On being different

Our differences are to be celebrated. Just look at Apple Computer’s Think Different campaign. It is through our differences that we as a society grow. At the same time, it is our similarities to one another that allow us to continue to exist as a society.

Since posting Disabled? Or Different? a few days ago, I’ve been thinking more about what it means to be different in the world today. Wade Rankin has helped me focus these thoughts with this excerpt from his post Our children are smart. Now what?

[She] correctly argues that autistic individuals should not be forced to think or act like so-called “normal” people. Nevertheless, the human race has a social construct that favors those that are able to use their individual gifts in ways that benefit society as a whole. We may struggle to change the negative views that have traditionally been assigned to autism, but humankind’s basic social nature will not change. Even for someone like [her], who has overcome adversity and prejudice to a remarkable extent, making a contribution is not easy.

No one should be forced to act “normal”, but the fact is those who don’t will always be isolated somewhat from society. If I walk down the street and turn a circle every couple of steps, people are going to avoid me. No one’s forcing me to walk a straight line down the sidewalk, but if I don’t then I must be willing to accept the consequences.

I agree wholeheartedly that society needs to learn to be more accepting of those who are more than just a little different, but at the same time I think those who choose to be different (is that flame-bait, or what?) need to be more accepting of the “normalness” of the world around them and realize that if they want that world to accept them they have to at least make an effort, no matter how small, to “fit in.”

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