooooooo well.
Characteristic 2: We Have Difficulty with Proper Social and Emotional Responses
The first response to just about anything we don’t like or agree with is outrage and offense. Of course if someone or something truly makes you mad, then you’re not necessarily wrong for feeling that way. However, it’s what you’re getting mad at that’s the problem. If you’re getting mad at another mass shooting, or mad at someone at Westboro Baptist Church for hating gay people, you’re probably doing it wrong. Anger is really only an appropriate response when someone personally does something to you, like steals your food at work, cuts you off in traffic, or punches you in the face.
Instead, the appropriate response to tragic events, other than moving on, is sadness, followed by resolve to make the world a better place. When you see someone being a racist homophobe on social media, you don’t need to lash out in anger. Why? Because you’re not going to change them. Trying to fight back makes you look just as unstable as the person you’re fighting with and you’re just making yourself miserable. What might be worse is that most of us who do react to tragedy with sadness do so in a very empty, disingenuous way because…
Characteristic 3: We Lack Empathy
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Here’s the problem with that: Every time a tragedy occurs, some people run out into the streets and cause more trouble (as what happened in Ferguson and Baltimore and Charlotte and so on) while another hefty majority of us run to social media and post something along the lines of, “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims. So sad this happened #whateverhashtagpeopleareusingsoeveryonecanseeIparticipatedtoo.” Then we’ll change our profile picture to whatever symbol was created to memorialize it, where it stays until the next tragedy happens or you take a really cool selfie.
The problem with this is that these people believe they’re being empathetic toward the victims. They think their manufactured sadness is somehow an acceptable response to the situation. In reality, no one can really empathize with a lot of people. You can’t empathize with a victim of the French or Belgian terror attacks unless you’ve been in a terrorist attack yourself. You can’t empathize with someone who has cancer unless you’ve had cancer yourself (knowing someone who has cancer doesn’t count). You can’t, as a white person, empathize with all the struggles of being black because you’re white. So why do we keep trying to pretend we do? If you think I’m being completely ridiculous and something I’ve said so far offends you, then you should probably know…
Characteristic 4: We Can Be Really Rude
People with Asperger’s, which is on the autism spectrum, have a reputation for being rude and dicky, which comes from their lack of ability to react properly to the cues from others. This might be my problem. If you’ve ever read a YouTube comment or people’s responses to any celebrity tweet, you’ll realize that the world is full of mean people. Add in the people who make protests violent, commit senseless crimes, or live in Florida, and you realize that a lot of it is completely unnecessary.
With all that being said, maybe we can look at it like this: Maybe humans in general just react like that. Maybe the whole “autism spectrum” thing isn’t real, that humans are just awful beings, and maybe if you react in a “normal” way, then it’s you that’s got the disability, not the rest of us.
Or maybe we should stop trying to classify every single behavior as being a thing, so that maybe some people (me) who are possibly considered borderline can just be a dick without getting recommended for therapy. Maybe some of us are just aren’t talkative and outgoing as others. It’s the same logic as diagnosing your kid with ADHD because he can’t sit still, completely ignoring the fact that you might just be a terrible parent. We’re not perfect, so let’s stop pretending we’re trying to make the world a better place while at the same time finding more ways to separate each other by as many differences as possible.