Focusing on what we have in common

Declarations of a fixed opinion, and of determined resolution never to change it, neither enlighten nor convince us. Positiveness and warmth on one side, naturally beget their like on the other.

Benjamin Franklin

I had originally planned for this to be a short post to let everyone know that 29 Marbles is going to go on summer hiatus. As you can see, though, this is anything but a short post. A couple of things have come together in my mind over the last week or so that have led me to feel the need to make a few more parting remarks.

Here in the US this is an election year, which means that partisan politics is everywhere in the news. Much discussion about the value of the proposals, etc, but also quite a bit of discussion (as always) about the nature of partisan politics. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it necessary, or could we get by better without it? Some say it is vital, some say it is the root of all evil in the world today.

These thoughts were on my mind this past week while getting my daily fix of blogs, and I couldn’t help notice – as Wade Rankin has – that the autism community seems to be becoming increasingly partisan. Maybe it has always been so, and I’m just now becoming aware enough of the larger autism community to realize it. But even within the sub-communities of autism I’ve been part of I’ve noticed a hardening of opinions by many people. Intentionally or not, quite often this comes across as, “I’m right and you’re wrong, why can’t you just see that?”

Maybe this is an inevitable result as people explore a question, examine their beliefs and understanding of the question, and decide how to move forward. After all, at some point you do have to act, and that is infinitely easier if you have a clear understanding of what you believe and don’t have to worry about changing what your doing later because your beliefs change.

The other thing that happened this week is that I finally finished Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin (which, by the way, I heartily recommend to anyone who is interested in Franklin or the history of the 18th century). Of all the great things that Franklin did in his life, the impact he had on the writing of the US Constitution. It’s not that Franklin wrote the Constitution – in fact, he was quite opposed to some of the final decisions that went into the document. Instead it was his role in getting the 13 states to open their minds a bit and actually listen to each other and compromise when necessary that resulted in a successful Constitutional Convention.

Like the early United States, the autism community is divided into several independent ‘states’, each with their own opinions, desires, strengths, and weaknesses. There are many differences, but there are also many similarities. Much of the dialog today in the autism community – I include all the blogs, organizations, support groups, &c as part of this community – seems to me to focus on the differences between the various sub-communities.

Maybe the differences between the two major parties in this debate – those who advocate neurodiversity and those who advocate a cure – are irreconcilable, but it seems to me, as a parent, that we all share the goal of making sure that there is a place in society for our autistic children and that they can find that place. To that end, I believe we need to find common ground and work toward that. Only by keeping dialog and discussion open, and really listening to what others have to say, can we achieve this.

Though this blog is going on a break, I will still be online this summer and I expect you will see me writing in comments to others’ blogs. Have a great summer everyone (and for those of you south of the equator, I hope your winter isn’t too harsh).

From Franklin’s closing address to the Constitutional Convention:

I confess that I do not entirely approve this Constitution at present; but sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it: For, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment and pay more respect to the judgment of others.

Most men, indeed as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them, it is so far error. Steele, a Protestant, in a dedication, tells the Pope that the only difference between our two churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrine is, the Romish Church is infallible, and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But, though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who, in a little dispute with her sister said: “I don’t know how it happnes, sister, but I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right.”

In these sentiments, sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults – if they are such – because I think a general government necessary for us…. I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution; for, when you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected?

It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the builders of Babel, and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.

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