Why The Incoming U.S. Administration Is Dangerous For Autistic People (And So Many Others)
Sparrow R. Jones
“These are dangerous days / to say what you feel is to dig your own grave.” -Sinead O’Connor
Sparrow R. Jones
[image: Portrait photo of a white person with short
dark gray hair, glasses, and a maroon button-up shirt.]
I blame myself.
I should have campaigned more strongly. I should have written about the political landscape and how it affects disabled people in general, and Autistics and those who love us specifically. But I have always been told that one shouldn’t talk about politics, sex, or religion in polite company. I’ve already broken the sex talk taboo so many times over that I was reluctant to tread on religious or political ground.
And I didn’t really think he would win. I honestly didn’t. Everyone I’ve spoken with who voted against him has said the same thing: we didn’t see this coming.
Wow, were we ever wrong. Donald Trump won the election. Please forgive me for not talking about politics before. I can rationalize that choice all I want, but I really have no excuse: I spent ten years at university studying political science and associated topics (history, applied economics, psychology, sociology). As a former educator in political science, I had a responsibility to talk about what was happening. Of course I couldn’t have stopped a Trump presidency single-handedly, but I regret not trying harder than I did.
Not only was I intimidated about the social norm against talking about politics, but I was intimidated by Trump’s bully tactics. And, I confess, I was intimidated by the response to Trump from the broader liberal community. I felt like I got repeatedly thrown under the bus to provide traction in the political mire, and I feel like I’m still being thrown there now that things have reached a crisis point.
Since the election, I have been seeing lots of people who voted for Trump (including my own blood relations) calling for us to unify under our new president-elect. Don’t worry: I am not going to ask that of you. The same people who are beckoning to us now are the ones who railed against Obama for eight years. Remember all their dissent and anger? Yet somehow they pretend not to understand why we are angry and frightened now.
I am going to ask for unity among all of us who are so vulnerable in the face of a Trump presidency. I do not believe this election is “business as usual” for the United States. As an adult, I have lived through every presidency from Ronald Reagan forward, and I have never felt this to-the-bone level of fear at the election of a new president.
I am going to just go there and say it: the voting populace of the United States has elected a white supremacist who is sexist, homophobic, ableist, transphobic, xenophobic, bigoted and a shameless liar, and who could propel us into the next world war, the next civil war, or both.
There is a saying: “history repeats itself.” George Bernard Shaw pointed out that, “if history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” Philosopher George Santayana left us with his most famous statement that, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
It is my firm belief that history is repeating itself at this moment.
My training as a political scientist and my Autistic skills of pattern recognition have combined to make me realize that we are in the process of repeating what happened in Germany of the 1930s. I already know what you’re going to say: you’re going to accuse me of violating Godwin’s Law. I have three things to say in response to that:
- Godwin’s Law merely says “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, the longer people talk online, the greater the likelihood that Hitler will be mentioned. There is no implicit judgment in Godwin’s Law. Just because this discussion is reaching a comparison involving Hitler more rapidly than any other discussion I have taken part in before — excluding one graduate class, CMP 4481, Rhetoric of Hitler and Churchill, which pretty much ‘went there’ in the catalog description before anyone ever opened their mouth — does not mean that the comparison is unjustified. Which brings me to the next point:
- Citing Godwin’s Law can be a way to shut down someone who is making an unjust comparison to Hitler, but it can also be used to try to shut down someone who is pointing out an unpleasant, frightening, or offensive truth. I believe those who will be tempted to fling Godwin’s Law at me over the things I am about to say are not ready to hear these words. Their citation of Godwin’s Law reflects more on them than on me.
- Back in December, Godwin himself said, “If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler when you talk about Trump. Or any other politician.” So, with Godwin’s blessing, I will proceed.
If you know anything at all about how World War Two went for minorities — racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, the disabled — you will understand why I am terrified, and why I am saying right now that we have to band together, all of us. We need unity. Not unity behind our new president, but unity against the human rights violations that our President-elect shows every sign of bringing to us in full force. Hitler took power by declaring a state of emergency, due to violence. The Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act gave Hitler the same incredible amount of power that Donald Trump could easily pluck like the low hanging fruit it is, by pointing to current protests as a violent danger to the State, and declaring Martial Law.